Insights on Branding from the Cru Name Change

Campus Crusade for Christ is dead. Long live Cru!

Or so went the thinking this week, as the organization unveiled their new name that will take effect in 2012.

It’s been a bumpy ride—there have been over 1500 comments on their site (they’ve edited them down) and another 500 on Facebook, including a flurry of threats from donors to pull their funds. Plus, inflammatory media headlines have fanned the flames of fiery discourse. The VP who led the renaming process was interviewed today because of the controversy.

What can we learn from the process, all this hubbub?

  1. Input, listening, and buy-in are extremely important. They generated 1600 options for names. They paid top-shelf consultants. They prayed. They surveyed their staff. Names carry personal identification, so messing with them is nothing to trifle with.
  2. You can’t satisfy everyone. Despite a very careful process over the course of two years, there’s still a lot of resentment and outrage, despite careful explanations of why they’ve done what they’ve done and that their purposes have not changed.
  3. Lots of people don’t understand how to communicate. I was very surprised to see outrage over the change. Cru did their homework and knew that their name was an impediment to the conversations about Jesus they wanted to have and the work they aim to do. The result of their name change will be more of the same work they’ve always done, as it allows more conversations to happen. The first rule of good communications is to know your audience. For Christians, the biblical concept from Paul being all things to all people applies.
  4. You need to allow the discussion to happen. Cru has had hundreds of negative comments on their site. They know it’s better to have them there than somewhere else. They are showing themselves to be open, listening, and responsive to all perspectives, even the vitriolic.
  5. Controversy can be good. Brian Barela posted today on how their work is not changing and the name change is opening significant interactions with all kinds of people, and more discussion about our dearest values is rarely a bad thing.
  6. You need to keep perspective. Given the 25,000 staff that Cru has worldwide, and the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of donors, the number of very squeaky wheels amongst the couple of thousand comments is actually very small. They’re noisy but they are definitely not the majority. People who are upset scream a lot louder than those who are happy.
  7. You do what you gotta do. It’s untenable to have “crusade” in an organizational name in this millennium. The organization’s ministry  has expanded (drifted?) from “campus.” So there needed to be a major change. A lot of the frustration and outrage stems from the name not having “Christ” in it. But I know that the people involved are not ashamed of Jesus or their faith, but sensed the best name to accomplish their work as being Cru.

So that’s what it’s called. What are you learning this week?

  • Adam

    That was a very accurate post, Mr Jeske. it has been a surprise how negative some of the replies have been, until you step back and think about the American Church and American society. we are cynics and love to complain. we are quick to complain and slow to listen. I know I am-as I saw in my own defensiveness over people’s attacks.

    If we kept the name, people would be just as upset, we just wouldn’t have a news story… after all, we changed bc of all the negative feedback.

    One small clarification- I do not believe we are drifting from campus, but are expanding to new areas of society, especially moving towards reaching cities.

  • Mark Shaffar

    well said

  • acjeske

    Thanks, guys. Adam, I don’t mean drift is a pejorative sense, but “Campus” didn’t belong in the overall name anymore, right?

  • Aaron Miatke

    Thanks for your thoughtful perspective Adam. It has indeed been fascinating to observe people’s reactions! I am confident that the fruit that God is bearing in us and through us will speak loudest over time. Its been nice fodder to keep people talking about something for now :-)

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