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Posted December 16, 2015

Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation Rebranding


After a recommendation from the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we met with leadership of Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation to discuss a rebranding of their venerable organization.

Founded in 1985 by friends and family in honor of breast cancer victim Lynn Sage, the 30‑year‑old organization is most renowned for its tradition of turning downtown Chicago buildings bright pink every October. But loyal supporters know that the organization does much more than arrange light shows. Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation (hereafter, LSCRF) has raised over $30 million to support cutting-edge research and education at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. LSCRF is arguably one of the country’s leading philanthropic organizations investing in the science of breast cancer.

The inherent challenges in this rebranding were many.

With many of the founders still active in the Foundation, we had to consider the deep emotional attachments to Lynn, the organization’s origin story, and the current logo (which included a Victorian-brooch-style silhouette of Lynn). A primary impetus for the rebranding initiative was to propel the organization into the future, de-emphasizing the origin story.

We also had to contend with the troublesome existence of a similarly-named, but much smaller, competing organization (The Lynn Sage Foundation) founded by Lynn’s daughters.

Finally, as we learned in a series of discovery sessions with leadership, we needed to strike a delicate balance between the organization’s more traditional value set (e.g., empathy; compassion; connections to survivor narratives) and the Foundation’s emerging character (e.g., scientifically and financially savvy; intent on investing in the most innovative and promising research programs).

We provided LSCRF leadership with a full position and messaging report (internal position statement, elevator pitch, tagline recommendation, and audience matrix) and offered four alternative logos. In the course of our review, we worked with leadership to very quickly finalize messaging and the logo, both designed to focus on the theme of “life-changing breakthroughs.”

We then completed the Foundation’s identity system—including signature pink flaps on their envelopes—and presented our work to the Board for consideration and approval. Despite the challenges, the rebranding was considered an unqualified success by all in attendance.

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