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.
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 Old branding tells the public that this club is outdated.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.
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.