Why you should care about Rotary branding

By Liz Thiam, Rotary brand specialist

As a Rotary brand specialist, I see Rotary signs everywhere. I guess you could say it’s an occupational hazard. Even my children spot Rotary signs wherever we go. So when I attended a local Rotary event in my hometown last year, I couldn’t help but notice how Rotary’s logo was being used.

At first, I was thrilled to see the club’s logo featured on a banner welcoming attendees. But then, I spotted another banner featuring the Rotary wheel as a pancake. Inside the tent, the club hung up a huge banner displaying the old, retired Rotary wheel. Club members who greeted us were all wearing polo shirts with the old wheel on them, but they were handing out brochures that included their newer club logo. Here were five different opportunities to promote the club, and each used different Rotary logos. It was bewildering.

So what?

When a club logo isn’t used properly, it can create confusion and mistrust. In 2012, Coca-Cola temporarily replaced the iconic red can with white cans that featured polar bears on it for the holidays. But they had to pull them from shelves when retailers and customers reported being confused. The cans looked too much like Diet Coke cans, and that’s not what consumers wanted.

This is one example of what happens when a logo is altered. By just changing the can color, the public was frustrated. They didn’t trust the product anymore. And that impacts the brand.

Now imagine that each Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact club had its own logo. How would the public know which Rotary club to trust, to join, or to donate money to?

When a club alters the Rotary logo – like turning the Rotary wheel into a pancake, changing the fonts, or adding additional colors – it weakens our global brand. That can impact our ability to attract future members, earn the trust of donors, encourage volunteers to help on our service projects, and even secure partnership opportunities. Old branding tells the public that this club is outdated. Inconsistent branding sends mixed messages of who we are.

Correct use of the Rotary logo.

Studies show that consistent logo use builds organizational trust and awareness. Isn’t that something we all want for Rotary — to be a trusted organization in our communities?

Over the next year, we are going to talk a lot more about branding and how to use Rotary’s logos properly. We are working with you to build a strong Rotary because a strong Rotary – one that is recognizable, trusted, and united – has a much greater chance of attracting members, donors, volunteers, and partners. Our regional and district leaders will join us in sharing that message.

You can help by taking a look at your club logo. Do you see your club name along with the Rotary or Rotaract logo? Are you using the correct Rotary color palette? Is the Rotary wheel clearly visible, free from other graphics or designed elements? If not, then it might time to update it. It’s really easy—just visit the Brand Center to get started.

34 thoughts on “Why you should care about Rotary branding

  1. I like the new logo, I think it is clean and current. It did take me some time to warm up to, but now I embrace it. What I find hard is that in some cases the wheel, regardless of the color choice, doesn’t show up well against a busy background. To make the brand stand out I used a white background a little larger than the logo with fogged edges that can go on top of the busy image and the logo stands out. The other thing I find hard is the size of our club’s name in proportion to the Rotary and MoE. In our town we have 3 clubs and we, the little step sister, is always getting associated with the bigger club, so for us we need our club name loud and proud! The other problem we face is our members that “refuse” to spend money on new banners because that is “not what we raise money for”, so I gave up trying to convince the other members it was important. We do use the new logo on anything we create new, and we still use our club name loud and proud in other areas of our promos (without the MoE associated with it). Good, bad, or indifferent we want people to know it is US! Thanks for the post and the comments, they were all really good to read.

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  2. “If the majority of Rotarians refuse to use the new brand, RI will have no choice but to drop this crazy rebranding idea”

    It’s not new. The current brand was introduced in 2013. As I type that’s over 7 years ago.

    “Yellow/gold on white does not have enough contrast”

    The brand centre has plenty of examples of the Mark of Excellence (as the wheel is called) in other colours – e.g. azure on white, black on white.

    “we, the rank and file members, were never consulted about a change of logo”

    I’m sure there are many decisions taken by various Rotary teams that members are not consulted on. It’s very often better to have teams of professionals make choices rather than have 1.2 million people with no specific branding knowledge (including myself) decide.

    “I will continue to use my previously branded hats, shirts, and ties until they wear out which may be after I am gone.”
    “I absolutely agree…..on this and shall continue the same, as I have done for the last 50 years!”

    Resistance to change is a natural human response. But think how this looks to people who are members of clubs which have been in existence for 7 years or less. Clubs which have never used anything other than the current branding. These Rotarians must think it very odd that logos 7 years out of date are still being used.

    The whole idea here is that we all belong to one Rotary organisation – and so there should only be one Rotary brand. Let’s work together and use it together.

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  3. Totally agree with the observation that the new yellow-only wheel does nothing for Rotary. The “old” Golden wheel with blue lettering is better for ALL uses, Banners, Social Media, lapel pins (the new metal ones with a sidearm inevitably twist until the word Rotary is vertical), etc etc. So what has the change brought – no surge in new members, acrimonious debate between the yes mob and the no mob, difficulty in seeing/reading the logo, potential additional cost to clubs and Rotarians who are asked to kowtow to some “marketing guru” company (how much were they paid – to disturb Rotarians!) when the money can be better spent doing what Rotarians have always done – “good around the world”.
    RI – listen to membertship.

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  4. Upgrading the Rotary Logo was an importamt step for Building Rotary’s Public Image. During our Polio Plus Service Project of Cleaning our streets and sidewalks in Nazareth, PA, we used the new Rotary logo in the t-shirts that we wore. This attracted alot of positive response in our Rotary Facebook site posting,photos which attracted prospective members.to our Rotary Club of Nazareth in District 7430.

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  5. The best way to deal with this branding is simply to ignore it! If the majority of Rotarians refuse to use the new brand, RI will have no choice but to drop this crazy rebranding idea.

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  6. A timely article at the beginning of the summer year ( for us in the Pacific) as folk return home from annual trips.
    As I travelled around the clubs last year, I photographed and noted the good and the bad Rotary signage, and politely raised the issue of re branding with clubs especially at the entry of towns and smaller communities where a cluster frame has been erected.
    I encountered two issues.
    Firstly, signage in New Zealand is subject to what we term a ‘Resource Consent” . Unless it’s like for like, replacement may come at a cost and follows a process that involves time and money.
    Secondly, your graphic designers failed to come up with an adequate replacement for the ‘wheel’. The brand centre does not offer a like for like replacement. The closest, that I have used in my town, is the square blue base with a minuscule word “rotary’ in the bottom RH corner ( sorry- I cant seem to insert an image) I tried re painting the cast aluminium ‘wheel” and put it on a white background, but that didn’t work.
    So here is a challenge- post out a suitable image for the replacement of the wheel on a like for like basis for us to follow. I cant find one.

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  7. Our club uses the new branding, as required, and as Secretary of my growing and vibrant club, I try to make sure we stay compliant. I do not speak for my club here.

    I am of the personal opinion that it was created without consideration of those who have a variety of visual impairments such as color blindness. Yellow/gold on white does not have enough contrast for many people to see.

    It was a poor… no… an ignorant choice and doesn’t meet the 4-way test. If it can’t be seen, it is NOT fair to all concerned. Shame, shame on the people involved in this selection process.

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  8. When basically anyone can offer the same type of product, you choose the brand that feels most familiar.
    All products can be copied, but it
    is impossible to copy a trademark.
    That is why it is so important that we show the same brand all the time no matter what we do or tell you about it.
    Seeing different logos of Starbucks or of McDonald’s does not exist, nor on the Red Cross or Lions.
    We think it’s perfectly OK to have thousands upon thousands different looks on our logo – why???
    I can’t get it.
    I know the importance of looking the same.

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  9. I think, the logo shouldn’t be changed. Normally creates just confusion on any brand, I totally agree that around the world RI is known for its wheel and specific colors, is not something that gets dated, I still love the logo and everytime I see it, I know what it is.

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  10. Hi Just wondering if anyone knows of a way I can get a copy of the most up to date logo of our rotary wheel? I have tried to search for it, but often it has some form of checked colours in the background. I just want the yellow wheel. & white back ground.
    hoping someone can email it to me, very much appreciated in advance.

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  11. Even those in marketing may not agree with the optics of the “newish” logo; consistently promoting a poorly impacting logo does not help our Rotary Branding cause.

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  12. I totally agree with many of the others who mentioned that we, the rank and file members, were never consulted about a change of logo.
    The updated version is more difficult to see. How much will/has Rotary spent globally changing the image?
    How many new members have rushed in ecstasy to join due to the new image?
    We are volunteers. Why should we buy new shirts and hats and badges and banners etc?
    As has been mentioned there is only one Rotary. Why did we need to change? Who could mistake usWhich consultancy had made money out of rebranding?
    Surely Rotary had far more pressing things to spend it’s ‘donated’ money on than this?
    Sorry but appalling.

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  13. My club’s name is extremely LONG so that’s a challenge on every single use of brand. But I’m still a champion for the new logo and branding in my club. I even bought hard copies of the Visual Identity Guidelines to help show and explain things to club mbrs (pre-Covid when we met in person), find examples for use, or find the right technical info to give to vendors. But it’s a challenge when obvious things are NOT covered by the branding guidelines and we have to fudge our way thru, including for common modern things like: teardrop WIND Banners or VERTICAL indoor mtg banners that collapse down into small portable metal slat. Or figuring out best way to approach an effective Instagram handle. Somehow I think McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have these sort of things figured out while 7 years into the new branding, Rotary is still struggling to provide clubs guidance on some of the basics. But successful businesses are not casual about their branding. They protect and promote it whenever they can. So our club will keep at it. We do realize that the more recognition ROTARY gets, then the more our club will be perceived as being part of something this is BIG, relevant, hopefully modern, and relevant in today’s world. More obvious examples of use, made available via Brand Center, would be great. Lol – maybe you’d like to see how we whipped up our vertical banner that DOES include Environment as 7th area of focus?
    We managed to stuff even that onto banner at the last moment, in best way we could, as guidance on it was limited when the big announcement rolled out.

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  14. If we’re comparing a massive global conglomerate with billions of dollars allocated to marketing, such as Coca Cola, then we should acknowledge that, unlike Rotary, they never change their branding or colours. Yes, Rotary clubs should not incorrectly use the logo, such as it not being round. But really, unlike Coca Cola, when most people have no idea what Rotary is, seeing it in any form is better than not seeing it at all. It doesn’t cause any confusion or distrust of the brand to see an older logo.

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  15. At the Rotary International Convention in Lisbon, in 2013, there was no mention of the pending upending of the Rotary brand. Still, a mere few weeks later, Rotary International shocked 1.2 million Rotarians with the new logo. I suspect the Lisbon attendees were not told of the pending change for fear of a room full of boos.

    With the great majority of Rotarians, long-time Rotarians, it should not be hard to understand the rebranding’s lack of acceptance. We did not request it and were not consulted.

    Then there is the logo itself. The “gold” color of the wheel renders poorly. It is too bright, and it is difficult to read the words “Rotary International.” Worse, the Brand Center does not seem to recognize that we need images that work across all medial social platforms and on mobile devices, Netbooks, PCs, and projection equipment.

    Yes, we are slowly getting used to new branding, but as our numbers show, the new branding has not created a surge in new members.

    As I connect with Rotarians worldwide via the many social media portals, which I have been doing since 1988, I can’t help but notice the continued abuse of our brand by those who are using every color but blue and gold. It seems the least of our problems is the use of the old logo.

    As for the clothing, many of us have a lot of it, and we are not going to stop wearing our favorite shirts! 🙂

    Does anyone know why none of the RI approved vendors failed to make any clothing with this year’s presidential theme? Did RI prohibit it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Probably because most clubs do not meet, Zone Institutes, District Conferences and the Internation Convention were canceled. Vendors did not see an opportunity to make a profit.

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  16. The Rotary Wheel and logo should not have been changed in the first place. The blue of the prior brand stood out better and reproduced better. I don’t recall that most of us were ever asked what we though about the new brand. I will continue to use my previously branded hats, shirts, and ties until they wear out which may be after I am gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Perfect statement on Rotary Logo. Rtn.Tushar Ranjan Das,PastPresident, Rotary Club of Cuttack Greenfield , RID 3262.

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  18. The previous comment states ‘Why keep changing the brand logo’, however this new logo has been in place for approx 7 years, so is not new. I am about to take over the District Lead for Public Image and it’s not easy getting the message across, even in my own club. I can understand clubs not wanting to replace expensive items such as Gazebos, clothing etc but there is no excuse in having the wrong logo on social media, websites and event publicity etc. We see many articles on ‘Fake Goods’ where logos are slightly different to the official logo.

    If you are going to replace expensive items such as Gazebos, why not have them printed with ‘Rotary People of Action’ rather than having a club name, that way they can be used by other clubs across the district and perhaps the costs shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I completely agree with upgrading the logo for a fresh new look. However, I think corporate Rotary forgets one very important thing, and I think it would do them well to take a look at the many Facebook pages and other areas where this is being discussed ad nauseam. Rotary Clubs are made up of volunteers. Rotary Clubs’ budgets are not developed with the idea of spending money on redoing their signs, leaflets, brochures, tee shirts, roadsigns, etc. They are developed with the goal of feeding the hungry, curing polio, providing dictionaries, etc. So if people bought tee shirts ten years ago and they still fit and are in good condition because they only wear them during the Purple Pinkie, or the club is losing members so their dues are less and they don’t have the income they used to have, their last concern is going to be the logo on their membership materials. Yes, they can and should change everything they can online. And anything new they produce should have the new logo. But to call them to task for wearing an old tee or for having multiple logos…this is not soda. There isn’t a choice of flavors. There IS only ONE Rotary. Unless you want to offer a stipend to clubs to renew their materials, you need to take a different tone when explaining the importance of consistency in logo. Not everyone is in marketing.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Why you should care about Rotary branding | Rotary Club - AIRC

  21. Sorry this is a long winded message and will therefore be ignored by many.
    Why keep changing the brand logo,it just adds confusion.
    I am affraid I am finding that due to your use of New Technology is resulting in a loss of the plot?

    Like

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