Covenant House Rebranding: Part 2

Through interviews and workshops we recognize a gap between how at-risk teens view Covenant House from the outside and how they experience it once they are across the threshold and actually inside.  From the outside they view Covenant House as cold, institutional.  Inside they find themselves in a warm, open community that treats them with respect and gives them the tools to make the transition into productive and healthy adulthood.  The branding is part of the problem.

Consider the logo:

Old Covenant House logo

Old Covenant House logo

Research shows that homeless kids see a bird in a cage or trapped in house.  The bird is still, perched on the hand. The color is a cold institutional blue, and often only a black and white version is used making it seem even more institutional.  There is nothing about the branding that signifies this is for homeless youth.  They are reluctant to walk into a building with that logo. To confuse matters more, the logo is different in many cities, prominently displaying the city name or different messages locked up.  It is hard to recognize them all as part of a single organization with a uniting purpose and mission.

The re-branding needs to make it easier for teens to walk through that door.

Covenant House can only fulfill their mission of helping homeless young adults by raising the funds to support the organization.  It is not supported by the government and it is not supported by any organized church or religious group, even though it was founded by a priest.  It is supported almost entirely by donations from individuals across the US and Canada.

As you will recall from the last post, Covenant House has avoided much publicity after the founder, Father Ritter, resigned in the early 1990s.  By 2006 this has an unintended longer term effect — a whole new generation of potential donors has grown up unaware of Covenant House.  And those who are aware of Covenant House tend to know very little about it.

The confusion of different logos and different messages for different cities is not making it any easier for potential donors to know about Covenant House.  There is little about the name to connect it to the core mission.  And there is little about the logo that is immediately symbolic of homeless youth.

Now, in 2006, the rebranding program has two major challenges.  1. Building stronger connections with homeless youth.  2. Building new connections with a new generation of donors.

The core metaphor:

In all of the investigation, the interviews, the research, a strong central metaphor keeps being raised.  Whether it is about having an open door policy, or getting teens to cross through the doorway or opening doors of opportunity.  The “open door” metaphor has a profound connection with the mission of the organization.  So we use that as the central metaphor in creating a new brand story for Covenant House.

Opening Doors For Homeless Youth

This tagline that we create summarizes the metaphor and explicitly brings in the missing message that this is for homeless youth.  It is more than a tagline, however.  It is the beginning of a new vocabulary at Covenant House that talks in a more relevant and meaningful way with teens. An open door is welcoming.  It replaces the “24/7 open intake” language of a social worker.

From this core metaphor we write the next chapter in the Covenant House story.

In the next post I will go into the structure of the story and the challenge of changing the narrative arc so that the best part of the past contributes to a stronger future.  In the meantime, consider making a contribution to Covenant House today.

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