Communications/Wikimedia brands/2030 movement brand project/FAQ
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of trustees has resolved to pause the Movement Brand Project until March 2021. Read the full resolution on the Wikimedia Foundation Governance Wiki.
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What is a brand?
A brand is a simple yet powerful tool for organizations and companies to communicate who they are and what they stand for. They pack a lot of meaning into a small amount of space, using things like naming conventions and design elements (colors, typefaces, symbols and more) to build familiarity and associations for the public. These associations help people easily recognize and connect with a product, service or cause.
Why is having a clear, consistent brand important?
- This section is disputed, see the related discussion.
Having consistency across branding helps people quickly identify the range of products, services, organizations, and groups that fall under that brand. A clear, consistent movement brand can highlight the vastness of our ecosystem and help explain how the different projects, communities and organizations come together to create free knowledge.
What’s the core change of the Brand Project?
Since 2003, we have used the word “Wikimedia”, and an associated set of designs, to refer to our global movement of projects and communities. Research has shown, however, that “Wikimedia” remains unknown and confusing to the outside world. Following Board review in 2018, the Brand Project began creating a brand proposal using our movement’s best-known brand, Wikipedia. Once finalized, the proposed name and design will be presented to the Board of Trustees. If the proposal is approved, it will be adopted by the Wikimedia Foundation and offered to affiliates to opt in based on their needs.
What is in scope for this project? What will not be changed?
- This section is disputed, see the related discussion.
This project proposes names and a design for the Foundation, affiliates and the movement. The proposed changes will be fully opt-in for affiliates. The content projects names and designs will not be adjusted.
Who is going to be affected by the brand changes?
- This section is disputed, see the related discussion.
Affiliates are critical participants in this project as they use the “Wikimedia” brand in their daily work. After consulting and collaborating with the Foundation on this process, Affiliates will each have the option to change their branding by opting-in to the proposed changes. It’s a choice for each group.
The Brand Project team hopes to have participants from every/all affiliate(s) in order to understand how branding can help their work.
The Foundation is a stakeholder in this process that will adopt the name and design if they are approved for use by the Board of Trustees.
The movement has used the term “Wikimedia” to refer to itself for over 15 years. Wikimedia is part of many community members’ identities. The Foundation recognizes that no entity has the power to change how people refer to themselves. This project looks at possible names for the movement in order to invite people to think about how a name change for movement organizations could impact how the movement refers to itself in the future, if it chooses.
Projects will not be renamed. The Brand Project Team may develop a replacement to the “A Wikimedia project” icon to be found on project footers that shows how the project connects to Wikipedia. The goal is to better link the projects together as a shared free knowledge network.
In spite of the fact that there will be no changes proposed to the project names or designs, the Brand Project team recognizes that using a project name in movement organization naming could have ramifications for the projects. While the project team believes that strengthening associations between all projects and our best-known brand will bring awareness and interest to the other projects, the team also recognizes concerns that an emphasis on Wikipedia could negatively impact the visibility of the other projects and could cause confusion. Through feedback, the team plans to develop a final naming proposal that draws attention to the existence of other projects and organizations.
Naming: Proposals and process
Why does the Brand Project involve a change to naming?
A change in naming is a central part of the Brand Project, which aims to help us reach our 2030 goals by creating a consistent, compelling brand that inspires new people to join us. Research has shown that Wikimedia is a poorly recognized name that does not convey associations with a global movement of interconnected projects and communities. This means it is not helping us explain who we are and what we do. A naming convention that is more recognizable and evocative of an entire movement will be a better tool for both highlighting the work we are doing across projects and inviting new people in.
What will happen with the results from the naming convention proposal survey?
The movement-wide call for feedback on naming convention proposals will happen through surveys and through discussion on Meta-Wiki. Surveys will be given to individual contributors, affiliates and Foundation staff. All data will be published on Meta-Wiki, with responses from individual contributors made anonymous. The Brand Project team will analyze all data and publish a report on the outcomes. The outcomes will be used to help remove, refine, and recombine elements from the different proposals into a single naming proposal.
How were the three naming convention proposals developed?
- This section is disputed, see the related discussion.
The work around naming has centered on the 6 Movement Branding Criteria, developed during the 2019 consultation, and the brand concept, interconnection, developed during in-person and online community workshops. Coming directly from community feedback, the Movement Branding Criteria and the brand concept interconnection have been critical to developing compelling naming ideas that capture who we are as a movement and invite new people to join us.
With these guiding principles in mind, our branding partners, Snøhetta, developed several naming ideas for review by the brand and legal teams. Their ideas were tested against the project goals, the Movement Branding Criteria, and the brand concept, and were then reviewed for legal feasibility. The ideas were refined and presented to the Board of Trustees, who expressed alignment with the three options being presented for community review.
How could using Wikipedia bring awareness to the sister projects?
We are fortunate to have a name in our movement that is one of the most recognized in the world. Research into associations with Wikipedia reveal that it is understood by the public as a vast credible knowledge resource, not just an encyclopedia. This provides us a unique opportunity to use the Wikipedia name to introduce our projects and communities to those outside our movement that share our commitment to free knowledge. A name that utilizes Wikipedia and also underscores the existence of a surrounding movement allows us to transfer trust and positive associations onto our other projects, and invite people to explore everything else our movement has to offer.
The Brand Team did not auditioned sister projects communities about this matter. Some have expressed a divergent analysis, considering it may cast shadow on the sister project rather than bring awareness ·  or may do nothing at all.
Will a movement name with Wikipedia in it be confusing?
- This section is disputed, see the related discussion.
The position of the Brand Project team is that it will imply a transition, but that it will actually help clarify. A vast majority of our users, donors, and partners identify our movement with Wikipedia already. They know Wikipedia, but have not heard of our other projects and organizations. For these audiences, the naming changes proposed allow them to see the vastness of our movement’s sister projects, affiliated organizations, and free knowledge commitments. To reduce potential confusion between the Wikipedia project and the movement, the naming convention proposals rely on terms that are used alongside the Wikipedia name. These terms draw attention to our entire ecosystem and invite people to explore it. While experienced community members adept in the nuances of our movement may need time to adjust to this change, it will create a clearer, simpler message for those who share our mission and should be empowered to join us.
The community thinks, this will generate a lot of confusion, as one single project will constantly be mixed with the organisation for all projects, and the now existing distinction between the encyclopedia project and the whole Wikimedia ecosystem will be eliminated. ·  ·  · 
How would a movement name with Wikipedia mitigate legal risks, when some risks come from proximity to Wikipedia?
There are legitimate concerns about the political and legal ramifications of a branding change that strengthens associations with Wikipedia. These concerns have been prioritized and reflected in the qualities of good movement branding: “Branding should mitigate legal and government risks”.
Overall, we have strong legal rights to use the Wikipedia name, to modify it, and protect it, giving our Movement comprehensive power to this identity legally. The Legal team has conducted extensive trademark research in dozens of jurisdictions to confirm our ability to successfully register the naming options as trademarks in those areas.
Reputationally, we know that some affiliates are concerned about having Wikipedia in their organization name, because they fear they will be blamed for Wikipedia content by government, business, press, and possibly general public members. The fact that this issue already exists indicates that the name “Wikimedia” is not helping avoid this confusion. The Brand Project sees a name change as an opportunity to add consistency, clarity and differentiation to our movement names, and uses additional naming elements to highlight the distinction between projects and organizations, among other things. Clarifying our names allows us to clarify movement roles.
The name and design generated by this project are fully opt-in for all affiliates. If an affiliate is concerned that a name that uses Wikipedia will exacerbate legal risks, they are free to keep Wikimedia. The opt-in process will happen gradually, so affiliates are also free to see what implications this name change has for others in similar contexts and make a decision based on those experiences.
Were there other naming convention proposals that did not end up in the survey? Why were they eliminated?
Snøhetta suggested three additional naming ideas that, after careful consideration, were determined not to meet the project’s goals and/or were not found to be legally feasible. The three options are listed below, with the primary reasons they were not deemed strategic or feasible:
- W - The use of “W” as a standalone term is currently in use by other organizations and businesses (W Hotel, W Magazine, W for Women, for example). Its only direct associations with Wikipedia/Wikimedia are through current app icon and favicon. Finally, it relies entirely on one Latin character and thus has no clear path to localization.
- Free Knowledge - While this phrase could help explain who we are and what we do, it is not unique to our movement and is not a proper name. This would make trademark registration difficult if not impossible. This phrase is also not currently associated with our movement specifically, meaning we would need to invest significant resources in global marketing, likely over many years, to establish the association between this phrase and our movement.
- Wiki (used as single term) - With hundreds of existing “Wiki” trademark registrations, and its use to refer to collaborative software, the “Wiki” term is extremely difficult and expensive to protect. Additionally, attempting to claim the term could prevent open source communities around the world from freely using it in their work.
Why do all the options include Wikipedia?
Research shows that Wikipedia is among the best-known brand names in the world, which means it can be an important asset in making our movement more familiar and understandable to people. Rebranding using Wikipedia is legally feasible (and has been reviewed in dozens of jurisdictions) and financially responsible, in that it will not require the investment in marketing or trademark registrations that a lesser-known name would require.
Rebranding using Wikipedia is not a new idea. In 2007, Erik Möller suggested the movement “make use of the strongest brand (Wikipedia) to identify all activities”, something he later retracted from. This call was echoed by Guillaume Paumier and Elisabeth Bauer at Wikimania Taipei that year. It also has been part of long conversations first had with the Board of Trustees 2015. The rebrand based on Wikipedia was reviewed by the Board in 2018, and in 2020 the Board affirmed support for the project and instructed the team to complete it by Wikipedia’s 20th birthday.
In spite of this ongoing conversation, the Brand Team did not limit itself to exploring only Wikipedia-based options. Based on feedback received in the 2019 consultation in the community-initiated RfC, the team put months of work into finding other naming alternatives that could achieve a high level of visibility for the movement and maintain internal community cohesion. “Wiki” was the strongest of such options- making use of a brand name we are deeply associated with that has global awareness and ties our projects together. (see: “Were there other naming convention proposals that did not end up in the survey?”). Due to financial, legal and strategy considerations, these options did not pass Legal review or Board vetting.
While all options make use of Wikipedia as our best-known brand, they have some important differences from a branding perspective. Terms like “Network”, “Organization”, “Wiki” “Foundation” have different functionalities and different meanings across languages. This means they may have different strengths and weaknesses when evaluated against the 6 Movement Branding Criteria. The survey is intended to help bring those differences in effectiveness to light.
Why do the Movement Branding Criteria appear to be externally-focused?
The Movement Branding Criteria came from community comments in 2019, and are reflective of the branding concerns people find most relevant. They represent areas of need for both internal and external communication. Confusion, for example, was the single most discussed need for good branding. The comments on confusion called for improvement to aid both people inside and outside the movement, who both struggle to understand all of its many parts and determine who does what in our projects and communities.
Some criteria focus more on internal or external audiences. Growing the movement, for example, focuses on external groups exclusively and communicates the need for branding to make it easy for people to join the movement. The power for affiliates to self-determine if, when and how they adopt the changes is a fully internal parameter.
Why does the survey not ask us to compare these proposals directly to current Wikimedia branding?
Wikimedia may work well for some groups, and groups who want to keep Wikimedia branding are free to do so. We also know that Wikimedia branding does not work for everyone. Research has shown that “Wikimedia” remains confusing and unknown to the outside world. This project is about developing an alternative to “Wikimedia” that will serve our movement needs and help us reach our 2030 goals. The naming survey, therefore, asks people to review ideas for alternatives. These ideas are the result of design work and of integrated feedback from communities. They have been vetted as both strategic and feasible by the Board and the Legal team.
The proposals are starting points for discussion, not a vote to decide which option wins. Because this is about developing the best alternative possible, the status quo is not presented as an option to evaluate. Those who believe that Wikimedia is better than possible alternatives are free to use the open response section of the survey to suggest Wikimedia and elaborate on its merits. Those responses will be analyzed and reported on alongside all other data. Affiliate groups who have decided they will keep Wikimedia can opt not to participate, as changes will not apply to them.
What will happen to the results of the survey? Does my survey response count as a vote?
The outcomes of the survey will be used to remove, refine and recombine elements from different proposals into a single proposal. The goal is to develop a single proposal that uses and refines the strongest elements from each proposal, not to host a vote to decide which option is the best. The outcomes will be reported on and made publicly available.
What will happen to the parts of the movement that use Wikimedia that are not listed in the proposals?
The proposals are a starting point. They are not finalized or complete. We are aware that there are other parts of our movement that are not explicitly listed in the proposals (Wikimedia mailing lists, event names, hardware/software, domains, etc.) Survey data will help remove, refine and recombine different naming elements into a single proposal. At that point, we can begin to consider how the name may apply to other parts of the movement. If you have suggestions you would like to include in your survey, we would be happy to hear them.
Community feedback in the process
How are the outcomes of the 2030 research and planning community review guiding the brand project?
The outcomes of the 2030 research and planning were summarized in a report that was presented to the Board of Trustees in August 2019. The 2030 research and planning uncovered six predominant themes in community perspectives on branding. These six themes were transformed into six criteria that any movement brand must meet:
- Branding should reduce confusion about the distinction between organizations and projects, clearly identifying what roles platforms, volunteers, affiliates, and the Foundation play in the movement.
- Branding should protect and improve the reputation of the movement, increasing trust in our content and contributors.
- Branding should benefit the sister projects so that Wikipedia's international popularity and centrality to our movement are used to improve usage and participation in related projects.
- Branding should mitigate legal and government risks to movement participants and affiliates, so that volunteers are not blamed or punished for Wikipedia content in places hostile to Wikipedia content and our policies of free speech.
- Branding should grow our Movement by appealing to new users, contributors, donors, and partners around the world, and inviting them to join us in our 2030 direction.
- Branding should be adopted gradually, allowing community groups to opt-in at their own pace with support from the Foundation.
The community criteria and feedback from the 2030 research and planning are being used to guide ideas around a name and design for Wikimedia. The Wikimedia Foundation is partnering with the brand consultancy Snøhetta in order to generate ideas for how to use Wikipedia as a centerpiece while minimizing the risks and maximizing the benefits identified in the 2030 research and planning community consultation.
Why is this project moving forward after the RfC resulted in clear majority opposition?
The community-originated RfC asked whether it is acceptable for the Foundation to use the name Wikipedia to refer to itself. Although the Brand Project has a larger scope than just the Foundation name, the issues discussed are relevant. The RfC surfaced a range of concerns and achieved consensus–by a ten-to-one margin–that it is not acceptable for the Foundation using the name Wikipedia to refer to itself.
The Foundation's Brand Project team believes that the community-originated RfC holds important information, in particular the themes of discussion. These themes were captured in a report and are consistent with themes from the 2019 community review, which were converted into criteria by which all naming convention proposals should be evaluated. Phase 2 of this project, the movement-wide call for feedback on naming convention proposals, asks respondents to evaluate the proposals against these community-generated criteria. This gives community members the opportunity to consider how each proposal may or may not mitigate the concerns from the RfC and 2019 community review.
In a statement released on 22 June, the Board of Trustees committed to reviewing different forms of community feedback alongside the project’s proposed name and design and the movement’s 2030 goals. The Board is encouraging everyone to participate in the naming survey around the naming alternatives presented. The Board has affirmed its ability to change the name of the Wikimedia Foundation if it decides, but will come to a determination following thorough review of all materials.
Why does this process utilize off-wiki spaces for discussion and feedback gathering? How can feedback originating from these places be considered legitimate?
The movement is already using off-wiki spaces online (also beyond mailing lists, see for instance Facebook pages) and offline (Events and more). This is true in particular of newer communities, who are the ones that are growing quickly and projected to grow most in the upcoming years. These communities operate in contexts where many people don’t know the projects, and thus have a big stake in any rebrand. They need to be part of the conversation. The project team has gone where they are.
However, just because there are many channels for gathering feedback, doesn’t mean there should not be a central place for summarizing the information. It is critical to make feedback readily available in a clear and transparent way for people to review. All major feedback will be summarized and posted on Meta in the form of reports. See, for instance, the summary of participation and outcomes of the Bengaluru brand workshop.
Why has the process included workshops in person? How were the attendees chosen?
In-person workshops allowed interested community members from around the world to gather for two days to focus on the complex task of building concepts to explain what the Wikimedia movement means. Meeting in-person was a helpful way to spark creativity and iterate freely together.
In September 2019, the Brand Project team shared an update that outlined the findings of the 2030 research and planning community review, and invited community members looking to get more involved to join the Brand Network. Within one month, over 150 people had joined. An open call to sign up for workshops was posted to the Brand Network in December. The call was also posted to the Executive Directors mailing list and sent to user group members in under-represented regions, in order to ensure a broad reach with community members who use Wikimedia branding most (the affiliates). Great effort was made to accommodate schedules and availabilities for nearly 100 workshop participants. Almost everyone who expressed interest in attending a workshop was able to be scheduled to attend one.
Is the outcome of this project already predetermined? What precisely has already been decided, what are the open questions, and to what extent can feedback impact the outcome?
No, the outcome is not predetermined. The Board has asked the Brand Project team to present a proposal for an evolved brand. This proposal is being developed as the process advances, and the outcomes of each phase are unknown until each phase is completed.
What has been decided by the Brand Project team:
- Wikimedia branding will not help us achieve our 2030 goals, as it is poorly known and easily confused with Wikipedia. This perspective has been echoed by the Board of Trustees.
- Wikipedia is a valuable asset that should be used somehow in proposed branding.
- The proposal needs to meet the qualities of good movement branding, taken from the risks and benefits identified in the 2030 research and planning community review.
- The proposed name and design will be opt-in for affiliates.
What is currently under discussion:
- Three naming convention proposals have been presented for feedback. Feedback is happening here on Meta and through surveys.
- (Note: The survey is conducted via a third-party service, which may subject it to additional terms. For more information on privacy and data-handling, see the survey privacy statement.)
- Feedback will be used to remove, refine and recombine different elements from the three proposals into a single proposal.
What has not been decided by the Brand Project team:
- The final proposed naming convention.
- The proposed brand design.
- The precise ways in which Wikipedia and other concepts and themes identified throughout community conversations will inform the proposals.
Feedback provided is actively shaping and will continue to shape the elements of the proposal that remain undecided. See the project timeline for details about when the Foundation's Brand Project team plans to discuss each element, and general timeframes for when proposals will be presented for movement-wide feedback.
What will an "opt-in" process for affiliates mean in practice?
Affiliates will be free to decide whether they would like to use the new naming convention and design elements. Adoption will likely happen in waves, as groups are ready to make a change, instead of any single change moment. Early adopters will help other affiliates see how and if they should make brand changes and further refine the name and design in practice. The goal of this project is to create a new brand identity that affiliates are excited to use, that acts as a tool to help clarify and make their work easier.
If Wikidata becomes more popular in the coming years, do you plan to rebrand to Wikidata?
Wikipedia is one of the world’s most beloved brands. Over 18 years, it has become a well-known (see awareness) and well-used (see unique devices) resource that represents global values of collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and international cooperation.
In Austria, for example, Wikipedia was just voted the #2 brand in the country, beating LEGO (#7) and Google (#14). Congrats Wikimedians of Austria! And German language Wikipedians! (What did we lose to by the way? Chocolate. It’s hard to beat Chocolate.)
Wikipedia has very high brand awareness. In the US and Europe, more than 80% of internet users have heard of Wikipedia. Even in our emerging regions, Wikipedia has ~40% awareness.
Creating this level of familiarity has taken many years, and would take major marketing investments to re-create for other projects, including Wikidata. In our 7-nation 2017 brand study, Wikidata had just 22% brand awareness, meaning Wikipedia is twice as familiar, even its smallest awareness regions. Using Wikipedia as our central brand lets us build from this well-established foundation to lift all our projects and all our efforts.
All of our projects and communities could benefit from improved visibility, understanding, support, and participation. We believe that using Wikipedia as an overarching brand element will make that possible.
This is not an opposition to Wikidata.
Where does the Board of Trustees stand on this project?
On 22 June, Acting Chair of the Board Nataliia Tymkiv released an update on the Board’s positioning on the Brand Project. The Board approved the continuance of the project in 2018 and reaffirmed its support for the project work in 2020. The Board has not committed to adopting any particular outcomes of the project, but has stated that it is free to change the name of the Wikimedia Foundation if it decides. The Board has encouraged participation in the project processes, so that it will be able to evaluate a range of perspectives and opinions during its meeting in August.
How will the Wikimedia Foundation decide on adopting the Brand Project outcomes?
After Movement Brand Project results are finalized, the Foundation staff leading the project will present the new brand to the Foundation’s leadership team and Board of Trustees for review. Foundation staff will also present a proposed approach and timeline for implementing the new system within the Foundation. The Foundation’s leadership and the Board of Trustees will review the brand alongside the Foundation’s Medium Term Plan and commitment to the 2030 goals. The review will result in direction about whether or not to adopt the proposed brand and, if relevant, will also provide direction on timing for adoption. If the brand is approved by the Board of Trustees, it will be adopted by the Wikimedia Foundation and offered to affiliates on an opt-in basis.
Why is Snøhetta blocked on the English Wikipedia? Why has the Foundation chosen to work with them in spite of this?
A staff member at Snøhetta created the account User:SnøhettaAS before Snøhetta was hired by the Foundation. When the Brand Project Team spoke to Snøhetta about the block, they informed us that this staff member made the account during the selection process as a way to try to learn about editing the Wikimedia projects and to add content to the company page. The staff member was unaware of the conflict of interest policies, and was blocked on the English Wikipedia for “advertising or promotion.” The staff member did not fully understand the request made of the account and created a second account, User:Leilaoes, thinking that removing the company name from their profile would rectify the issue. As a result of this misunderstanding, this account was blocked as a sock puppet.
Although the Brand Project Team cannot and will not be involved in the community processes related to content, we have explained to Snøhetta staff the principles and policies where they ran into problems. They have passed along the information across the company.
Snøhetta is a global leader in design and branding. They bring years of expertise to the project. Their prior lack of awareness about Wikipedia’s editing policies does not hinder their ability to analyze feedback from diverse movement stakeholders and build a solid brand proposal. With a commitment to collective design practices, Snøhetta works best with lots of feedback from many perspectives, so they welcome continued input on the project and its materials.
How much does this project cost?
According to the 2019-2020 annual plan, the "Evolved identity system" is part of the Foundation's "Brand awareness" budget, which is funded at $2,200,000. Of that $800,000 is personnel, $800,000 is services and travel, and $600,000 is allocated to other. As the budget includes new investments of $700,000 in both Brand and Marketing, the budget for brand is between $700,000 and $1,500,000. The fraction of the brand budget attributable to this project has not been reported.
The budget for Brand Awareness, which included Brand and Marketing, is less than 2% of the Foundation's total budget, and this project's budget is a fraction of that.
The cost of rebranding to affiliates and projects, in money and time, is unknown. While the opt-in nature of the rebranding means that the affiliates can determine if money is spent on affiliate rebranding, both projects and affiliates will have to update references to the Foundation.
- RfC oppose comments n°26, n°66, n°80, n°87, etc.
- Tremendous Wiktionary User Group statement
- RfC oppose comments n°14, n°20, etc.
- Requests for comment/Should the Foundation call itself Wikipedia
- Community feedback and straw poll
- Community open letter on renaming