Consecra Embraces Re-Branding Journey to Become ‘Embrace Living Communities’
A new brand, 120 years in the making.
How do you say it? How do you spell it? What does it mean?
These are just some of the questions that Susan Sinderson and the rest of her team heard regularly from almost everyone when they said the name of their organization – Consecra. This ongoing challenge was just one of many reasons the organization embarked on a journey to not simply change the organization’s name, but to create the organizations’ brand.
In January, Chicago-based Consecra Housing Network became Embrace Living Communities.
“Last year, with the board, we agreed that our organization couldn’t keep going forward with an identity that wasn’t reflective of our organization,” said Sinderson, a 34-year veteran with the organization who leads Embrace Living Communities along with Anne Oliva.
“It wasn’t simply a matter of the old name being hard to say, it was a matter of the old name simply not saying anything that represented what we do and why our work matters,” said Sinderson.
With the support of the board, Sinderson and Oliva began putting the steps in place to identify and engage a consultancy that could help lead them through the right process to get to the right outcomes. With the task of rebranding on her priority list, Sinderson came to last year’s CHHSM Annual Meeting ready to engage her peers that went through a similar rebranding process to learn more and identify possible firms that worked with her CHHSM peers.
“One of the many values of CHHSM is connecting – and I realized the power of these connections in our search for the right branding partner,” explained Sinderson. “Not only did I get a lot of great counsel from my peers, I realized there was a consultancy exhibiting at the meeting that was referred by several organizations.”
That consultancy was OrgStory, an organization with offices in St. Louis and Chicago that works exclusively with nonprofits to help them in the areas of constituent research, strategic planning and brand and communications development. OrgStory’s founder, Jim Schnurbusch, is no stranger to CHHSM. He is a 2013 Nollau graduate; past board member to several CHHSM agencies; and engaged as a consultant with a couple of CHHSM members.
Through the introduction at the Annual Meeting, Sinderson and Oliva included OrgStory in their review of consultants. After the finalist consultants presented, OrgStory was chosen as the firm to partner with Consecra to rebrand the organization.
“Our job was to capture the essence of the experience this organization creates for its residents, staff and partners – an experience that is aligned from top to bottom,” said Schnurbusch.
Following a very disciplined and strategic process, the rebranding efforts began with a brand strengths assessment of the current brand; one-on-one interviews with leadership, employees, residents and board members; StoryCrafting group sessions with employees; and visits to the housing communities in Chicago, Kansas City and Florida.
With these inputs, OrgStory began to work on developing a compelling brand platform (vision, mission and values) and possible positioning approaches.
Well over 100 brand name possibilities were developed and reviewed; re-crafting the vision and mission and articulating values was initiated; logo variations and graphic guidelines for colors, type, and structure was begun.
“The process OrgStory brought to us was very inclusive of our team, our communities, boards and even community partners,” said Oliva. “We met regularly and asked for input at every step of the way.”
With a final list of brand names, feedback from employees and board members in every geographic location was sought to refine and narrow the direction. At the same time, a brand roll out strategy was developed targeting internal and external audiences.
Between the input and the output of potential brand directions, OrgStory brought several strategic decisions forward that guided the branding efforts, namely: an umbrella brand/name system must ‘complete’ the naming convention to add benefit, assurance, confidence, connection with residents, their families, community and employees.
OrgStory also recommended that in addition to the brand name, the description of what the organization is needed to be addressed as “Housing Network” didn’t represent the spirit of the organization and its work.
“Consecra Housing Network” comes off very ‘hard’ and very corporate,” said Schnurbusch. “We knew we needed to do a much better job of aligning the brand with the work of the organization.”
“Every meeting we attended; every community we visited, the first thing almost everyone did – employees, residents, partners – was to hug each other,” said Kyle Schnurbusch, OrgStory Director who runs its Chicago office. “What we also saw when we visited the communities was that they are filled with people happily and actively, living life. These insights sparked our thinking.”
“Clearly, what we offer is affordable living for actively aging adults and people with special housing needs,” said Sinderson. But what they experience and get beyond affordable is a welcoming place they can call home.”
That thinking led to the recommendation of the new brand: Embrace Living Communities.
It also led to the positioning line that is part of the logo that creates an emotional connection to the brand. With Embrace Living Communities as the ‘name’ for the brand, the brand’s identity came to life with a new logo that shows an “embracing” movement; a brighter, more life-filled color palate was created; an entire roll out campaign initiated.
“We have been diligent in creating a launch of our new brand for our internal team and external partners; residents we know and those that we want to meet; volunteers, funders and donors – every element, regardless of audience, is now completely integrated to make an impact for the introduction around Embrace Living Communities,” described Sinderson.
Perhaps the most significant brand element that is still in development is a new web site for the organization (www.embraceliving.org). To support the content for the site, and other elements, OrgStory and its partners have been at several communities shooting videos, taking photos and capturing resident stories. These elements will be an important part of the new marketing materials.
Far from its modest beginnings as Bensenville Home Society, but hardly different at all from its original mission to serve, Embrace Living Communities provides affordable, welcoming homes to some 3,000 residents at its 35 communities in Illinois, Missouri and Florida.
Indeed, it has taken 120 years of living its mission to get Embrace Living Communities to what it has become today.
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