(Protest) Signs of the Times: Branding to Embrace the Political Storm

In their 2014 book New Power, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms discuss “storm chasing” and “storm embracing,” two techniques for organizations to drive action, urgency and visibility, even in times of crisis. As the political climate in the U.S. continues to become more polarized, it’s no accident that the past two years have seen at least three major advocacy organizations chase or embrace the political storm with a brand update.

The ACLU, MoveOn and the ADL have all recently refreshed and refocused their brands, creating straightforward visual identities with activist roots. All three organizations use typefaces with letterforms that imply solidarity and strength. The ACLU’s new typeface was inspired by signs from the Civil Rights movement, and MoveOn’s new logo directly references modern protest placards.

These updates are great examples of storm embracing. Unlike storm chasing, which is normally a fast-moving response to a fast-moving crisis or event, storm embracing allows organizations to adopt a new footing that they can use to harness the storm for a longer period of time, if necessary.

Although storm embracing can be primarily reactive, the best rebrands are actually proactive. Because of their advocacy work, all three organizations are used to navigating turbulent waters and passionate opinions–they probably saw this current political storm coming. In light of this shift, all three brands astutely positioned themselves to align with protest movements. The “participatory energy” that these movements represent is a key ingredient in Heimans and Timms’ new power model, so these brand updates speak directly to where our culture is now and where it’s likely to go in the future. This is branding at its best: natural graphic evolutions with insightful strategic underpinnings.

The ACLU, MoveOn and ADL all understand that streamlining logos and nomenclature is a great idea when an organization is heading for a period of increased relevance and visibility. A clear visual identity and a people-centered strategy can help an advocacy organization make the best of any storm, no matter how long it may last.


Photo: Vlad Tchompalov via Unsplash