Brand — How do people see you?

DATE: October 16th, 2017

Here’s a fun — and powerful — example of the power of brand. See how top brands and their logo are perceived by their audience.

While you’re scrolling through the sometimes hilarious perceptions of  the brand’s logo, think about these three things:

  • your logo is only the icon for your brand — you’ll see that people pick up on multiple elements — your product, your store, your old logo — when they think of your current logo
  • SIMPLE is BEST… a five-year old should be able to draw your logo. You’ll see how a well recognized icon, like Starbuck’s, is ridiculously hard to draw. While the corporation has simplified, it still confuses their audience.
  • Transforming the icon of your brand (your logo), is tough. Even after a number of years, your customers continue to hold the old icon in their mind.

So enjoy…. it’s a fun article

eMail Marketing… seriously

DATE: July 28th, 2017

Well — does it work or doesn’t it?

Love to  hear your stories… but 8 experts all agree: Done right, email marketing DOES work.

Here’s what they say:

  1. make it personal
  2. make it worth their read
  3. invite people to ask for it
  4. …. evaluate

So here’s the bottom line. Your customers and donors are real people. They have dreams, needs and interests. They don’t want to be talked at, they want a conversation. They are keen to buy products they want and give to charity efforts they buy into. (A client of ours just sent an eblast and received over half a million dollars in return — yes, people read email).

But here’s the thing.

How personal are you? Are you talking to them in words they understand and explaining the impact or benefit of your message? Or are you just sending out a generic newsletter — scattering seeds and hoping they will fall on fertile ground.

Farmers today are much more sophisticated than that — they understand soil fertility, regional difference, crop affinity and seed/hectare. They employ data to get the highest yield per hectare with the highest return on investment.

Is email a powerful tool?

Of course it is.

But only in the context of a strategic customer/donor experience and journey that is based on the needs and dreams of the customer/donor.

So take some time to think about the experience your customers/donors have online, offline and in real time (face-to-face, phone, retail, event). Think about the ways your story resonates in all channels. Consider deleting the word “channel” from your vocabulary and replace it with campaign.

In the early days of digital personalization, a print company sent me a digitally personalized calendar — with my name tatooed on a lovely butt cheek of a swimsuit model…. oops, maybe not the right audience. But, you see, they didn’t personalize the calendar, because they didn’t know anything about me. They simply added my name to a digital print run.

Data tracking…. what do you know about your customer/donor? How will that make a difference in your next personalized communication?

To read the full article:8 marketing experts…

Barefoot in the news…

DATE: July 27th, 2017

Huge thanks to Brent Davis, Kitchener Record journalist, for the article.

Marketing firm plants its feet in the nonprofit sector

NEWS Jul 25, 2017 by Brent Davis  Waterloo Region Record

Barefoot Creative

Business partners Kevin Hawley and Gayle Goossen head up Barefoot Creative, a marketing firm housed in the Zeller farmhouse in Breslau. – Brent Davis,Record staff

BRESLAU — Gayle Goossen and Kevin Hawley understand the power of a story.

“The human story is always the most poignant,” says Goossen, who co-founded the marketing firm Barefoot Creative with Hawley nearly 20 years ago.

The business, now based in Breslau, caters to a diverse client base, with work for companies like Culligan, BlackBerry and Royal Homes in their portfolio.

But a large portion of their work falls in the not-for-profit sector, where compelling accounts of what a charity does, and who it touches, often lie at the heart of successful messaging.

Pursuing those stories has taken the pair and their team members far from their home base in Waterloo Region, to places like India, Guatemala, and across Africa.

“One of the most important resources a nonprofit has is the stories of their work,” Goossen says.

“Without those resources, your marketing is empty,” adds Hawley.

With them, the Barefoot team has built powerful campaigns across multiple platforms — print, web, social media — that capture hearts and draw people in. They’ve counted Ten Thousand Villages, UNICEF, the Canadian Cancer Society and Ray of Hope among their clients.

Barefoot Creative’s own story has its roots in the not-for-profit world, too.

Goossen and Hawley met when they were both working for World Vision in the 1990s, Goossen serving as creative director and Hawley, a graphic designer.

Striving for Second Place

DATE: July 26th, 2017

Global brand equity is measured — Apple is #1, valued at just over $178 million. Google, Coke and Microsoft fall into place as second, third and fourth. But maybe first place isn’t the best place to be.

Charlotte Roger’s celebrates 6 global brands that are sitting pretty in second place. The twist? Each one is leading the global brand growth world-wide…. maybe second-place is a good place to be!

Which brands are winning the global head-to-heads?

Mobile First… think differently

DATE: July 18th, 2016

Only 40% of sites today are mobile…

And of that 40%, while mobile “friendly”, they are not designed for mobile first. Which, in general, means they can be read on a small screen but have not been designed for optimum small screen experience.

Courtney Ferguson, Senior Mobile Product Manager for TurboTax, says:

Due to the explosive growth within mobile, if your brand or company is not thinking of how to become ‘mobile first’ or leveraging the capabilities of the mobile platform, you will be disrupted. As the world is evolving to connected and ‘always-on’ experiences, it is best for companies to think about how they can change and evolve with it in order to delight and stay relevant to customers.

In thinking about a mobile experience, there are two essential goals we need to achieve:

  1. Delight the customer/donor. Consumer brands are already on that – after all their primary goal is to make a sale. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our goal as a non-profit was to delight the donor? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we wanted to give the donor an experience they couldn’t forget – rather than forcing our language, our mission and our experience?

This is game changer for charities. Time after time when I speak to intensely loyal donors or team members in non-profit environments they tell me that their commitment comes from a transformational experience they had – usually on the ground, in the thick of the work the charity is doing.

How do we make it possible for every donor to have even a glimpse of that experience?

  1. Leverage the capabilities of the mobile platform.

I am so excited about leveraging mobile… but let me explain what it means to me. Leveraging mobile means that the platform does something – it is not lists and lists of articles, offers and blogs – but there is something for people to actually experience.

Every organization is different. Your experience should be unique. Think outside the box but keep the foundations of good donor stewardship at the forefront.

Imagine beyond paper. Imagine a small screen!

Our Attention Span — Shorter than a Goldfish

DATE: June 22nd, 2016


In a world where a goldfish has a greater attention span than a human, where there are 500 million 140 character tweets flung out a day and Google is considered by most young people the only research tool – well, we need to understand that unless people are doing academic research or immersing themselves in a subject, advertisers need to hone their messages to smart, short, snack-sized bits.

It all started with Sesame Street….

For 46 seasons, Sesame Street has been serving preschools a steady diet of bite-sized content – content snacks.  The original goal was to “master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them”.

Men and women who are now parents – well, some are already grandparents, grew up on small chunks of content that both entertained and informed. So the buzz of about “snackable content” is just that buzz.

We have been learning in small bite-sized pieces for a very long time. When I took piano lessons, my teacher (who would now be around 150 – she seemed remarkably old when I was 10), told me to break the music into chunks so I could learn it more easily. In the olden days (which may be returning) as we memorized poems and speeches, we did so in pieces – small bits at a time to help our memory learn better.

So let’s get over the nonsense about the modern bits and pieces being bad for learning – Learning comes in many sizes.  Content should be delivered in many formats, varying lengths and multiple vehicles.

There are many different ways to deliver content:

  •               Video
  •               Infographics
  •               Blog
  •               Booklet
  •               Newsletter
  •               Direct mail package
  •               Social media (short and visual)
  •               Email
  •               Web site
  •               Digital advertising
  •               Magazine ads and content pages
  •               Outer media
  •               Unaddressed mail
  •               Brochures
  •               Annual Reports
  •               Point of Purchase
  •               Catalogues
  •               Publications
  •               Wearables

We can go on. One web sites boasts 275 different communication venues and vehicles.

Every one of them starts with understanding the goal and then the audience.  Once we have articulated our goal we can build the strategy – which includes content development and the vehicles to deliver that content.

Writing snack –sized content is essential.

Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean you ONLY write snack-sized.

But snack-sized matters.

You can tease people into longer articles and many people will dive into them, but your bites have to be satisfying, fun and sufficient to get the message across.

Remember that images are content too – and in social media – image matters. Moving images matter more. But the image must be able to hold its own. Over 80% of people using Facebook do so without using audio – so if your message is dependent on audio, you’ll miss a large segment of the audience.

So snack away — it’s good for you.

GAME: Communication Strategy

DATE: June 15th, 2016


We had a client who told us that every morning he sat in front of his computer and, before he touched his keyboard, he whispered: “Let the games begin.”

Work should have elements of play — because we learn faster and more effectively when our work is fun. The acronym GAME is pretty simple and easy to remember — but don’t let its simplicity fool you. It’s foundational.

GAME is an easy way to remember the basics of communications. It stands for:






That’s the beauty of this.

Let’s take a simple direct mail piece and apply GAME to it:

Goals: What do you want to do with this appeal?

I challenge you to be extremely specific. There can be more than one goal. For instance, there is likely a very real revenue goal. State it: “raise $120,000”. But there may be other donor related goals. Perhaps you would like to increase the average gift given. challenge donors with a reach offer that helps them stretch to give more. Or perhaps the package is designed to motivate lapsed donors. Or it could be an acquisition package. In that case a stronger goal is the dollar value needed to acquire 1 donor.

Take time after the appeal has run its course to see if you have met your stated goals.

Audience: Who is going to get this appeal?

Define the segments. If possible, articulate the character of the audience. This is tough. On the surface we know that most organizations segment their audiences: mass donors, major donors, middle donors, lapsed donors… etc. On top of that the segmentation will include segments that have given within the past 12 months, 24 months… etc.

Segmentation varies within each organization. Experience has taught us that organizations with  small data bases – under 10,000 donors – increase results by mailing to all donors who have given in the past 60 months. Lapsing donors too quickly erodes the data base. Remember that most donors pick and choose their favourite charities. They often have a number of charities they like to give to. But they may not have the funds to give every year. While they may not have given for 24+ months, they still are interested in your cause. Your challenge is to motivate them to give again.

But do you really KNOW your donors? Do you know what interests them or are you trying to get them to be interested in what interests you?

This is a difficult discussion. While you do want to educate and inform donors, you also want to engage their interest enough to give. That may be a slow process, one that needs to be carefully cultivated. Making sure you study appeal results helps you to understand their values. Looking at the patterns of responses over five years helps you understand what really peaked their interest and what doesn’t really relate to them.

But be careful.

We are quick to say “The match, the match always does it.” I agree, the match is a healthy way to engage donors. But look a little deeper. Are there certain matches that did better than others?

Test on a regular basis. Choose your tests carefully, making sure that each package you send I only testing one things. Incorporate the results of those tests in your next packages, building your knowledge about your donors.

Message: What is your key message?

First of all, every organization should have 3 to 7 KEY organizational messages. At least one of these messages will be found in every communication piece.

When strategically positioning the messages for a communication package, choose one of the key organizational messages that will be threaded throughout the package, making sure you build brand equity – even in direct mail. You need to have a skilled direct mail copy writer and design to do this well.

Then you need to list the messages that are essential for this package. There may be specific things the donor needs to know before they are motivated to give. Be clear about that. And be brutally honest about what is superficial organizational stuff that is not critical to the appeal. Too often appeal packages have too much info that just doesn’t matter.

In fact, I have one on my desk right now. Right in the middle of letter, in bullets, it says:


  • A registered, Non-Profit, Charitable organization
  • For 50 years we have…
  • Administer programmes…


Why would I give? And the P.S.? We would be happy to provide you with a Charitable Receipt.

This appeal has about 5 other messages – none of them linked and none of them engaging the donor in real need.

Again, from experience, the best performing appeals have a strong message threaded throughout the piece and that message is restated in different ways – not because the donor doesn’t understand, but because each donor relates more strongly to a different aspect of the same message.

Execution: What do we need to do?

Think about how you are going to get the message to the donor. Even in a simple direct mail appeal, this is an important question.

What is the package like? Is there an insert? Is there a premium? Is the carrier going to be something different than a #10? What are the elements of the package (Outer Envelope, Letter, Response Device, Business Reply Envelope, Insert, Coupons…. )

The communication strategy needs to include digital components. Is there a landing page that corresponds to the appeal that makes it easy for the donor to give online? We know that online donations are often inspired by a mail piece. Is there an email component? Is there a chaser?

And most importantly, what thank you are the donors who give to this appeal going to get?

Incorporating GAME into every appeal strategy meeting gives you a great start to building a successful package.

The State of Fundraising in Canada

DATE: May 27th, 2016

I came across this blog today —
Granted it’s a year old – but I think it reflect many of the comments I hear from people I meet… charities use some of the worst marketing tactics. But frankly, the writer should do his research a little better. (And while Mr. Philip may have enjoyed the “laughed his ass off” funny ad, funny doesn’t raise money – poignant, meaningful, honest, relevant and specific raises money)
I agree, some charities use short-termed strategies to acquire new donors, but overall thank you phone calls, meaningful letters and straight on asking for help continues to engage Canadians – as Stats Can results clearly show.
I’m not sure how this Canadian Business magazine blogger managed to miss the numbers, but Canadians are actually giving more every year. BUT – let’s be honest – the number of givers is decreasing. And that should concern charities in Canada. The other concern is, as the blogger alluded to, loyal donors are on the decline. Part of that is because of fundraising practises today: checkout line offers, peer-to-peer campaigns and crowdfunding models are all distancing the donor from the cause.
Fundraising is an art with a bit of science thrown in.
Fundraisers need to stop looking for the magic bullet and start working with diligent strategic plans. Core to sustainable growth – which means resources to fund a cause – is a group of donors who are committed to that cause.

According to KCI’s Philanthropic  Trends Canadian fundraisers are “cautiously optimistic” about the future.

But the world is changing.

Hospitals, educational institutes and social agencies are looking for increased donor support as their budgets get tighter. Where at one time they looked to private donations to fund buildings and special projects, today there is an ever growing need to fund day to day operations.

Every organization is unique. Each faces their own set of challenges.

We’d love to hear your story – your challenges and your wins.

STOP: and listen to your donors and customers

DATE: April 25th, 2016

Here’s some interesting — and a little daunting — research on the checkout process for online donors and shoppers.  We need to take this seriously. We have noticed that a number of our clients are experiencing a drop off on web use, with a couple of exceptions. In studying the differences, we noticed one glaring difference. The exceptions (our customers who are growing in online donations/purchases) are regularly watching the analytics, studying when their donors/customers leave the process.

Here’s why you need to know how donors/shoppers are feeling about your site:


Don’t let it slide — track, tweak, track, tweak.

Digital is an ever changing medium. We need to keep up. There is no reason for a clumsy online giving/shopping experience. Untangle your checkout process from old and tired systems. Make it as easy as iTunes.

Donor Apathy

DATE: April 4th, 2016



(Marketing Week)

Cultivating loyal, committed donors is tough. We live in  a noisy world of Facebook challenges, emails from friends doing a special fundraising project, a mailbox filled with charitable requests, TV and radio ads, and online information. Events, peer-to-peer, crowdfunding, door-to-door, face-to-face……..

Fundraising is tough.

This paragraph struck me this week. It’s out of the UK — but we need to take it into consideration:

Charities that effectively bridge the gap between branding and fundraising will also have a far better chance of engaging supporters in the long term, but working out the value of different types of communication is an issue, so Snedden suggests the measurement framework has to evolve Marketing Week, 

Many organizations continue to silo communications and fundraising, giving brand and organizational collateral to the communication team. The “real” work goes to the fundraising (development team). That silo has to come down — or at least a walkway built between the two. Brand matters. Research shows that the charitable organizations that are engaging more and more donors are those that know who they are, run integrated campaigns and have a strong brand presence.

When brand integrity encompasses every communication and fundraising message, trust is built. Donors know they can count on you. The feel confident of your work because they know you personally.