Published: 18 June 2012

Does your brand provoke the right emotions?

Dan Dufour reports from the latest Brand Breakfast on monitoring and evaluating your brand

It has long been a bone of contention that too many charity brands are measured by the broad brush of public awareness and understanding, not their impact on income or how well they induce an emotional response from the target donor.

Your brand really does matter for fundraising

I’ve often had to defend branding’s worth to staff at all levels, including chief executives, finance directors and particularly fundraisers. So my face lit up when on Sunday evening a fundraising colleague emailed me with a piece of research (from DonorVoice) that highlights THE most significant single factor in driving a personal connection and a commitment to a charity is indeed the brand.

Our first speaker at this month's Brand Breakfast, held at Marie Curie Cancer Care's HQ, was Luba Kassova, a Brand Consultant who has worked with brands including BT, the BBC and most recently Cancer Research UK.

Luba quoted a piece of research by Gerald Zaltman from Harvard Business School that found that only 5% of our decisions, including which brands we choose or support, are "rational". The vast majority (95%) of decisions are "emotional", which means that our brand must be designed and monitored to deliver an emotional response.

People don’t chose brands with their rational side of their brain, so brands that explain ‘why’ they exist are more likely to achieve engagement than brands that only focus on ‘how’ and ‘what’ they do.

Measure your brand's emotional map

There were two of Luba’s top 10 tips for monitoring your brand which jumped out at me. The first was her suggestion of "measuring your brand's emotional map".

For me, the best charity brands have a degree of flexibility when it comes to emotion. In terms of income, they need to draw me into the charitable need, which may require a tug at my heart strings or conscience, but then I want to feel I can have a role in making a difference, so a sense of positivity and optimism is also required.

The second tip which struck a chord was the idea of monitoring the relationship between your core brand and your key product portfolio. For example, when Luba was responsible for monitoring the distinctiveness of BBC News she had to break this down by "genres", "programmes" and "stories". What impact did Panorama or News Night have on the core BBC News brand for example?

Making the case for brand investment

Next up was Rob George, Head of Insight at RSPB. Rob presented the highlights of the charity’s Outside In review.

Years' worth of research had demonstrated that the RSPB brand wasn’t provoking the right emotions to encourage support from new audiences. When asked which charity staff people would most like to sit next to at a dinner party RSPB were very low on the list, being perceived as old-fashioned, boring and "a bit weird".

Where previous attempts to get the board of directors to buy into brand had failed, the Outside In review succeeded. Rob puts this down to three factors. The first was the fact that the review was a multi-disciplinary piece of work, using mixed methodology and involving multiple teams from across the charity. The second was that it was a robust and credible piece of work, especially in terms of sample sizes. And last, but by no means least, it was the courage to tell the board the truth, warts and all. That meant translating the mass of research into easy to understand "bombshells", supported by video vox pops with the public to bring them to life.

The same old brand attributes

As part of the study, RSPB looked at the ideal attributes for an environmental charity brand (Trustworthy, Accountable, Determined, Passionate, Practical, Campaigning, Informative, Professional, Effective, Honest) and mapped out how well they performed against peoples’ perceptions. They also questioned which attributes just go with being a charity and which ones were truly differentiating, especially when compared to competing brands in their marketplace. They found that traits such as Benevolence and Trustworthy are simply expected of charity brands, while the attributes that would most help make a stronger emotional connection included Exciting, Fun, Heroic, Innovative, Inspiring and Modern.

And so before you embark upon monitoring and evaluating your brand, pause for thought and think carefully about exactly what you want to measure, what’s unique to your brand compared to others and most importantly what emotions you want your brand to provoke. For me it’s one thing for people to recognise your brand and have the correct perception of what you do, but quite another to get people to connect and respond to it.

Luba Kassova and Rob George were speaking at the CharityComms Brand Breakfast on 11 June at Marie Curie Cancer Care, organised by Serena Donne, Head of Brand and Creative Resources at Cancer Research UK, and Dan Dufour, Head of Brand at The Good Agency.


Dan Dufour, brand strategist, The Team

Dan is one of the sector’s leading brand strategists. He has worked on brand development across all sectors including Rightmove, London 2012 and Cancer Research UK. He's best known for his award-winning work across all corners of the charity sector, including Shelter (Design Week Award), Parkinson’s UK (Design Effectiveness Award), RSPB (Third Sector Excellence Award) and Scope. Dan established CharityComms Brand Breakfast, proudly supported by The Teamand is an author of our best practice guides to branding and integrated communications.