Comments on the Rebranding Strategy

Intro edit

The chairs of the Wikimedia chapters, thematic organizations and affiliates with a SAPG grant gathered in Paris on 10 November 2019. The negative consequences of rebranding for the affiliates were brought forward by various chairs and were further discussed during this meeting. We have therefore decided to collect the input of the discussion in writing, publish it on meta and bring it to the attention of WMF. We urge WMF to take the concerns seriously. There are several suggestions in the comments and we welcome a change in the rebranding process that does justice to the interests of the affiliated parties.

Comments edit

Comments from Geert van Pamel (WMBE) edit

I fear that the organizational name change from "Wikimedia" to "Wikipedia" is indeed impossible to implement, because of "serious legal conflicts":

  • If our organization had to change her name into Wikipedia we can no longer pretend that we have nothing to do with the content of Wikipedia.
  • This can seriously increase the risk for (national) legal court actions.
  • There may also be some confusion with the rules of the w:GDPR, because today each chapter has a separate privacy register. If the name of the association were to be identical to the name of the encyclopedia, this would also have consequences here.
  • Currently, Wikipedia is not mentioned in the bylaws of WMBE, but only Wikimedia... by 2024 WMBE must have new bylaws... the non-profit law in Belgium has been (thoroughly) amended in recent years, as a consequence of the European integration.
  • It is true that "our" flagship Wikipedia is more attractive and well-known to the outside world, but we must not allow ourselves to be deceived/impacted by the legal consequences and risks.
  • I see more benefit in grouping Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata into a "Wikipedia Suite", which is already effectively (and implicitly) happening today when users are accessing the 3 applications from Wikipedia. In every training session, I will not fail to mention that this trinity is an integrated application with mutual references. Perhaps we should place still more emphasis on Wikipedia (and let Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata fade away as technical modules of the whole ecosystem).

Serious consequences to think about. I do have the feeling that the WMF (staff) makes decisions without taking into account the Affiliates, the Community, and legal consequences.

Comments from Doug Taylor (WMMED) edit

I am disappointed that the very groups who will be most closely affected were not actively invited to participate in shaping the debate.

The first I heard about the intended rebranding was some time ago, but even at that stage, it appeared that the decision was already made and it was being "sold" to us. That's not a good model of consultation, and I'd very much like the WMF to be more proactive in its communications with affiliates.

As for the rebranding itself, there are clearly pros and cons, whatever the outcomes, so again I register my disappointment that the WMF did not seek the broadest possible range of views as early as possible so that it could make a more informed decision.

Comments from Toni Hermoso Pulido (on behalf of Amical Wikimedia board) edit

The cost of the whole process so far should be more clear and transparent. Just inspecting Meta pages: from 2018-2019 budget, we might assume around $850.000 [1] and, for 2020, we foresee at least $700.000 covered under the "Brand Awareness" umbrella [2]. Part of this may have been spent to the external brand consultancy company Wolff Olins.

Taking into account the ongoing Wikimedia Strategy 2030 process, any Rebranding initiative was expected to be integrated into it. Since this has not been the case, we might wonder about the willingness of certain actors to favor an open and participatory governance within the Wikimedia movement.

The Branding team has presented this process drawing analogies from Big Tech branding cases. We consider this to be unfortunate and unsuitable for a global volunteer-focused NGO. Presented material seems to be aggressive and of corporate fashion, far from the ethos you would expect from the main organization in the governance of our movement.

The rebranding approach seems to be careless with the community brand identities built around several of the Wikimedia projects beyond Wikipedia along the years. Even if an actual rebranding might be advisable, it can be argued that the adopted path is short-sighted. Other projects apart from Wikipedia are already emerging ones, and they may become more relevant than Wikipedia is now nowadays.

Under the impression of a consultation and engagement process, the rebranding initiative team has pushed its agenda by publishing some metrics that may be regarded as dubious. Published statements display an abuse of cherry-picking convenient feedback in order to legitimize a pre-established position in a rather tricky manner. Statements and images [3] seem to imply that a large amount of affiliates has been involved in the process, when this has not actually been the case. What is more, previous cautionary advices from affiliates and other participants in the feedback process have been ignored, if not directly avoided instead of being approached and further discussed.

The Wikimedia movement routinely uses several community and technical approaches in order to make decisions within projects and among organizations such as affiliates. Branding is a key identity aspect that needs to be presented in an open and sincere way to the whole community. Despite existing decision processes may be sometimes far from perfect, they still could be adapted to this case as well.

We request the rebranding process to be halted, and we consider that some serious explanations are due. We consider that the way all this process has been designed and managed is a very dangerous precedent for the governance and future of our movement.

Comments from Mykola Kozlenko (WMUA) edit

Following discussions on the brand strategy, Wikimedia Ukraine board states that:

  • If rebranding of our organizations to the Wikipedia brand is implemented, we ask the Wikimedia Foundation to consult affiliates before implementing these changes and propose them opt-in, viable options to use proposed brands at the local level. Ideally multiple solutions should be proposed to allow organizations choose an option adapted to the local context.
  • It is important for Wikimedia Ukraine to either maintain a provision that we have no legal influence over Wikipedia and/or sister projects, or receive specific means (such as legal support) from the Wikimedia Foundation should we be required to assume legal representation of Wikipedia and/or sister projects in Ukraine.

Reference: WMUA board decision

Comments from Michał Buczyński (WMPL) edit

As stated above, branding is a major decision, requiring understanding of local contexts and consequences, shared among communities, partnering organizations and the WMF. Comparing the complexity of the matter with the amount of time which could have been dedicated to this particular issue by the under-supported communities - already occupied with a much wider strategic process run in parallel - I believe the final decisions would highly benefit from proper time and clarification.

A practical list of issues to resolve includes areas such as:

  • Our strategic vision of partnerships: criteria of recognition as a Wikimedia Movement partner; mutual obligations; agency of communities; advocacy, communication and fundraising strategies of our ecosystem.
  • Our strategy of a product and communities: are we certain that Wikipedia will be THE dominating trademark and project we want to promote in every major market after 2030? If not, are we sure that all projects/products/communities promoted after 2030 fall properly under this umbrella? (e.g. Wikipedia Commons - probably OK, Wikipedia Open Street Map - I am not sure).
  • Legal protection. Unification of a trademark as "Wikipedia" may result with an increased litigation, administrative requests (e.g. GDPR), legal questions and media pressure - and an increased effort to clearly separate WM entities from the editing communities. The WMF should be prepared to provide legal and other support to its partners.
  • Agency of the communities: both from Wikipedia and from the other projects.
  • Support in the change of the branding of existing organizations.

See also edit

Additional reading edit

Reply from the Wikimedia Foundation brand team edit

Dear chairs,

We are grateful to hear from you, and to hear your concerns, though we only became aware of this page today. Please always feel free to email our team working on these plans, or post at this talk page so we can hear your comments in a timely manner.

In September we shared what we heard from affiliates and individuals from around the movement. Those recommendations follow your concerns closely, especially in regard to potential legal and reputational risk caused by associating our movement with Wikipedia the project.

To summarize:

On affiliate self-determination: Branding changes will be opt-in for Movement affiliates.

On strong collaboration between affiliates and the Foundation: We invite you and others in our community to guide the rebranding process and help make decisions. From January until June 2020 we will co-design our Movement brand together. You can join discussions on the “Brand Network” of affiliates and volunteers on Wikimedia Space and Facebook or respond to monthly updates on Meta-Wiki.

On legal and reputational risk: We agree with your assessment that this issue is sensitive, important, and in need of further review before changes are adopted. The Wikimedia Foundation Legal team have been closely involved in discussions of rebranding and will continue to vet possible adjustments to naming and marks to assess risk.

As we continue to improve our communication and collaboration across the movement, I welcome your advice on better ways to do so.

I would also like to point you to this FAQ page in the case that it helps answer any questions.  

Heather Walls (WMF) (talk) 08:40, 27 November 2019 (UTC)[reply]

Dear Heather, all, I hope you are all well. Apologies for not having provided any answer some months ago. In any case, by that time, and more also at this stage, personally I do not think that anyone from Branding team should answer our concerns, but WMF Board directly. --Toniher (talk) 12:46, 25 March 2020 (UTC)[reply]