Why Planned Parenthood Should Change Its Name

With the current brouhaha over Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s defunding of breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, the backlash, the reversal, and the exposure of the source of the initial decision, it’s obvious that Planned Parenthood is in a constant storm of contentious political struggle (even if the most recent dust-up was an unplanned branding bonanza). And, it’s been happening for a long time.

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, one can easily recognize that Planned Parenthood is at the center of the abortion debate. To constantly swim in a turgid sea of conflict has its costs. As business owners we know a battle like this prevents a 100% focus on the mission and effectiveness of the institution. What is the mission of Planned Parenthood?

You can see its official mission here. But despite its prominent role in the abortion debate, if you look at the numbers you will see that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortion services. The rest of their time goes towards serving women (largely) who can’t afford medical care including breast cancer screenings, pap smears, STD testing, sex education, and pregnancy prevention. Seems like a win-win for our society in general. We recognize that supporting women’s health is about supporting society in general.

Branding for peace versus war
We believe Planned Parenthood is about the health of women. Why is their name still Planned Parenthood? If the organization has such a range of services, why are they still being branded by a name that is a relic of the 1960s? Perhaps it’s time to change the name to reflect what the institution is really all about.

The current name is a lightning rod. Pro-life constituents hear the name as an affront to their values and beliefs. And they are right. But the brand is potentially so much more than an affront to opposing factions. While the nonprofit world is focusing on empowerment of women and girls as the solution to future poverty, we are shooting ourselves in the foot with the conflict around Planned Parenthood.

So here is our recommendation: Change the name of Planned Parenthood and make the new name about women’s health. This would be a powerful transformation that could be embraced by women across the country. It could relegate abortion to 3 percent of the conversation instead of 100 percent of the conversation. It would galvanize the organization to become a greater movement dedicated to the goal of serving women and thereby serving men, family, and society at large.

This is a simple, authentic branding solution, but one that could be extremely effective in enhancing the focal point of the conversation, drawing together versus apart, and creating a more relevant leadership brand for the 21st century. Planned Parenthood should take a page from the corporations of the day and actively contribute to the conversation with marketing and branding acumen. It is this conversation of our day that is getting play and activating support that is truly needed.

We hope Cecile Richards is listening.



Jody Turner is a future trends strategist who works with companies, conferences, and organizations in bringing forth thriving and relevant futures. Turner is CEO and founder of the global insights group CultureofFuture.com, a trend innovation group working with companies such as BMW, Munich, and is associated with Trendwatching, London. (@cultureoffuture). Coauthor Jerry Ketel is Culture of Future’s strategist. He is also the founder/creative director of Leopold Ketel & Partners, a West Coast branding and innovation firm. His clients and partners have included Pendleton Whisky, Benchmade Knives, Tillamook Cheese, The Humane Society, and Microsoft. Join his unedited mind @jerryketel.

[Image: Flickr user David Bledshoe]

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  • Anthony D McCollough

    Why PP should change its name? Well for one the name is oxymoronic. Take it for what they call themselevs....Planed Parenthood! To everyone who see this name, it says or suggest to them, that this is where you go if you are planning on to become a parent. Am I right so far? But in actuality, this is not what it's for or what they do. Not saying that they don't give health solutions & treatment to women, but in overall view of PP, a woman goes there to prevent from becoming a parent, or if she's about to become a parent, she'll make sure that she want be when she leaves. It is what it is. They see pregnancy as a sickness or diesase, and the only cure for that is......Do I really got spell it out? Yhea, I think PP really should change its name.

  • Courtney Lewis

    Planned Parenthood is a long standing brand. The debates, conflicts, etc. won't go away with a name change. One of the charms of its name is that, over the years, it has become synonymous with strength, conviction, and resilience. And because, more often than not, it goes unsaid: I needed planned parenthood at 17 when its caring staff confirmed my
    unplanned pregnancy and handed me pamphlets on parenting, adoption, and
    abortion. I credit PP with opening my mind to adoption. They helped me choose a life for myself as well as my son. PP helped me make a decision at a young age that helped propel me into the life I thought might slip away. I have become a strong, resilient, small business owner who enjoys the life I chose.

  • May

    I usually like Fast Company articles but I don't see changing PP's name will have much affect to tone down the upsurge of advocacy and legislation surrounding abortion within this year. Also, the author is right in pointing out that the name Planned Parenthood is a lightning rod for anyone that's pro-file. But  if you read any of Cecile Richards' letters soliciting donations, PP's branding strategy uses such attacks to garner support from the very donor base that's infuriated and concerned about women's health rights. If the name causes controversy, it goes both ways. I have read "What Every Girls Needs to know" and admired the history behind PP, which makes me support it in the first place, and re-branding sounds like giving in and I don't want that, as a sustained donor.