Some still resist it, others embrace it and get it wrong. Why are so many nonprofits and foundations struggling with branding? It starts with the stories we tell ourselves.
Scott Bedbury knows something about branding. He ran brand-building campaigns for Nike and Starbucks and wrote, A New Brand World, a highly acclaimed book on the subject. “In an age of accelerating product proliferation, enormous customer choice, and growing clutter and clamor in the marketplace,” Bedbury says, “a great brand is a necessity, not a luxury.”
That’s conventional wisdom in the commercial sector, but many public interest organizations continue to wrestle with “the B-word.” In talking to nonprofits and foundations of all sizes and in all regions, I’ve come to the conclusion that five myths underlie this problem:
- In column one, list what your organization does – the services you provide, issues you cover, audiences you serve, etc. No judgments or adjectives here – this column is simply for the facts about your work.
- In column two, list words that describe how your organization approaches these issues and serves its audiences. Are you new and confrontational, established and collaborative, multidisciplinary or single-issue focused? Find the adjectives that your audience would be most likely to use to describe you and list them here.
- In column three, translate these adjectives into colors, textures, typefaces, and photographic styles. At this stage, it may be useful to have samples to look at (design books or even magazines can help) so you can point to particular shades, fonts, or photos that feel like your organization.
- In column four, list all your communication tools, from simple door-hangers to television PSAs. Now consider how your list in column three can guide the design of each tool so that all communications materials consistently reflect your image.
A former professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Business, Michael Rothschild now serves as associate editor for Social Marketing Quarterly. “As social marketers, I feel that we have not been concerned enough with developing brands or bonds,” says Rothschild. “We have been more concerned with telling people how to behave and less concerned with building relationships.” Perhaps if we all tried thinking of branding as relationship building, our entire sector will stop being held back by myths.
Branding: Read More About It
The June 2001 issue of Social Marketing Quarterly is devoted entirely to branding in the public interest sector and includes a fascinating study of how the Center for Disease Control revamped its brand. Back issues of SMQ can be ordered by sending an email request firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about branding on the Internet, two web sites that are chock full of interesting articles are www.brandchannel.com and www.allaboutbranding.com.
Four Questions About Your Logo
In evaluating a logo, Chris Hershey says, most organizations have learned to ask the big question: does it visually embody who we are? Unfortunately, these same organizations often forget to ask several smaller questions that directly affect how the logo appears to their audience, such as:
- Does it reduce well? In many cases, people will see your logo on a business card or at the bottom of a newspaper ad – locations in which it may appear quite small. If it doesn’t work in those dimensions, it doesn’t work, period.
- Does it fax clearly? Consider how much of your communication takes place via the fax machine, and then take a look at your logo from the recipient’s perspective. If it’s a gray smudge at their end, you’ve got a problem.
- Does it work in black and white? If you cannot afford color in every placement, your logo will eventually be rendered in black and white, most notably in newspaper ads. Make sure the image is as clear and striking in this rendition, too.
- Does it require white space around it? If your logo seems to disappear when surrounded by text or images, you must factor in white space for every placement. That empty field around your logo can be as important as the logo itself.
By definition, your logo stands as the symbol of your organization. Asking these four questions can ensure it’s a symbol your audience will actually see.