KenCrest and Branding from the Inside Out
With a proud history that spans 108 years, KenCrest has earned its status as one of the nation’s leading human services agencies, helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism live their best lives. When Finch Brands was engaged to take a look at KenCrest’s brand identity, it quickly became clear through our research and site visits that the organization’s 2,000 team members share a core set of values.
Thus, the task was not to use messaging and design to add purpose or energy to the KenCrest brand and culture, but to reflect what home office and direct care staff already model each day. These brand communications have no need to mask weaknesses, but rather an obligation to rise to the level of dynamism, humanity, and strength that are KenCrest touchstones.
The new logo is a contemporary rendering of a tree that has been a long-term design element for KenCrest. It features a human form as the roots and trunk, reflecting the essential humanity of the KenCrest organization. Deeper meaning extends into the leaves, as well as other elements. The tagline, ‘Bringing Ability To Life,’ expresses a core KenCrest philosophy in a way that mirrors the energetic spirit of the organization.
This story is a fairly simple one to tell – but the real significance of this process to me is what we’ve done with KenCrest since the designs were approved. To their credit, KenCrest understood that full activation of the identity needed to begin with those who inspired its design and who deliver its meaning – the staff.
It is fairly typical (though shortsighted) in situations like this to send around the new designs with a fact sheet and style guide and call it a day – then turn attention to launch in the outside world. Neither KenCrest nor Finch Brands thought this was sufficient – it was the staff, after all, that inspired the identity and it is the staff that embodies the KenCrest brand. More than just about any other business category, the indefatigable KenCrest team is the product.
Practically, KenCrest staff exist not only in the vortex of direct care, but also as families make decisions about whom they will trust with a loved one. The sum total of these decisions impact how broad KenCrest’s reach and impact will be. Emotionally, KenCrest staff are the living embodiments of the brand and they must understand that the work we have done is in tribute to their efforts.
So we set out to build a brand activation plan from the inside out. The launch process includes brand training for the over 2,000 team members – across 400 site locations – who comprise the KenCrest family. Finch Brands developed the curriculum and is ‘training the trainers,’ a select group of KenCrest employees who will then fan out to introduce the brand and its meaning to their peers. By February, each team member will have received this brand education.
Trainers will be armed with a presentation that links the work to the organization’s pioneering history and brand DNA and explains the process and underlying themes of the brand and identity. Each training meeting has carefully developed participatory elements so that team members – not used to stepping back from their daily efforts – can consider the organization and its brand in a broader context and share their own feelings about what it stands for and means to them.
In addition, training includes a video with representatives of the Board, Executive Team, staff and consumer base talking about the significance of this project. It is important that the entire team knows KenCrest’s level of investment in this process and passion for its output.
The intended effect is for this process of brand socialization to contextualize the new identity, to make clear that staff are both its inspiration and its executors, and to use this rare milestone in the life of the agency to promote ever-greater commitment and togetherness.
Finch Brands believes that internal brand alignment is often just as important as external communications and our work with KenCrest – of which we are immensely proud – puts this belief into practice.