Lilliput Families has been supporting children and parents in California for the better part of four decades, but up until recently, the community knew it by a different name: Lilliput Children’s Services. Named in a nod to the tiny people from “Gulliver’s Travels” — the Lilliputians — Lilliput Children’s Services opened its doors in 1980 with the goal of helping children without homes find stable and supportive families.

While Lilliput’s founding principles remain the same now as they did back then, the agency has grown tremendously — and at some point, Lilliput’s branding had to catch up. In 2015, Lilliput partnered with marketing firm Misfit to update their external messaging and redesign their look. A year and a half later, Lilliput Families was born, beginning a new era for the Sacramento-based organization.

But what exactly happened in those 18 months, and how did a simple brand refresh result in a whole new name and tone for the agency?

The old Lilliput Children’s Services logo that Misfit was asked to update

Doni DeBolt, director of community relations at Lilliput Families, explained that a company’s logo should be memorable and send a clear message about what the organization stands for. “I always ask people, ‘What’s Target’s color?’ They say, ‘Red.’ ‘What’s their logo?’ ‘Bullseye.’ Well that’s how we wanted people to think about Lilliput.” In order to find that distinct logo design, though, Lilliput would first need to take a deep dive into their strengths and values as an agency.

“Most brands, including Lilliput, start with the impression that their ‘brand’ is merely a logo and a description of the services they provide,” said Matt Kolbert, co-founder and CEO of Misfit. “We work hard to dispel this myth and work with them to identify, in their own words, what business they are really in.” Just like Nike’s motivational branding goes beyond selling shoes, he explained, Lilliput would need to identify what they offer people beyond their basic services in order to distinguish themselves from other child welfare agencies.

As Kolbert and his team met with Lilliput leadership and gained a better understanding of the organization, they realized they had a lot to work with. “We learned that Lilliput wasn’t just another kinship services or adoption services agency,” he said. “They are driven. Committed. Passionate. And won’t ever settle for good enough . . . for themselves or the families they serve.”

Lilliput determined that, beyond bringing families together, they’re in the business of ‘Challenging people — themselves and those in our community — to step up and stand in the gap.’

So that became the agency’s new motto.

And it applies in many ways, according to DeBolt: “in regards to donors, telling them to step up and help us fill in the gap; our families that we’re recruiting for foster care and adoption — it’s not an easy thing that they’re signing up to do; but it’s also the way that we interact with each other as staff at the agency. We challenge ourselves to be there for each other, to help each other out.”

Along with honing in on a agency motto, Misfit pushed Lilliput to find their brand archetype, a symbolic identity to align their actions with. “This was a process that took us trying to figure out ‘Well who are we?’” DeBolt said. “We obviously take care of people, but what is it that we do differently?” Though it’s common for child welfare agencies to align with the caretaker archetype, Lilliput settled on that of a champion, “like a coach, showing others the direction, the way to move forward,” DeBolt added.

With these new guiding values in place, Misfit was one step closer to talking logo design. But there were two major things still needing to be discussed: the agency name and slogan.

“Lilliput does so much more than just provide services for children,” Kolbert said. “They really invest and support entire families before, during and long after the adoption process.”

After some discussion, the group decided that "Lilliput Children’s Services" was limiting. “We realized that children are definitely the center,” said DeBolt, “but we help the child to the degree that they need while helping the family as well.” Without nixing the agency’s original play on Lilliputians, they agreed that “Lilliput Families” was a more encompassing name.

In line with Lilliput’s champion archetype, a new slogan was also developed: “Change a child’s life so they can change the future” — “Change the future” for short.

Then, with the building blocks of Lilliput’s new identity scattered across the drawing board, Misfit drafted a logo to fall in line.


The final draft of Lilliput Families’ new logo

Each aspect of the new design signifies a piece of Lilliput Families’ brand position and tone. The contemporary script font can be likened to Lilliput’s proactivity and determination to stay relevant in the industry. The sole color, purple, not only achieves a Target-like color association for the agency, but it’s a stronger, bolder hue than the original Lilliput purple. And the centerpiece of the design — the flag — is a symbol of strength, described by Kolbert as a rallying cry that Lilliput is putting their stake in the ground and asking others to step up with them.

DeBolt sees the flag as a great representation of Lilliput Families. In many ways, they’re like flag-bearers, she noted, walking at the front of the pack into new territories, setting trends in the industry and supporting legislation that empowers the children and families they work with.

Lilliput publicly announced their new name, slogan and logo in December 2016, but what families and donors didn’t get to see is how the new brand impacted the agency internally.

Once or twice a month during new employee orientations, DeBolt tells recruits about Lilliput’s brand archetype and motto, explaining how they can be champions for the families they serve and for one another, and longtime staff are reminded daily that the work they do writes a better future for the community at large.

“Nonprofits have some of the best stories to tell,” Kolbert said. “They are literally changing lives every single day, but without a strong brand to elevate these stories they aren’t given the attention they deserve.” Now, as Lilliput’s family continues to grow, the agency can spread the word about their mission in a more effective and impactful way.

“And I’ll tell you what,” chuckled DeBolt as she remembered people’s confusion with the old name. “Nobody has asked me, ‘Is Lilliput Families like a child care center?’”