In recent times the charity sector has moved well beyond the idea that “brand” is only for the commercial sector and that engaging in any sort of advertising distracts charities’ focus from their core values and compassion. When Coca-Cola first came about as a brand it was just a specific name given to a brown fizzy drink in order to separate it from other brown fizzy drinks. But as we know, in contemporary marketing brand is much more than a name. Brand is everything about a service or a product. It is a specific perception that comes to our minds when we think of a brand. So, a charity brand actually represents all the qualities and attributes that organisation stands for, its mission, vision, values and all the emotions it inspires among its supporters, volunteers, employees and beneficiaries. Owning a strong and clear brand has numerous benefits for charities. Most importantly it helps them build public trust and thus fundraise effectively. Charities are well aware of the power of a strong brand strategy and many are doing an amazing job defining and communicating it.
One of the major issues that separates a commercial brand model from a third sector one is the complexity around what commercial businesses call “consumers”. In the voluntary sector, we have many types of consumers but broadly speaking they fall into one of three types – service users, financial supporters and volunteers. Charities need to tailor their communication strategies according to these different types of audiences but still remain consistent with their branding at all times. Talking to different groups of stakeholders requires a robust communication strategy that is internalized by the entire organisation. When fundraising, marketing, media and brand teams all go out with different messaging, it is almost impossible to build a strong brand.
In order to build a clear and consistent brand, it’s crucial that organisations find out the existing perceptions among the general public, as well as their potential and current supporters. Our Brand Attributes research is a powerful way of exploring how your brand resonates with specific public audiences and provides you with a unique insight into what existing and potential donors want from their ideal charity and whether you and your comparators are meeting this ideal. Brand attributes research can help you match your key brand messages and values with attributes that people associate with you. For example it reveals where your brand sits when it comes to generic associations and if there is a need to differentiate yourself from your key comparators. One of the core questions we ask in this survey is which words spring to mind when people think of a specific charity brand and the results always bring home the lack of differentiation between many charity brands. Here is an example from the children and young people’s sector – these associations actually do belong to a specific charity but it looks quite generic, doesn’t it?
Creating a bold and successful charity brand is not easy. There are often many challenges at play and finite resources to tackle them. If you have already identified a set of core values and beliefs, and if your brand strategy is embraced internally, you might be in a place in your brand development to test whether the public’s perceptions of your brand match your own. If you are just starting to think about a total rebrand or even just a refresh, understanding existing perceptions of your organisation will be a crucial starting point to aid you in building a new strategy. It is critical to understand how the general public and current and potential supporters actually perceive your brand and what they know about you and your services. Knowing the emotions invoked when they see your logo or campaign image, or think about your charity, can help you to benchmark against your comparators, the general charity landscape and upcoming trends. With this insight you can devise, evaluate and evolve a consistent strategy with engaging tone of language and appealing imagery that stands out to your target audiences including your current and potential supporters.
To find out more about our Brand Attributes research and the objective, cost-effective measurement and tracking services we can provide, contact BA@nfpsynergy.net