exception of minor refinements in the mid-1980s that director of communications Marjorie Newman-Williams described as "ever so gentle."
This time around, UNICEF's motivation was based on a realization that the organization, according to Newman-Williams, needed to build a stronger relationship with its donors – donors, of course, being the lifeline for a nonprofit to fulfill its mission. Private donations account for one-third of UNICEF's funds; the other two-thirds comprise funds from governments of developed and developing countries. UNICEF wants to present a consistent, relevant mission to both these entities.
And although UNICEF has always had a pretty straightforward mission, focus group research has revealed that, while the name "UNICEF" has strong top-of-mind awareness, the public was not really clear on the mission – even to the extent of its relation to children. Newman-Williams described the public's understanding of the brand as sometimes vague. "We are a trusted brand, that is known for doing good things, but many people couldn't actually say what they were. Some people make a vague connection between UNICEF and children."
In fact, the organization's logo includes a strong mother and child visual along with the name United Nation's Children's Fund. Despite this, the research findings revealed a lack of clarity among the public over the purpose of UNICEF. Luckily, this was more a communication breakdown than a lack of mission.
Determining what UNICEF actually does wasn't too mystifying on an overall level. As Newman-Williams explained, "[Our mission] had always been internally discussed but never explicitly defined. So when you probed people [internally], what we wrote on paper was pretty close to who we were. It had just never been sharply defined for an external audience."
UNICEF was growing from a logistics and delivery system (e.g., bringing goods to children) to involve advocating for the protection of children's rights. The mission statement would have to reflect this growth. Newman-Williams said, "We were pushing UNICEF a little further than it wants to go, which is, I think, what a vision needs to do."
To bring this vision to the attention of the public, they added a strapline – an identity element UNICEF had never had before and something that immediately, Newman-Williams points out, defines their functional purpose and their aspirational goal. The first half of the strapline, "For every child Health, Education, Equality, Protection" describes the mission of UNICEF, while the second half, "ADVANCE HUMANITY," lays out the vision.
With the strapline in place and based on research that implied the four elements of the logo were too complex, UNICEF sought to strip down to the name alone for its logo.
The first rendering for a new logo displayed just the name, lowercase in a thin sans serif font with a chunkier font for the i – symbolizing the child.
However, the symbol of the mother and child was immediately missed in informal, internal and external testing. The objection was not just a resistance to change but rather the symbol of a mother and child was considered useful in situations where people can't read and the letter's U-N-I-C-E-F might be meaningless.
A similar situation played out when the laurel leaves surrounding the mother and child were removed. Some people felt that dropping the laurel leaves was a sign of distancing from the UN. A possibility that Newman-Williams says was never intended.
According to Newman-Williams: "The passions about the symbol rose to a level of great discomfort in the organization. In the end it's not about the signature and the logo, it's about our vision and values; how we communicate those effectively. And so why tie people up in this obsession with the logo so they lose sight of the bigger picture."
In the end, UNICEF arrived not far from where it started: the signature UNICEF in a simplified font, less detail in the laurel, and the mother and child drawn out to the edge of the ring surrounding them.
The organization also sought to modernize its look and feel by replacing the dark navy signature color with a bold blue, which is felt to be more youthful and gives a strong fresh look to new material. Cover photography of children attempts to convey boldness and dignity, and features one individual as opposed to previous depictions of large groups of children. As Newman-Williams explained, "We needed to communicate that even in the poorest circumstances, children have rights. So the use of imagery that conveys dignity was really important. Even when we're showing them in tough situations."
Now that the vision and visuals have been established, the immediate challenge will be rolling out the new identity. Unlike many corporations, which often will implement new print literature and signage immediately by dumping previous versions, UNICEF will approach the roll out in an organic fashion, replacing old with new on an as-needed or cost-efficient basis. Recently published literature, such as the tightly focused brief UNICEF's Priorities for Children 2002-2005 and the State of the World's Children Report 2003 have been developed with the brand as a guide.
The entrance to UNICEF House in Manhattan will receive a facelift, as will the website, which was already undergoing a re-architecture. Williams explained, "We're pretty clear that there won't be a big bang roll out, one because we don't have the money…. It will take a period of a few years before it's all completely in place."
The beginning of the roll out will probably present the greatest resistance. Nonprofits often face tremendous opposition both internally and externally to what is seen as either a waste of time and resources, or a gratuitous promotion of the wrong priorities.
Newman-Williams recognizes there will be resistance but she keeps her eye on the positive results. "It has the potential to create real cohesion in UNICEF. It's already there. People are passionate about what they do, they work here for a reason, but this brings us under the same umbrella and makes us stronger."
However, she's realistic about the struggle ahead to implement consistent identity standards throughout the organization. "The national committees that haven't done anything like this (because they are small or just getting going) are receptive. For those that have done a lot of successful promotions in the past – it will be harder for them." Her plan is to "build the concept over time that we're all stronger when we're part of one big brand. [Employees] have to feel that they are getting the message out more successfully. That's how it is with everything at UNICEF. We can issue executive direction 'til the cows come home, but people in country offices respond when something makes their work simpler or better."
The first step will be asking employees to do a little self-examination in light of the new identity. Williams wants internal staff to ask themselves: "Why did we do this? How does it change how we behave? How does it influence our recruitment policy? How do we train? How do we communicate?"
The organization will also use workshops and the Internet to disseminate guidelines and templates to facilitate integration of the new identity. The hope is that resistance will be reduced when people realize how easy it is to download a template rather than try to create new material each time.
As for the public, it remains to be seen what the reaction will be. UNICEF's gradual roll out plan is probably a benefit as it will allow the public to adjust slowly and see the changes as a natural part of a growing, evolving organization. Those who stop to think about the essential link between donor and non-profit will inevitably understand that it is a greater use of funds if the organization understands its purpose and pursues a common goal. Equally it is necessary for an organization to convey those goals to the donor, for although, sadly, there will probably always be a job for UNICEF in this world, it is not a given that there will always be donors to support its work.