In times of financial uncertainty, why would we choose to invest in our brands? While it may not be the top priority, spending time and/or money on your brand is crucial for your long-term success.
A brand is more than your logo or colour palette. It is the entirety of your organisation: how it looks, sounds and feels. It is the ethos, values and attitude. It is the way the organisation speaks, and your internal culture and behaviour. It is all your actions and all your projects. Boiled down, branding is what people think whenever they hear your charity’s name.
When it comes to making a business case, branding helps your organisation garner the public’s trust, differentiate your organisation from others and provide that all-important relevance and consistency that is essential to secure ongoing support for your charity.
In this blog, I explain a little more about why branding matters.
Gaining trust for your charity
Audiences need trust in a charity to donate their time or money to the cause, especially during times of uncertainty. Interestingly, securing trust is one of the key reasons why we brand in the first place.
Former Harvard Business professor, social psychologist, author and speaker Amy Cuddy has spent years studying how business leaders can make a positive first impression. She distilled her research into two questions people subconsciously ask when meeting someone new: ‘Can I trust this person?’ and ‘Can I respect this person?’
It’s the same when people encounter your brand. You can jeopardise trust and respect for your charity if you present a confusing brand. A solid brand identity is clear and single-minded about its purpose; it expresses itself through a cohesive message across channels.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- Is your brand currently securing trust and building loyalty?
- Do you know who you are in a nutshell?
- Do people know and understand your aims, and are they confident you can achieve them?
Being different from others
Gaining trust is one thing, but why should our target audience support us over others? This is an important question to pose to your senior leaders.
If your brand is comprehensive and fit for purpose, they’ll have an answer at their fingertips. It will succinctly cover who the organisation is, its purpose and how it stands out from others in the same area. In fact, all staff and volunteers will be able to answer this question.
All too often though, brands become cloudy. They have no single Unique Selling Point (USP), trying to say too many things and spewing out a monotonous stream of content across their channels. If you don’t know exactly what makes you different and worthwhile, then no one else will either.
It’s also worth thinking about how distinct you are in your look and feel. In other words, do your comms stand out?
You’d imagine that with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and all the other different platforms we have available to share our messages, it would be much easier to reach people than ever before! But we actually end up sharing muffled messages that can get drowned out in a chaotic and frenetic digital maze.
Audiences pay less attention now. People are accustomed to seeing marketing messages clambering for their awareness and are adept at multi-tasking their way through the day. Many of us can juggle listening to a podcast, scrolling Facebook with a TV burbling in the background all at the same time, for example. A former colleague of mine once remarked: “You have to throw a metaphorical creative brick through a window just to stand a chance of being noticed!”
If your visual aesthetic is dated, your colour palette is tired, your messaging is unclear, and your assets are inconsistent and forgettable, people will ignore even your best campaigns, projects, and calls to actions.
Ensuring your relevancy
If you’ve managed to differentiate yourself, have you checked if you are relevant to the people you’re trying to reach? As Elliot Schreiber, professor of marketing strategy and corporate brand and reputation management, puts it: “Differentiation is all the people you date. Relevance is the one you marry because you cannot live without them.”
Relevance is what connects with a person emotionally, Schreiber says. “It is emotional and irrational, but the bond is strong.” She uses Apple’s iPad as an example. “Consider all of the competitors who worked on their versions of the iPad that would be different, faster, etc. Regardless of what was introduced, the customer preferred the iPad. It was the most relevant product on the market.”
Another way of thinking about relevance is asking why people should support you. So often, we forget relevance in our communications or our identity. We neglect to think how our brand personality appeals to the desires, concerns, experiences, values and ethos of the people we’re targeting.
A strong brand will have relevance imbued in its core. It should be a base note throughout your messaging and form the backdrop of your visuals, with the ability to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances and trends.
Providing a consistent brand experience
The final piece of the jigsaw is consistency. An inconsistent brand experience is the most common crime I see across the sector.
Think about how the public experiences your brand across your platforms, from retail and fundraising to social media and services. Do they hear the same tone of voice? Do they receive consistent messaging? Do your visuals feel familiar to each other? Do your communications work together to build awareness, loyalty and inspire action?
Don’t worry; I know it’s rare to see this happen. There can be resistance to building a joined-up programme of external comms that embody a consistent brand experience for various reasons. Mostly, teams and departments often work in silos, guided by their own priorities. This leads to a charity that is confusing to the public and at risk of being quickly forgotten.
In order to cement yourself in the minds of your audience, you must present a harmonised and consistent brand experience across all channels and touchpoints. There’s a marketing concept you may or may not have come across called ‘the rule of seven’, which states that a customer must encounter your brand seven times before they consider making a purchase (or donating money). What if every time they do you are unrecognisable from the last occasion because you sound and look different?
With all of this said, if your senior leaders haven’t done so already, encourage them to work together to create a joined-up programme of work. It’s not an easy task, but there are approaches you can take to sweeten the pill … I feel another blog coming!
Emma Shore spoke at our Charity Brand and Creative Conference in July 2023. You can access the talk, along with a collection of insights into charity branding, through our On-Demand content. You’ll learn more about why brands matter, the building blocks of great strategy and how to measure the success of your brand in the current climate.
You can learn more about Emma and her work on her new website: Emma Shore | Brand & Creative.
Emma’s website was created by October, a design agency for small and independent businesses who curate bespoke branding and design for each and every client.
Banner Image: Jamie Street on Unsplash