I love it when creative whiz Jeff Brooks gets upset over the mind-boggling bad judgments nonprofits make — regarding names, logos, taglines, positioning and messaging — in the name of better branding.

The examples he comes up with, as in this post — Change your name at your own risk — are usually breathtaking. Virtually all of the time you have to agree with him. How could the execs at [     ] be so dumb?!

As I often write on the topic, I do believe that branding is a serious matter for nonprofits. But I tend to think about qualities like authenticity, donor perspective, and message consistency rather than name fonts and excessive navel-gazing.

So I had a genuine ‘Jeff moment’ when I saw this NY Times article regarding the following change the United Negro College Fund (U.N.C.F.) is making to its very, very, very well-known tagline (“tinkering” is what the NY Times called it):

From: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” (created in and penetrating consciousness since 1972!)

To: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste but a wonderful thing to invest in.”

Hats off to advertising agency Y&R for mucking up a perfectly suggestive, brief, memorable and straightforward tagline by adding extraneous words stating a conclusion that’s already obvious.

Whoever approved this change at the College Fund — and it would have to include the Board — you get the first Agitator ‘You Oughta Be Fired’ distinction we’ve bestowed since June 2011!

Do you agree, Jeff?


P.S. Sure, to support the change, Y&R commissioned a study to document that African-American college grads would out-earn and be better off by numerous measures than their high school grad counterparts (Hmmm. Y&R needed to freshly document that?!). But you know what, anyone moved emotionally to respond to UNCF’s appeals over the last 40+ years already ‘knew’ that in their heads. The new tagline extension is totally superfluous in terms of adding to the message or its intrinsic impact, but clearly made the team at Y&R feel better. Once they started down the ‘tinkering’ path, they were committed to making some change!


This article was posted in: Communications, Nonprofit branding, Nonprofit management.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.