Like many of the established cooperatives and organizations we work with, our relationships go back almost a generation. We have been thrilled to be part of so many remarkable transformations in our sector over the years. Every day we’ve supported people as they have made important changes to their work culture and identity—all while being in service to the betterment of their communities. We’ve always taken to heart the value of working together for the common good.
Just as we have assisted change in other organizations, we also recognized that it was time for a shift within our own cooperative. Our brand is built one-on-one in the work we do together with clients and consultants, and now we are building a new platform for those relationships. Doing this is part of our long-standing vision to initiate positive change and amplify our impact.
We began the process of a rebrand last June at a co-op-wide retreat. We used the time together to help solidify important questions about who we are, and how we want to continue to meet the needs of a changing world.
With the assistance of our branding partner New Kind, and website developer Reify Media, both located in Raleigh, North Carolina, we asked ourselves all the challenging questions we often put to our clients. We examined our history and talked about where we planned to go in the future. We strove to consider everything we have done, and plan to do, with fresh eyes.
We have not taken this journey alone, and that’s why we are sharing our process with readers now. We’d like you to come along, too. The identity we continue to cultivate is part of the DNA of the people we work with day-to-day. As part of the process, New Kind reached out to people we work with closely for their candid feedback.
Our rebrand includes adopting a new name and visual identity. We have decided to name our cooperative Columinate (pronounced co-luminate). It’s a vivid name rooted in our cooperative origins, and we believe this new name shares how we use our expertise to help build brighter communities, together.
So far, the entire rebrand project has felt like an unfolding. It’s been exhilarating, and at times, challenging, but due to the professional guidance we received and the commitment of so many people, we are poised to expand our circle.
A rose by any other name
While most organizations do not to go through a complete renaming process after they are established, almost all may go through some transformation over time to remain relevant.
For instance, several our food co-op clients have changed their names, some from being a “market” or “grocery” to a cooperative, and vice versa. As we explored a name change for our own cooperative, we spent some time researching perceptions about our current name, as well as exploring the kind of attributes we want our new name to convey.
What we learned through the research phase was that our name had a certain capital amongst those who knew us well, but those who didn’t were often confused. Or held a mistaken assumption that we were part of a different organization. It was clear that we had to do something to differentiate ourselves starting with a core identity piece: our name.
Renaming a company can be more challenging than naming something in the first place because there is an already established identity that must be considered and revamped. Through the name discovery process, we were able to articulate what we really want to embody as a cooperative—and that’s a very valuable exercise no matter where one is on the name-change or branding continuum.
Getting expert assistance
As a cooperative of consultants, we understand the value of getting expert assistance. Even though a number of our team members are marketing consultants, we knew how important it would be for us to also get a third-party assessment and guidance on a project of this scope. We wanted to practice what we preach.
Our board of directors supported the wisdom of this approach. A rebrand is analogous to a construction project, with advance preparation, milestone achievements along the way, and the engagement of different stakeholder groups. It powerfully reinforced the idea that some things are not DIY projects, and that the best work often happens when you hire the insight and guidance of professional services.
Developing a team approach
By hiring experts, we could also put to best use the expertise we do have within our co-op to provide leadership for the project. We assembled a Brand Team that acted as a sounding board for necessary feedback as well as representing our members best interests.
New Kind was an excellent partner for us because of their willingness to be part of a collaborative team. It’s how we work together within our co-op as well as how we work with our clients.
It would be impossible to overstate how important it is to have a team working together on a co-op’s brand. The overall brand is not just the name or the visuals, but the whole experience that people have when they are interacting with your company. You need to assemble a team with alignment around the goal of the rebrand to deliver on its brand promise to customers.
Engaging members and stakeholders
You need everyone’s input. Not everyone engaged will decide, but a very important aspect of successful branding is lis- tening—hearing multiple perspectives from people who play different roles inside and outside the organization. For us that included our consultant members, board, management team, clients, business partners, as well as people we’d like to establish new relationships with.
We created a plan to engage all those stakeholder groups with frequent communications, as well as providing them opportunities for feedback. We did this through in-person meetings, emails, phone interviews, internal and external stakeholder surveys, and market research. We also instituted a very intentional open-door policy—anyone we communicated with (especially our members) was welcome to share their thoughts at any time with the co-op’s manager and brand project manager—and were actively invited to do so on multiple occasions.
Throughout this process we have been impressed by the generosity of the people we work with in our sector and beyond. When we’ve asked for information or input it has been willingly provided, and the insights have been valuable.
It gives us confidence that our rebrand has so far been carried out on a bedrock of a community within the spirit of collaboration and goodwill. It has been a humbling and exhilarating process to know so many people are invested in our success. We cannot wait to share with you our new name and new look wrapped in the same warm embrace you are accustomed to. The rebrand has illuminated our shared purpose and brought into focus the potential inherent in our ability to work together for the common good.