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Leave the Girl Scouts Alone!

I came across a blog post today deriding the Girl Scout's recent logo change.

First, the old and new logos, courtesy of Fast Company.  Then, my rant about this particular post.

I know. I can't tell the difference either.  But that's not what bugs me.  The brief blog post is full of sweeping statements about how branding isn't important to nonprofits.  Let's start with:

"Nonprofits just don't spend that much time in front of their constituent's eyes for them to make changes in how they present themselves"

Seriously? Did you hear that, nonprofits? Forget marketing and branding entirely. Don't worry about how you present yourself. Just keep doing good and the donations and grants will keep rolling in. The intense competition for people's attention that for-profits deal with? That doesn't apply to you.

The writer goes on:

"Few nonprofits can afford to advertise to reinforce their brand. Even when they utilize the miracles of new media to become their own media channnel, it just isn't enough to allow them to change looks, taglines, or missions in a way that resonates with people."

Again, seriously? Of course nonprofits advertise – many with expensive national media campaigns just like for-profits, and many with other channels, including the "miracles" of new media. The goal is the same – just like nobody will buy a product they're not even aware of, nobody will give to/volunteer for/apply for grants to/offer grants to/etc a non-profit if they don't know it exists. Awareness is vitally important to every nonprofit, and "looks, taglines, and missions" serve the same vital purpose to nonprofits that they do for for-profits: they communicate to the world who you are, what you do, and why people should care.

And finally:

"The acid test for the Girl Scouts would be to ask people in a year which logo is the new one."

Not necessarily. This is a subtle but important distinction.  The goal of a redesign — whether of a logo, a website, product packaging, a storefront, etc — can sometimes be to communicate that something's changing, but the overriding goal should be for that object – that interface with the public – to perform better than the old one did. If a store rearranged its products and sales increased but nobody noticed, I suspect the owners would still consider that change a success. If changing their logo results in increased participation in local scouting groups, the Girl Scouts will have succeeded with their redesign whether anyone can tell you which logo is which or not.  Will a change this subtle have any effect?  Who knows, but that effect is what should be analyzed, not whether people can tell which logo is which when asked.

Did the Girl Scouts spend too much money for a too-subtle logo redesign? Possibly. But that doesn't excuse the writer's blatant and incorrect generalizations about nonprofits and branding.