When your name becomes bigger than the brand

Professor of Brand Strategy & Culture, Jonathan Wilson from Regent’s University, London speaks to Chris Davis, Creative Director of Red Stone on the re-brand of Sir John Cass’s Foundation.


The past twelve months have pulled the world into plots and directions that are normally reserved for blockbuster movies. We have been exposed to a series of revelations and collective outpourings, which have forced renewed and deep introspections - but more importantly also have asked for change. They have raised the imperative to re-evaluate narratives of the past, appreciate how they impact various communities differently, and consider what role they should play in our futures.

As a consequence, Sir John Cass’s Foundation (SJCF) decided to go on a journey of critical reflection and discovery – resulting in the unanimous Board decision to change their name and rebrand into The Portal Trust.

If a name is a barrier to an organisation being able to fulfil its purpose, then that’s a good reason to explore making a change

Chris Davis
Creative Director, Red Stone

Chris Davis, Creative Director from Red Stone, who developed the name change and rebrand said, “if a name is a barrier to an organisation being able to fulfil its purpose, then that’s a good reason to explore making a change.” In further support of change being needed, he also went onto say, “once you know something, it’s hard to unknow it”.

Red Stone embarked on a process of researching the views of stakeholders - who included the larger established educational institutions, former beneficiaries of grants, local community representatives, and many more. They found when looking at the brand’s identity, that there was a disconnect between the mission and work of the foundation over the years, and some of the values associated with their founder, Sir John Cass. Typical responses to the consultation were “... they need to possibly concentrate a bit more on the recipients, the people that they do help, rather than city institutions... that would give them a more modern image... and help with their accessibility. It shouldn’t be about the Foundation... the trustees... it shouldn’t be about that. It should be about what the charity can facilitate in others”

Therefore, it would be a mistake to view this simply as a wallpapering exercise or knee-jerk response. However, on one level, you could argue that doing so in itself is important - because accepting responsibility for any offence caused and making a change is a good thing.

Chris Davis believes that the key to a successful rebrand is to ensure that organisations think beyond just acquiring a new logo and image: “What you do has to have a deeper, more meaningful, balanced and sensitive approach to the problem - where brands are committed to the long-term”. The Portal Trust draws its name from the vision to ‘support all’, which was a reoccurring theme from the intelligence gathered.

Names and brands often inform how we view everyday activities. But this framing can be short-lived or divisive, where it does not resemble reality. The birth of The Portal Trust is a brand refresh, but its foundation in 1748 and grants in London of £17.6 million over the past decade provide plenty of reasons for why there is a need to tell their narrative with a renewed purpose in a language in-tune with the times.

Professor Jonathan A.J. Wilson