how research shaped
the family promise brand

Once upon a time not so very long ago, we were presented with a challenging task: How do we create a brand for Family Promise of Grand Rapids that differentiates their organization from the other homeless shelters in West Michigan?

And this is where our journey begins.

A local newspaper published an article on homelessness. While perusing the readers’ comments, there was an astounding number of people who were livid about this issue. That hit home for us. How do you talk to someone about Family Promise when the public gets angry or put up a wall as soon as they hear the word ‘homeless’? This was the issue Family Promise of Grand Rapids was dealing with every single day, even though they weren’t dealing with the addict sleeping under the bridge or the man on the corner asking for money. They were helping an entirely different demographic of homelessness – families.

And so the research ensued.

We interviewed staff, clients, volunteers, donors, and board members. We can attest to the fact that there is nothing more authentic, heartfelt, and eye-opening than one-on-one research interviews.Here’s a summary of the high points:

  • We knew Family Promise’s brand needed to focus on families – this brings the focus away from homeless individuals.
  • The families Family Promise helps are not chronically homeless. They’re dealing with situational homelessness caused by job loss, medical bills, divorce, etc.
  • We were surprised by the ways children encouraged their parents during this tumultuous time. A six-year-old may say something as simple as, “It’s gonna be okay, Mom.”
  • The staff repeatedly said, “It’s all about the kids.”

So there you have it. Hours and hours of research condensed down to four bullet points. But we still needed to find a common thread in this research that would bring their brand to life. As we were mulling over this in a coffee shop, it hit us. The common thread is the kids. It’s what had to stand out in every element of the Family Promise of Grand Rapids brand.

And then the creative juices started flowing.

We got into the mind of a child (this was easier for some staff more than others). Headlines were written using children’s words. We chose a headline font that mimicked a child’s handwriting. Photography focused on children. Videos were told from a child’s perspective.

By focusing the brand on children, we saw attitudes in the community shift. Why?  

  • It was hard for someone to transfer their anger about homelessness to a child, knowing it wasn’t the child’s fault that the family became homeless.
  • Family Promise’s brand became memorable since very few brands were sharing things from a child’s perspective.

As a result of this rebrand, Family Promise’s volunteer-base doubled. Foundations and donors who previously gave to Family Promise became reinvigorated by their mission…so much so that Family Promise raised $2.5 million in 10 months.

So as we near the end of our tale, I must ask, do you know why this new brand worked?

Because we listened. At Scott Allen Creative, we use research to ensure an organization’s passion is evident throughout all aspects of their brand. We know there isn’t a mold that every organization fits into. Every organization has something that sets it apart from its competition, something that makes it unique, something that inspires others to join its cause. For Family Promise of Grand Rapids, we brought to the forefront what was special and unique about their mission – kids.  

And this is the reason everyone lived happily ever after.

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