Our client first came to us for a logo update — but their real challenge ran deeper. With six sub-brands, multiple audiences, and a complex business structure, what the nonprofit corporation really needed was a brand strategy.

Through our rigorous discovery process, the MAC helped Cornerstone Associates grow their brand, make their message clear, and drive sales and donations. No pie-in-the-sky plans here. Just an intensive communication system that fit their resources, ready for action.

What we did

  • Strategy Strategy
  • Branding Branding
  • Content & Messaging Content & Messaging
  • Website Website

Story

For people with mental and physical disabilities, it can be tough to get involved in community. Cornerstone exists to break down those barriers, helping participants (affectionately known as Associates) connect and contribute through meaningful employment.

Not everyone has the same needs or talents, so the nonprofit uses a three-tier structure to help Associates find their niche. In the Day Services program, Associates gain job skills and connect to others. If and when they’re ready to move on, Cornerstone offers them a job.

The organization owns six separate businesses for just this purpose. These businesses play a few vital roles: first, they give Associates a chance to gain experience in one of several industries. Second, they offer products and services to shoppers in the community. Third, they support the nonprofit as an additional revenue stream. All told, the businesses are a crucial layer in helping Cornerstone fulfill its mission.

When Associates are ready to work for a company outside of Cornerstone, the nonprofit helps them find work at a privately-owned business.

This three-tier structure – which, let’s remember, involves six separate brands working under the Cornerstone umbrella – isn’t exactly simple. On the contrary: it posed a major branding challenge.

Add to that the sticky task of telling a complex story to four very different audiences (people with disabilities, Cornerstone business customers, hiring managers at private companies, and prospective donors) and you’ve got a real conundrum.

I think the world of the MAC — their creativity, their professionalism. Probably more than anything, they truly understood what our needs were.

Nancy Maxwell, Executive Director, Cornerstone Associates

When Cornerstone came to the MAC, they knew they needed a logo refresh. We quickly discovered this was not all. Change is uncomfortable, no doubt about that, but after seeing the insights turned up by our intensive discovery process, Cornerstone decided it was time to shake things up.

Strategy

We audited our client’s various brands and website, did a competitive analysis, and interviewed their staff and board, some of whom were also Cornerstone donors. Then we developed a twelve-month communication plan to put action to what we learned.

  • Challenge

    Change is hard, especially for well-established organizations that are operating in the risk-averse nonprofit sector.

    Solution

    Change is healthy. We guided our client through a fruitful exploration of creative solutions that weren't just comfortable to their team, but inspiring.

  • Challenge

    Our client had significant brand equity on the table. While it’s great to shake things up a bit, it's also vital to protect the brand recognition you’ve already built.

    Solution

    As we developed the new logo, we took care to keep the essentials from the previous version intact: the diamond of squares, the color blue.

  • Challenge

    Six businesses. Six distinct brands, each essential to our client’s mission. How to bring them all together?

    Solution

    We created an identity system to bring all six entities under one visual umbrella, including two that had seemed irreconcilable.

  • Challenge

    Telling business owners about hiring opportunities is one thing. Communicating with prospective donors about human impact requires quite a different voice.

    Solution

    We developed a website information architecture to convey distinct messages to Associates, business leaders, Cornerstone business customers, and donors.

Community members – even those shopping at Cornerstone businesses – had no idea that the nonprofit and its six sub-brands are united by a common mission. We developed an identity system and marketing tools (including an infographic) to show how it’s all tied together.

Branding

Cornerstone is about people. We wanted the brand to convey that. The previous logo was cold and businesslike, so we softened and humanized it, made it warm and approachable, while keeping its blue color and squares intact.

Cornerstone is about people. We wanted the brand to convey that. The previous logo was cold and businesslike, so we softened and humanized it, made it warm and approachable, while keeping its blue color and squares intact.

Content & Messaging

With original photography and illustrations, we used imagery to tell the Cornerstone story. We wanted prospective donors to see the human impact of their contributions in the faces of those who benefit from them. We also wanted customers to see the quality of the products and services offered by Cornerstone businesses. The marketing tools we developed – print collateral, window and vehicle graphics, and more – did just that.

Website

Cornerstone needed to speak to four discrete audiences; it also needed to drive donations and sales. We designed the information architecture to achieve organizational goals, with separate areas for separate audiences, and donation buttons on every page.


We wanted to create an association between all our various businesses, and what the MAC has done will help lead us in that direction. I recommend them highly.

Nancy Maxwell, Executive Director, Cornerstone Associates

When Cornerstone Associates came to the MAC for a new logo, it discovered an opportunity. We helped the nonprofit connect to its donor base, tell a complex story to multiple audiences, and illustrate how the many components of its organization work together to fulfill its mission.

Website: cornerstoneassociates.org

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