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Perils and power of modern charity brands

9 November 2018

It’s a difficult, scary and exciting time for charity brands. Keeping up with trends and change, how can you meet the challenge, feel the fear and thrive?

Perils are external, cultural trends that could pose a real risk to your brand if you don’t navigate them. You can’t control them, but you can respond and prepare for them, making them your power. Let’s explore the perils and power of modern century charity brand.

The pace of technological change

This is often presented to us as a new strength and opportunity but it’s also something many charities struggle to cope with or even understand. Our audiences have greater access to information than ever before. They have more channels to choose from and demand more personalised and tailored content from each one. Plus, they can opt out at any time. If your brand was developed in an offline, analogue world, it probably won’t be fit for purpose today.

How to navigate this trend

It’s not enough to think ‘digital-first’ – it’s about making sure your brand is robust, flexible and resilient enough to respond to change. It’s also about making sure you analyse data trends so you know what’s working, optimise where appropriate and invest the time, money and resource to fix what isn’t.

Top tip: rather than focusing on channels or technology, think about the brand experience you want your audiences to have and how you meet their needs.

The changing nature of the workplace

Remember the good old days of ‘command and control’ management? Where leadership was a title, not a responsibility? Where silos were the norm because every department did their own thing. Said no-one ever.

Now we have matrix structures, integrated working and fewer people with broader responsibilities. And the workplace is, for the most part, a better place for it. Except, let’s be honest, it was a lot easier to enforce and police a brand within the simple (if stifling) hierarchies of the past.

How to navigate this trend

It needs a new approach. Long gone are the days of the brand police. The role of the modern brand team is to empower, equip and encourage teams across the organisation to bring to life your brand, testing and learning together not exerting tight control and telling people they’re doing it wrong.

Top tip: develop your brand guidelines as a series of flexible frameworks for everyone to work within as opposed to tight rules staff must obey. Encourage experimentation as long as people are accountable and feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

The need to compete

Most charities I work with hate the word ‘compete’. But competition is not a dirty word. It doesn’t mean we can’t work in partnership or collaborate with others. Because, as brands we are always competing – for share of mind, share of wallet, share of voice, even share of heart.

This competition isn’t just within our sector – we’re vying for attention with anyone talking about our cause. There’s a lot of noise out there, and we’re competing to be heard and seen by the people who need us the most and those we can best serve. Competition is inevitable and makes us all stronger.

How to navigate this trend

This is where your brand is your superpower – as long as it is clearly defined and helps you stand out. Use your brand strategy as your filter and guide to help your organisation live up to and demonstrate its purpose. Use your vision to reach out to audiences who share your passion for the cause and world-changing ambition. And use your personality to create compelling activities that capture who you are and what you do differently and allow people to be a part of making it happen.

Top tip: Many charities have mission statements as opposed to a clear purpose. Review yours to make sure it captures why you exist, not just what you do today.

If these are the perils, then what’s the power of the modern charity brand?

It’s simple – you’re built for a purpose.

In a world where brands are looking for a bigger reason to connect with consumers, to build stronger relationships on an emotional level, you have advantage. As charities, you’re founded for a purpose that’s way beyond profit.

You don’t need to create something – it’s in your DNA. That’s not just an advantage for yourselves; it makes you extremely attractive and inspiring as brand partners, collaborators and as movement builders too.

Finally, what’s the opportunity for the brand team?

It’s time to step up to these challenges and address the perils. Empower and equip your organisation to find its voice. Use the experiences of your peers in the sector to make the case to invest. Co-create, curate and champion instead of command and control.

That’s what it means to be a modern brand – are you ready?

Read more

Brand guidelines for brand managers

Collette Philip

founder, Brand by Me

Collette Philip is MD and founder of Brand by Me, a brand meets strategy consultancy that helps ambitious organisations build credible brands that drive positive change. Find out more at