Rebuilding a brand built
on changing lives through adventure.

First Descents

the short story

Experience the healing power of adventure. This is the simple yet powerful idea that was the genesis of First Descents, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young adults dealing with cancer and other life-threatening health conditions. First Descents was so focused on pushing these young people to achieve their goals, time slipped by and they realized they were not paying enough attention to their own brand story and communications. Wildstory came in, led group sessions, and really got the team to take an in-depth look at who they were. By taking a step back, they were able to take stock of who the organization was, why they existed and what their true mission was, and then recalibrate. With a bold new branding identity in place, they were able to move ahead, reclaim their lead in this non-profit space, and experience steady growth across the board.

Culture
Culture Building
Employee Engagement
Brand
Brand Strategy
Communications Strategy
Go-to-Market Strategy
Content
Integrated Campaign
Creative Development

the long story

Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in young adults, aged 18-39. With
approximately 70,000 new diagnosis’ annually, young adults comprise the fastest growing and most underserved oncology age demographic.

This is the inspiration, frustration, and sometimes desperation that led to the creation of First Descents. This wonderful non-profit organization provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions. Their programs help push each participant out of their comfort zone, helping them to improve their esteem, body image, and coping skills while decreasing feelings of depression, alienation, and fatigue.

 

Staying relevant by getting back to being original
However, after being in business for 10+ years, First Descents was concerned that their brand was losing relevance. In addition, they felt their image had evolved away from their original intent and grown into something that wasn’t them. Over the years, new competitors had entered the market, presenting brands that felt “new” and “fresh”, eclipsing the First Descents message and purpose.

 

Let’s work it out
Wildstory helped conduct a brand identity refresh and worked with the First Descents team to redefine their core values and communication guidelines. One of the challenges we faced was that the brand, story and message needed to appeal to three different audiences: participants (young adults), donors (people with money), and providers (health care professionals that are the main patient referral pipeline). We ran in-person sessions with the team where we refreshed their core values, identified their personality/tone of voice, and re-centered them on their brand. At the end, the team members agreed these sessions were truly a galvanizing experience for everyone involved.

 

The tools to get it done
Out of these sessions, we produced a brand toolkit that defined the First Descents brand, their values and a list of communication guidelines. This branding toolkit gave them a way to move seamlessly forward with confidence without losing their culture and story in transition.

 

Rock it steady
Since then, First Descents has grown steadily year after year and has resolidified their spot as the leader in the adventure healing space. In 2017 alone, they provided over 1000 unique experiences through 103 programs, using 273 volunteers. That same year, First Descents was also recognized as one of OUTSIDE Magazine’s Best Places to Work because of their culture that blends engaging work with an active lifestyle.

up next:

Lilly