Published: 11 June 2019

How to manage brand stretch

Charity brands are unique. They typically need to target a range of different audiences, with a variety of activities to consider; from services and policy and campaigns to various forms of fundraising.

Managing a brand in this context can mean balancing the tightrope between consistency and flexibility. We want our brand to be consistent enough to be instantly recognisable – even when the logo is covered up. But we need enough flexibility in it to target specific audiences with specific products.

The last Brand Breakfast explored how far you can stretch a brand before it snaps. Here we suggest two solutions to prevent your brand breaking in two: good audience segmentation and brand architecture.

Audience segmentation

‘Audience segmentation’ is the term used to describe how we break-up our target audiences for effective marketing communications.

In the past, different parts of charities have held their own databases and viewed audiences from an internal perspective such as a customer, donor or campaigner. This means people might be bombarded with communications from different departments, in an uncoordinated manner. Whilst in reality an individual may have a multifaceted relationship with a charity. Macmillan Cancer Support, for example, talk about how many of their supporters are the same people who receive their cancer support.

As charities have become more sophisticated in their marketing approach, they have been investing in better client relationship management (CRM). Essentially, better databases that enable you to co-ordinate campaigns and customer journeys.

The make-up of audience segments has also evolved. Whilst once based on life stage and socio-demographics, they are now primarily built around beliefs and attitudes to causes. A good segmentation will include charity engagement (how they typically engage with a charity) as well as media consumption (which marketing channels to use to reach them). In brand development, new ideas are often tested with a sample of the existing customer and supporter base, as well as potential new segments. This helps to protect and grow a brand’s market share.

Zohra Vermani and Hannah Dedman from the Parkinson’s UK marketing team shared their audience segmentation project. Which paved the way for their ‘Parkinson’s is’ campaign.

Zohra explained: “The prevalence of Parkinson’s is relatively small compared to other conditions, so we began to explore whether there were new audiences we could inspire without forgetting our core. We found out that 47% of people who know us, and what we do, aren’t affected by Parkinson’s, which showed there was a growth market out there.”

Hannah added: “We embarked on an attitudinal and behavioural segmentation to increase our understanding of what motivates people and the ways in which we might engage with them. This started with a quantitative survey followed by a deep dive with qualitative focus groups”.

Brand architecture

‘Brand architecture’ is simply the marketing jargon used to describe how you present your range of initiatives in relation to your corporate masterbrand. It’s an essential area of branding that’s often overlooked in the charity sector. This can result in lots of uncoordinated sub-brands, through default rather than by design.

Here are five common brand architecture models you can follow to avoid this uncoordinated effect:

1. Freestanding or endorsed
This is when you create specific sub-brands to target specific products to specific audiences. It is most common with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as Dove or Marmite, both owned by Unilever.

Historically, the corporate masterbrand (Unilever) wasn’t as important as the product brands from a customer perspective. However, as more commercial brands are defining their social purpose and placing it at the heart of their brand and business strategy, they increasingly want the masterbrand to stand for something. Unilever’s social purpose is to make sustainable living every day, so it now uses its logo as an endorsement on products, hoping to encourage customers to choose buying from a responsible business.

Examples in the charity sector would be Scouts, Beavers, Cubs and Explorers. Or Girlguides, Rainbows, Brownies and Rangers.

2. Family of brands

This is when sub-brands are given some independence to express themselves, within set parameters but the corporate masterbrand remains present. Virgin (Trains, Atlantic, Active, Care etc) is one of the best-known examples as is the BBC and its family of brands.

3. Branded house

This is when products are identified by name (and sometimes colour) only. Presented next to the corporate masterbrand. Such as FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Flight. Or RNLI Lifeboats and RNLI Lifeguards.

4. Unified (aka monolithic)

This is when there are no sub-brands, and everything is presented within the visual identity of the corporate masterbrand. It’s where many charity brands want to get to, although they often start with a freestanding model by mistake.

5. Hybrid

A hybrid model uses different forms of brand architecture for different parts of its business. Coca-Cola is a good example as it has a Family of Brands like Diet Coke and Coke Zero. As is Cancer Research UK with its Weekly Lottery, Race for Life and Kids and Teens.

When agreeing brand architecture, it is always best to consider it from an external audience perspective. As well as the cost implications of managing a portfolio of brands and the pros and cons of your reputation, and reputational risks, extending across the whole portfolio.

James Reekie and Soledad Amado from Macmillan Cancer Support’s brand team shared their brand architecture project, delivered as part of their brand refresh.

James explained: “We’d reached our teenage years as a brand, where we had kept everything we’d ever made. We’d added bits over the years. But never edited it. There were no rules, no rights or wrongs, no consistency and less recognition.

“It’s easier to identify with less stuff. So, we moved from being fragmented and messy, trying to be different things to different people, to a simple, monolithic brand architecture, positive in spirit” added Soledad.

By showing how one single brand could be stretched to cover a range of products under one visual identity and tone of voice, Macmillan have been able to demonstrate they don’t need different sub-brands.

“Everything has to ladder back up to the masterbrand to aid recognition” concluded James. “They all have to be in our core identity. Our strong monolithic brand makes sure we always look like ourselves.”

Image: Rawpixel


Check out the next Brand Breakfast here.


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.