When child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor was enlisted to investigate the impact of the 9/11 attacks on New York’s public school children, she was surprised by what she discovered. She expected to find signs of trauma, and she did. But the symptoms of trauma were concentrated in the city’s poorest schools, and they weren’t caused by terrorism. Instead, they were connected to the stress of growing up in extreme poverty. In these schools, 68% of students had been exposed to trauma sufficient to impair their ability to learn. These conditions — and these students — are what inspired Dr. Cantor to found Turnaround for Children, a visionary organization with which Briteweb has been fortunate to collaborate.
Turnaround for Children is a New York-based education non-profit that acts as a catalyst for change by addressing the challenges that affect schools facing adversity, particularly those in high-poverty communities. Their approach is uniquely grounded in neuroscience; based on their understanding of how trauma affects the developing brain, they develop strategies that help students overcome significant barriers to learning.
In 2014, Turnaround put out a call for a new website. Briteweb gladly accepted Turnaround’s invitation to submit a proposal, but quickly realized that a new website was not going to cut it.
Turnaround’s website was in need of an overhaul, yes, but beyond that the organization had a fundamental communication problem. After an extensive audit of their existing communication assets, our team was still unclear as to what exactly the organization did. Turnaround was led by scientists who spoke like scientists; their copy was academic and inaccessible to many of the audiences they most needed to reach. Visually, their brand was inaccurately playful and childlike; their imagery, typography, and color palette suggested that they worked directly with children rather than educators and administrators. In short, their brand was failing to communicate who they are.
Our first challenge, then, was convincing Turnaround’s leadership team that it was not in their best interest to build a new website upon shaky brand foundations. Fortunately, they got it, and invested the time and money required to do it right.
With that challenge out of the way, our team was able to move on to the bigger one: unearthing Turnaround’s existing brand, and creating a brand strategy — including personality, voice and look and feel — that differentiates Turnaround in a saturated educational non-profit space.
Actually being different has never been a problem for Turnaround; they are truly one-of-a-kind. Our real challenge was to communicate that difference in a more accessible way that resonated with the audiences the organization most needed to reach.
A brand is much more than a logo and website. It exists intangibly in an organization’s many interactions with its various stakeholders, and in those stakeholders’ perceptions of the organization. It wasn’t our job to create a new brand from scratch, but to discover Turnaround’s existing brand, then express it in a way that is tangible, distinct, and compelling to the organization’s most important audiences.
To unearth Turnaround’s brand, we started, as always, with a discovery process: interviews, workshops, surveys, and competitive analysis. What we found led us to define and articulate Turnaround’s brand personality as an archetype, which provides a guiding light for Turnaround’s team. This internal tool ensures that they’re on the same page; that the face and voice they present to the world is consistent and cohesive. And it helps them move away from how they had been communicating — academically and inaccessibly — towards a tone that is lucid, compassionate, and authoritative.
Once we established how Turnaround should sound, we set to work reimagining how it should look. Like its tone of voice, Turnaround’s existing look and feel didn’t represent the true nature of the organization, or help it stand apart from the crowd. To understand what the crowd looks like, we analyzed and mapped out the visual identities of Turnaround’s competitors on a number of dimensions, including use of color and typography, and degree of playfulness versus professionalism. We suspected that this data-driven approach would resonate with Turnaround’s science-oriented stakeholders; we were right.
Understanding the other players in the educational non-profit space helped our creative team to develop a visual identity as unique as Turnaround itself. Their new identity is based on the concept of connecting the dots, inspired by Turnaround’s mission to connect the three components (neuroscience, poverty, and education) that represent the organization’s competitive niche.
At the end of the brand strategy process, we delivered a comprehensive set of brand guidelines that set Turnaround’s team up to live and breathe their new identity in everything they do. And with all that in place, we were finally able to get to work on the website that Turnaround originally requested — with the confidence that we had a strong brand foundation to build on.
Our creative team continues to bring Turnaround’s new brand identity to life, not only in their new website but in a large suite of print collateral. With refreshed copy, imagery, typography, color, and their new connect-the-dots logo and theme throughout, these new materials leave no question as to what Turnaround does — or to how innovative and one-of-a-kind the organization’s approach to catalyzing change is.
From our perspective, the most significant outcome of our work with Turnaround was their whole-hearted adoption of their brand identity not only in their marketing and communication materials, but in the everyday operation of their organization. This was best exemplified at an operations meeting with the organization’s leadership team. When it came time to make an important decision, a member of the Turnaround leadership team paused to consider what Turnaround’s brand archetype would do.
To us, this demonstrated that Turnaround’s new brand was poised to succeed. The most successful brands are adopted from the inside out, fully embraced by stakeholders within the organization, and brought to life in each decision made, email sent, and tweet tweeted.
So far, Turnaround has done exactly that.
From Our Client’s Perspective
Briteweb is a dedicated, tireless, imaginative team that helps organizations realize the full potential of a project, reaching far past all expectations. Working with Briteweb to develop our new brand has played an important role in helping Turnaround for Children synthesize our identity as an organization – both how we understand ourselves and communicate this identity to the world. They helped uncover the heart, soul and brain of Turnaround by connecting with people inside of our organization, outside of it, our champions and even our hesitant champions. Briteweb helped us to embrace and believe in the brand identity that we have today. Since the launch of our new brand and website, I have often been hearing, “this new brand is just killing it.”
– Pamela Cantor, President and CEO, Turnaround for Children