Start360: the re-branding journey

15 Sep 2014 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 18 Dec 2014

New Start 360 logo
New Start 360 logo

What do you do to mark your 21st birthday? Opportunity Youth celebrated the event by changing its identity. Scope asked communications manager Zoe Anderson to share the inside story.

At its inception Opportunity Youth did precisely what its name implied: provided support services to young people. The core objective was to help young people overcome difficulties in terms of mental health, substance use, offending behaviour and other risk taking activities to empower them to make the most of their true potential.

However as the organisation began to grow and flourish, the services which were proving so successful to young people were extended to families and adults. At the same time there are a multiplicity of organisations in Northern Ireland with “Youth” in their title, which casued confusion.  This was compounded by the fact that many of the individual programmes, for example Daisy and AD-EPT have their own branding and it wasn’t clear that they were run by Opportunity Youth. The board and management believed that the existing name was no longer fit for purpose and the search was on for a new brand that better reflected its work and made it stand out.

Zoe explained: “The 21st birthday seemed a perfect time to do a re-brand because it gave us the opportunity to both celebrate our past and make a big statement about the future. So we decided to launch it at our 21st birthday conference which was held at Titanic on 10 April of this year. This meant we had an absolute drop dead date to work back from."

The design process

Tenders were sought from design agencies in the early part of 2013 and Mammoth were appointed in May.

“We needed this time,” said Zoe, “because there was a huge amount of work before any designs were drafted. First we spent many hours with the agency, explaining our work and the ethos of what we do. They then came along to a range of focus groups with staff, board members and, crucially, our service users. All of this helped to inform the design team of how we are perceived both internally and externally, as well as giving them keywords to work with. We had already made some important decisions internally – we didn’t want to be an acronym, we didn’t want to be called something-NI, we needed a name that was easy to spell and we really liked the combination of black and yellow! We were also acutely aware that we provide a wide range of services to a wide range of people so we needed to focus on how we work rather than what exactly we do."

This initial work led to the preparation of four initial options which were discussed at a board meeting in October 2013.  At that point, two clear front runners emerged – a ‘safe’ option which was ‘Opportunity You’ and a much bolder option which was ‘Start Here’. The design agency also demonstrated how the new brand would include colours, graphics, a strapline and key values. What made a big difference for Opportunity Youth was that it was simultaneously developing a new strategic plan. This helped to ensure that the brand development was directly aligned with strategy.

Zoe said: “ We opted for Start Here, but ran smack into a common problem in the digital age: the URLs were not available. It was now Christmas and we were running out of time.

"We asked Mammoth to come back to us with every single option they had considered, even if they had previously been ruled out, and to add any further new options – these were then discussed at length, including how they would work visually and the available URLs – and that is where Start360 came from. The concept of us providing a whole-circle service had come up in the initial focus groups and we also felt that the brand name would stand out in our sector, that it had a great deal of marketing potential and that it was in no way limiting our  future development. It had also become clear that taking a real leap away from the old brand was the way to go – ‘Opportunity You’ had buy in from staff as it was a link to a much-loved brand but it was decided that it was just too ‘safe’ and that we really wanted to make a new mark for ourselves."

Time was now at a premium. The agency was instructed to prepare all marketing materials as fast as possible. It was decided to place YOU at the centre of the strapline, the mission statement Change Starts Here, were relatively straightforward decisions, because there was clarity about the new strategy.

The brand goes live


Zoe added: “The new brand was officially revealed to staff a week before the launch. It was pretty daunting for me having managed the whole process as I was worried that everyone would hate it – but they didn’t! The spontaneous applause after the ‘big reveal’ was a real stamp of approval for what we had created. The Opportunity Youth brand was much loved by all staff, particularly those who had been here from the early days – but everyone really got on board with the new brand straight away, helped by a video presentation which brought the process and the rationale to life."

All was now set for launch: the new website was ready to go, and social media accounts set up. So that just as Chief Executive Anne Marie McClure finished the brand presentation at the conference the website was switched over and Zoe activated the new Twitter account from the venue.

Re-branding an organisation is a big call, and success is never guaranteed. However the transition seems to be working for Start360.

Zoe said: “It is hard to take a giant leap away from a 21-year-old brand which meant so much to staff and so many young people: it can be emotive so key to success is to bring your stakeholders on the journey with you: this will take longer, but it is worth it.”

Five months on and staff report they rarely have to mention the old name: and work is progressing to roll out the new look across all the sub-brands making it much clearer that they are part of the Start360 “family”.

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