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Branding Challenges and Opportunities - DOC by syk59282


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                        HARWOOD KIRSTEN LEIGH McCOY
                           COTLANDS – THE BRAND STORY

Babies grow. And so has one of South Africa‟s best-known charities, Cotlands, which started
its life back in 1936 as a sanctuary for unwed mothers and their babies. Today, Cotlands is a
national organisation providing a range of vital community services all around the country –
but during its evolution process, it had outgrown its brand imagery. The Cotlands „babies‟
were hindering, rather than aiding, the charity‟s growth – and change was due.

Fitting then, that it was a real-life Cotlands baby, Bongani, who provided the inspiration for the

Strategic branding specialists, Harwood Kirsten Leigh McCoy (HKLM) met Bongani hurtling
along the corridors of his paediatric ward with irrepressible energy while they were conducting
a visual audit at Cotlands – and the seed for a bright and energetic new brand direction for
the charity was planted.

“His spirit is reflected in the new brand,” said Ashantha Armogam of HKLM, which is providing
its services pro bono to Cotlands as part of its social investment commitment.

“But the new branding isn‟t just about an updated logo and fresh colours,” she added. “We‟ve
worked with the Cotlands team to develop a long-term brand strategy that explores Cotlands‟
raison d‟etre and which gives all stakeholders – including staff, customers, donors, suppliers
and partners – something deeper they can buy into and live by.”

Armogam praised Cotlands for recognising that a brand update was vital for its future
sustainability. “Not everyone has that foresight or the courage. But charities are brands and
they need to grow their brands if they are to remain relevant and viable and if they want to
continue to attract donor funding. Competition is tough and an outdated brand risks withering
and dying.

“Updating a brand is sometimes seen as threatening – because the status quo will be
challenged. But it doesn‟t have to mean a radical departure from its roots. Often, a subtle
tweak is all that is required. What is vital, however, is that changes are made within the
framework of a long-term and carefully-planned strategy. “

For both the Cotlands team and the HKLM team, it was a pioneering journey. Cotlands had
never experienced dedicated attention from a team of branding specialists, charting their

course into the future. For HKLM, it was their first experience working with a charity

For both parties, the relationship was a revelation.

Mark Hiller, chairman of the Cotlands Marketing Committee, described HKLM‟s work as
„impressive and valuable.‟ “It was simple, concise, balanced, informed, considerate,
thorough and respectful of the heritage of the organisation and players involved. The creative
work was outstanding,” Hiller said. “I am confident that the journey ahead will be rewarding
and that we have the best partner on board with us.”

HKLM was similarly bowled over by the enthusiasm, commitment and energy demonstrated
by each and every person involved with Cotlands. Armogam said that passion ran deeper at
Cotlands than at any commercial organisation that HKLM had worked with previously. “It was
a real eye-opener for us – and a meaningful learning experience,” she said. “It has also been
very rewarding working with the Cotlands board which comprises individuals from diverse
backgrounds and environments.”

The HKLM team was given a simple brief to „‟create a brand for Cotlands‟.

After much research, which included both in-depth visual and perceptual audits with internal
and external audiences, HKLM identified the branding challenges and opportunities – and
some solutions.

Although the existing Cotlands name and logo still had strong brand equity, it was widely
perceived as a children‟s home in Turffontein. Through its strong link with HIV and AIDS, it
had been positioned as an authority in palliative childcare, but was also perceived as a
„white‟, affluent organisation. The new brand strategy had to mobilise a shift in these
perceptions and focus on the Cotlands mission of ….‟providing exceptional models of care to
children and their families by empowering them to improve their quality of life through
specialised interventions and sustainability projects.‟

HKLM explored all design avenues from evolution to revolution – finally settling somewhere
inbetween. The well-recognised Cotlands‟ babies were retained but given an updated,
refreshed image which reflected the charity‟s coming of age. “The reality is that anti-
retrovirals are prolonging the lives of many of the babies and children at Cotlands, and the
new imagery needed to reflect that,” Armogam said.

The primary colours were replaced by a warmer, vibrant and more contemporary palette. The
fluid design style shows the happy children in various stages of play which, Armogam points

out, also reflects the fun, interactive side of Cotlands and its dynamic and continually evolving

The branding needs of Cotlands‟ many benefactors were also taken into account in the move
away from the original childlike logotype to a more elegant and sophisticated one. “One of
the challenges was to develop a logotype that looked good when paired with any other
corporate imagery,” she said. “The unique new logo will appeal to funders across the
spectrum who will be happy to use it to endorse their own products or services.”

Another key consideration in arriving at the new design was functionality combined with
adaptability and versatility, and HKLM has successfully applied the new imagery to a wide
range of collateral including stationery, clothing, signage and fundraising material. Additional
items will be developed to meet needs when they arise.

The new design was also seamlessly integrated into the Cotlands‟ interactive website, where
e-commerce specialists, Cybertrendz animated the logo and brought a „fun‟ element to the

In line with the long-term brand strategy, the positioning statement has moved from „Caring
for Children‟ to “Together we bring hope to life.”

Armogam added that the Cotlands‟ new positioning statement had been created to reflect the
core brand message of fulfillment. “To quote Ralph Waldo Emmerson : „The true measure of
success is knowing that one life has breathed easier because you have lived‟”.

And certainly the team at HKLM have breathed a little easier knowing that they‟ve made a
small – but meaningful - contribution. “It‟s been a very special experience for us,” she said,
“and we are privileged to have been chosen by Cotlands to help build, protect and support the
brand in a long-term partnership. This has been a clear example of just what can be
achieved when business and non-profit organisations work together for the benefit of the
community – and we are proud to have played a role in bringing hope to life.”


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