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The anatomy of your brand – Four defining questions for today and tomorrow

17 November 2020

Brand is an enabler of corporate strategy. It’s a tool that if used properly can help you remain relevant, and one that will be especially important to use wisely as you plan for the newly emerging post Covid world.

Having been through four recessions, I’ve seen the importance of a fully functioning brand, first in the quest for survival, and then to act as a springboard, helping your organisation to flourish in the phase that is sure to become known as the ‘new normal’.

Right now, using brand to cut through the noise, define the value of your cause and inspire the actions you require to help you continue to serve your beneficiaries has become more important than ever.

To help keep you on the right course or alternatively identify areas where you need to pivot, we’ve singled out a series of questions to help you define the anatomy of your brand positioning.

  1. Before you do anything; you need to decide exactly what it is your brand needs to achieve for your organisation. After all, as already mentioned, brand should be seen as a corporate strategy tool.

    So ask yourself. What goals are you looking to accomplish and how are you going to influence people to do the things you need them to do in order for you to achieve these?

    Defining these and rechecking them, given what we’re going through, is an absolutely critical focus and a vital part of making the internal case for brand as organisations come under extreme financial and structural pressures.

    Don’t get caught on the back foot or take this for granted.

  2. Once you’ve identified the business of your brand it’s important to explore the context of where you sit in the bigger picture of the charity sector landscape.

    By utilising sector competition and cause awareness as barometers you can accurately establish the challenge your brand faces.

    If your charity exists in a highly competitive section of the landscape, with high cause awareness, then your brand’s challenge is differentiation.

    A recent example of a project we carried out in this area was with Send a Cow, where we positioned the charity as a challenger brand. Highlighting their essence of joyful development as the key differentiator in a sub-sector dominated by big name players.

    If your cause awareness is high, but the competitive space isn’t very well populated, the challenge is to own the sector.

    Similarly, the brand refresh we undertook for Samaritans reasserted their role and relevance. This was in response to a series of market research findings that indicated Samaritans relevance was on the wane, especially across younger audiences.

    If your cause awareness is low and the sector competition is also low, then the challenge is to champion the sector. Our co-design of the Home-Start brand was about highlighting the urgency and importance of the early years care the charity delivers for struggling parents across the UK on a daily basis.

    Finally, if your cause awareness is low, but competition is high. Then we strongly recommend you weigh up the potential opportunities of a merger.

  3. Audiences are integral building blocks of your brand, and here you need to work out who it is you need to inspire. What their relationship is to you and your cause and what their value is.

    Most people don’t care, won’t care, won’t volunteer and won’t give. We use this grid to focus our minds, looking at how much audiences need and care about your cause.

    Once you’ve pinpointed your key audiences, you need to work out, for each of them, firstly what action you want them to take? And then, what you need them to think in order to take that action?

    And if an audience isn’t MAP (memorable, accessible or profitable) don’t add it to the list.

  4. Use the three C model to map yourself against the competition in the sector and the needs of your audiences. This reveals the most crucial element you should focus on, what makes you special. It’s a great way of defining or testing your brand purpose: if we took you away tomorrow, what would the difference in the world be? What have you got that is unique?

Purpose is something charity’s all possess by the bucket load, but aren’t necessarily as good at communicating as they should be.

Asking yourself these four questions will help you make sure your brand is in the right place now and as it emerges into the future, where all our work will be needed far more than ever.

Delve further into all things brand with our Brand 360 guide.

Photo: Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Max du Bois

executive director, Spencer du Bois

With over 25 years of not for profit, government, social enterprise, b2b and b2c experience, Max helps people find out what matters and communicate what really counts. Helping good people do great things, Max builds brands that challenge attitudes, change minds and inspire action.