Step out from the noise – evoke emotion!
Branding is critical for any business; a highly effective method of communicating all the activities the brand undertakes as well as illustrating its ethos, mission and vision. Branding not only affects the clients but also the teams immersed in the business. It conveys the services on offer and provides the backbone of how the business will work with you and your teams.
Charities are no different, brand can and will, once utilised and communicated correctly, reinforce that vital element of trust critical to engage, inspire and retain donors and celebrate the activities by all involved, often engaging those who wouldn’t have ordinarily been an active participant.
Extant fundraising research has shown that organisations with similar brand names, values, or personalities can quickly become confused to the point where a regular payment is offered to one organisation, while the donor believes they are supporting another (Sargeant and Jay 2003). Creating a confusing and noisy environment where they all become one.
Charity communication doesn’t just produce results, it needs to be reinforced by the Brand, which should be thought of as a secret weapon. Creating an effective brand supports the small, to enable them to grow, positioning them against the large, particularly in the age of the Internet and social media.
Brands that offer a combination of: a unique and compelling core proposition, a distinctive brand identity and great advertising have seen ten-year brand value growth on average of 168%. Brands with a strong proposition and identity grew by 76%, but those without a brand and just advertising rose by only 27% (Moreaboutadvertising.com 2015).
Individuals choosing to associate with a particular brand may do so to gain functional or emotional benefits. In the charity context, this frequently occurs from the pleasure of associating with a particular campaign or cause. In such cases, the personality of the brand can actually add value or deepen the emotional benefits that the supporter derives. Polonsky and Macdonald (2000) argue that organisations with an established brand can leverage this dynamic to build donor loyalty and protect themselves from competitive pressures.
Research has consistently shown that consumers do anthropomorphise brands as they conceptualise or interact with them (Hart et al 2013), and as they do so they will identify traits or values that they find attractive or desirable and thus have some affinity with.
Levy noted as long ago as 1959, people buy things not only for what they do but also for what they mean.
Promoting a fundraising activity or campaigning action on its own rarely increases brand awareness or impacts overall predilection to support. Charities like Macmillan and Save the Children demonstrate time and again how a robust brand works, investing heavily in brand communications and reaping the rewards in terms of PR, fundraising and awareness.
Without a focus on brand, there’s a risk that fame is attached to the product, campaign or even the channel you use, rather than the good work and impact of the charity itself.
The healthier the brand, the healthier that future of the charity is likely to be.
There can be little doubt that strong brands do indeed provide important benefits. Organisations with strong brands garner higher levels of trust, providing a degree of reputational insurance (e.g. Elgot and McVeigh 2018; Shapiro 2011)
Having an integrated approach that provides a solution and mission-focused messaging really matters. Focused brand-led communication illustrates the charity’s work as a whole, stopping target audiences from becoming desensitised to single issue problem-focused messaging and enhancing propensity to support by engaging and creating an emotional tie to the Charity.
The aim of “brand identity” is to bring the foundations of your brand (vision, mission and values or their equivalent) to life. Your corporate strategy should build on them with a specific plan towards achieving your charity’s long-term ambition. If your corporate strategy is the plan that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future, branding is the complementary process of shifting your audiences’ perceptions from where they are today to where you need them to be in order to achieve your strategy.
Whichever way your brand is developed, it should enable you to deliver your corporate strategy, and ensure teams and staff are all on board and working to achieve the end goal and ultimately become a shining beacon and brand ambassador for the charity.
After all, your brand isn’t just how you look and what you say, but an expression of who you are and what you do. It should run through everything – from services to policy, from campaigns to fundraising, supported by the teams and donors alike – it should include securing financial stability and growth for the future for the charity, those immersed in it and those who ultimately benefit from it.
Your charity and those it supports should be celebrated! Give it the voice it deserves!
Citations sourced from: ACAPF Branding Research Full Report (ACAPF), CaF UK Giving Landscape (https://www.cafonline.org), The creation of product symbolism (acrwebsite), Oliver Marketing- branding inside out (https://spencerdubois.co.uk)