The evolution of global health's 'best-kept secret'

Clarette Raharimanjaka shows the pentavalent “Easyfive,” a GAVI supported vaccine. The organization has changed its name and logo to raise more awareness about its mission. Photo by: Ed Harris / GAVI

When you have someone like Bill Gates donating $750 million to your organization, one could be forgiven for assuming the world knows all about your organization and its important contributions to global development.

And that’s what GAVI must have thought, until it saw the results of a survey of key global health stakeholders conducted in December 2013. Forty percent of respondents either knew nothing about the organization or were familiar with its name but didn’t associate the organization with vaccines or immunization.

“The feedback was that GAVI was very much a best-kept secret in global health,” Director of Media and Communications Pascal Barollier told Devex. “We prompted [the respondents] about what is [GAVI], what does it do? People would scramble.”

Respondents who only had vague ideas about what GAVI is and does, according to Barollier, are probably global health professionals who work in areas outside of the organization’s purview and therefore would have little opportunities to interact with GAVI or hear about its work.

Nonetheless, those who are familiar with GAVI believe the organization has been very discreet about its work and could do more to raise awareness about its mission — a point that the survey reinforced.

Immediately after finding out the results of the survey, the public-private partnership, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2015, worked on rebranding itself.

The process

GAVI reached out to a small design agency within the Publicis Groupe, a multinational advertising and public relations company whose clients include pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Novartis, Merck and Sanofi Pasteur, to help rename the company and redesign its logo — the survey also revealed very few people associated the logo with GAVI.

The decision to rebrand didn’t come easy. Barollier said organizations that may be considering following the same route have to be absolutely sure that their organizations need the change and will benefit from it.

“I came to GAVI in June 2013 as the new communications director. And you know I didn’t come in convinced that we had to do it. I came in very open to what is needed to be done, and only by listening to people internally and externally, conducting a survey, did we become convinced that we needed to do this rebranding,” he said. “You don’t do a rebranding just to change the logo.”

Barollier and many of his colleagues were convinced that it was absolutely necessary, especially now that they are at a critical juncture in their work. GAVI is currently in the middle of fundraising efforts for its 2016-2020 strategic period, for which it needed to raise $7.5 billion to meet its goals to “reach every child” and raise the coverage of all its 11 vaccines from 5 to 50 percent. The international development community meanwhile is currently preparing for the next set of development goals, and GAVI needed to reposition itself to make sure its mission doesn’t get run over by other global health issues competing for attention.

To ensure its success, the team in charge of the rebranding briefed the agency about its particulars; the redesign had to show clarity of the mission, that GAVI is part of the global health family, but at the same time express sustainability. They also were upfront about what they are — “not a private corporation with a lot of money to spend on this” — and what they expect from the ad firm.

Top: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance’s new logo. Bottom: The old GAVI logo.

“[We] said that whoever is going to work with us had to be convinced by the mission of GAVI and had to be willing to be part of that adventure … not billing us for the real number of hours and the real amount of work,” Barollier said.

The communications veteran declined to share the cost of the rebranding, saying only that they worked with a “very, very reasonable budget.”

“They billed us a very basic fee. For a private company, it would have cost a lot more,” he said.

The new GAVI

After a few months of working with Publicis, the team settled on a design and presented it to members of GAVI’s board in June 2014. The alliance’s new name and logo were launched two months later.

“We did not [publicize the rebrand] because, in essence, it’s not really news for us. I think it’s more of a means to achieve more news in itself,” Barollier said.

GAVI’s new name — Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance — better represents what the organization is all about, which, according to Barollier, is partnerships. Although no longer an acronym for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Gavi was retained because it still had some brand recall.

“People knew about Gavi,” the communications director said. “Not necessarily what it meant, but they knew about Gavi.”

In sharp contrast with the old logo, the new one is cleaner and better represents Gavi’s mission and vision. A map, positioned at the center of the logo, replaces the half globe and represents Gavi’s global reach. It is enclosed in the shape of a drop, which Barollier associated with a number of factors.

“We felt that the drop was the essence of life, the essence of global health,” he said. “And you know the drop is also associated with polio vaccine [and] rotavirus vaccine. And when you have a vaccine injection, there’s always a droplet before you get the vaccine. So the drop can really be associated with Gavi.”

The blue shading on the left of the map shows Gavi’s ties with the United Nations — its predecessors comprise key U.N. agencies such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF. But to make clear that Gavi is not a U.N. organization, the team added the green shading on the right, which Barollier said underscores Gavi’s sustainable development thrust and partnerships focus.

The reception

Gavi went through the rebranding knowing that doing so is critical to its mission. But there were other reasons as well, including getting the general public to understand why their governments are giving millions of money to the organization.

“It’s very hard for [donors] to justify [giving an organization like Gavi millions of dollars] if people don’t know about the organization. You can imagine, the U.K. giving a billion pounds or over a billion dollars to an organization and people in the U.K. don’t know what Gavi is. I think that’s an issue,” Barollier explained. “So donors, the U.S. or in Australia or everywhere, needed a bit more clarity, and they need to hear that the media and people reading the media knew what Gavi was about.”

So apart from the name and logo change, Gavi has started to revise the way it communicates what it does to the public. Its website now has more information about the work happening on the ground, featuring photos of children and interviews with people involved in vaccination campaigns. The website has also placed greater emphasis on the work of Gavi’s partners. For example, the website now features a video about the roll out of the five-in-one vaccine in India, which includes interviews with UNICEF officials and the country’s health ministry.

“We are now more about what’s happening in countries and less about what’s happening within Gavi,” Barollier said.

In addition, the organization launched a new blog — — where people involved in immunizations can write their thoughts, publish videos and other multimedia content about the work that they do.

“It’s not a Gavi blog; it’s a vaccine community blog powered by Gavi,” Barollier clarified. “We are supporting it, but any partner within the immunization community can reach out to us, submit [a] contribution, and we publish them on the blog.”

It is too early to say whether Gavi’s name and logo change achieved its rebranding goals. But Barollier said they are seeing some progress: Two and a half months since the new name and logo were rolled out, Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop was seen holding part of the organization’s logo — a drop-shaped cardboard — with “Australians for Gavi” written on it.

What do you think about Gavi’s rebranding efforts? Will the new name and logo create better brand recall and familiarity about the organization’s mission?

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.