ShortBooks - Brand

Building a brand means being confident in who you are and what you do. The strategies listed below will help you see how your brand fits in today’s noisy marketplace. Give Barefoot Creative a call to help ensure your brand is resonating with your donors to build relationships and long-term giving.

(unmoved by outside perceptions)

“You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.”
Jeroen DeFlander

In today’s world of social media, everyone has an opinion and platform to share it. But if we follow each thought and perception, we’ll end up losing our identity – and our donors. 

Know your brand and what makes you unique. Then consistently communicate that to the public through various channels – ensuring everyone knows your core mission and is confident in your ability to achieve it. 

Know that your brand is not your program. Other organizations do the same kind of work as you do. Think about car brands. Why do people prefer Ford or Toyota or Kia? It’s in the brand. They all produce the same product: a 4-wheeled, motorized vehicle. But the brand, their unique personality, sets them a part.

(be objective, looking for core values not products)

When you know who you are, it’s a lot easier to keep true to yourself, to make decisions that are consistent with your personality. 

To understand yourself, take a look at what sets your organization apart. This should be part of the exploration phase of your branding exercise. There are likely other organizations who seek to achieve the same thing you do, but dig deep to understand just how you are different. 

The best organizations are not defined by their program, but by their attitude. In the past 15 years Plan International has taken giant leaps in their branding. Today they are well-known as the organization working for girls. Charity Water is pretty new to the charity world, but they were quick to brand themselves as innovative and ahead of rest with a brand focus online. There are many examples of great brands – the best build their brand from personality, not program. 

(look outside your desire into the real world)

“Don’t just create content to get credit for being clever — create content that will be helpful, insightful, or interesting for your target audience.” David Ogilvy

Oftentimes, organizations have a vision of who they’d like their target audience to be. Maybe it’s 40-year-old executives who go to church and have 2.5 children. Maybe it’s a globally-conscious millennial. 

But you need to ask your donors about themselves through surveys and online interaction. Then be honest about the feedback. Only when you target your communication to the audience you actually have will you see the engagement and growth you’re hoping for. 

The most successful organizations have several target audiences and position their messaging in ways that each audience gets it. 

One of the things we are learning about this generation of supporters is that age and regional demographics are not as determinant as personal interests. Defining your target by their interests helps to extend your reach into multiple generations.

(stay true to your inner self)

“One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.” Michelle Obama 

While we can celebrate the success of other brands, we should not try to mimic them. 

Remember the Amazon Fire? You’re not alone if you don’t. After the success of their e-readers, Amazon thought they’d follow other tech giants and claim a chunk of the smartphone market. Amazon’s phone was released to disappointing reviews of the device being physically clunky and technologically limited. It disappeared roughly a year after they released the product. 

This is a great example of the adage, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Amazon customers loved e-readers because it was aligned with the books they loved, that affinity did not reach across into smartphones. 

Stay focussed on who you are. Work to grow and strengthen your current brand. There are times when diversification is a great idea. Make sure it aligns with your inner you.

(dress yourself – visuals build recognition with swift recall)

Do you remember when the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign launched? It was Dove’s breakthrough campaign. That one campaign changed the course of Dove’s marketing: from and old lady’s soap to the #1 global brand. Though it feels like that campaign launched only a couple years ago, in reality, the campaign began in 2004 – 15 years ago.

Here are some great hints at building your brand. Include an icon or logo simple enough for a child to recreate. Using that guideline, your visual identity can be easily recalled in the marketplace. Your brand collateral (business cards, brochures, letterhead, etc…) should then be built on the logo design to complement and strengthen. 

The overall tone of your visual identity should match your defined brand. For example, when Kumon, the educational organization, released their image and logo, many people felt the face appeared sad, concerned or confused. The criticism is that the visual doesn’t represent the happy confidence the students gain or the drive and compassion of the teachers. While the logo is still in use, many of us also continue the conversation.

But your look is so much more than your logo!

In marketing, we sometimes talk about “inherent logic” – it’s the understanding you gain about an organization by simply looking at their visual brand. If it’s misaligned, or missing altogether, you may be on the wrong track.

(consistent repetition helps underline your unique voice)

One of the most difficult branding principles is consistency. We like change. We want to attract attention with change. When we work with one brand on a daily basis, we become bored and are tempted to make changes. 

Be wary of change for the sake of change.  

World Vision changed their global icon more than 20 years ago. I’m pretty sure few of you could draw the old icon. It was worn by the team that surveyed Canadians and their affinity to the World Vision logo. No one knew it. When they separated the icon from the name no one, not even donors who had been loyally supporting World Vision for 20 years, could pick out the icon. As a team, they had no hesitation to change icons. Frankly, the old icon did not work. 

But imagine if Ford suddenly got rid of their script font and oval shape. Is their logo a work of art? Well, maybe not. But it is recognizable. Over the last 100 years there have been plenty of tweaks to the logo and some outstanding (but not long-lasting) changes. But the heart of the design was always maintained. 

Your brand definition should always include key messages and repeat voice words. These are easily accessible phrases that all staff and stakeholders can incorporate into their communications. This way, your donors all hear the same voice regardless of where it’s coming from.

True story… Heinz bought out Libby’s beans. At the purchase, Heinz was well aware of the brand loyalty of Libby’s customers. The visual brand change was slow and strategic. It started with a change in he colour of the label – from brown to blue. Libby’s was still boldly at the top of the can in bright red. Then Heinz replaced Libby’s in the red script font. Very few people noticed. They grabbed the blue can with the red script font. It took time for many loyal customers to realize their pantries had changed from Libby’s to Heinz!

(again, again and again – it’s a noisy world)

“Airbnb is different from most brands. We’re a community of individuals, and yet there’s a consistency holding us together through the values we share. We have a common belief in belonging, but everyone’s expression of it will naturally always be a little different.” Brian Chesky

Airbnb is a great example of brand in the digital world. That underlying foundation of principle (personality = brand), one common website and e-commerce transactions build consistency that opens the door to variance in a good way. 

That’s why Barefoot Creative stands strong with the power of building your brand on key messaging. The graphics and digital components, when aligned with the messaging, are consistent. 

In the noisy environment of today’s world, consistent repetition is key. At one time, we said the message required 7 repetitions. Today it’s 12-15.

Nike’s infamous tagline, “Just Do It”, is easily recalled by everyone and associated almost instantly with Nike. But did you know, you’ve been hearing that tagline for over 30 years? The brand first launched this tagline in 1988. 

Don’t be too quick to change up your brand or messaging.

(be sure to set success indicators)

Truly evaluating what people think of you is tough. But when you can do it, it is very rewarding. 

In one brand experience, our client’s office building was tired, old and there was no real brand message. When you walked in the front door you thought: quaint, old-fashioned, friendly, out-of-touch. When we went through the brand aspirations with the board and leadership team, they told us they were on the leading edge of their sector. Hmm… There was a huge brand gap. 

The Google building in KW shouts Google. Even though it’s a 100+ year-old factory. When Google bought it, they immediately began to imprint it with their brand. 

Honesty is core to evaluating brand. Listen to your audience. Don’t be afraid. Brand personality that does not align with your understanding of your own brand gives you opportunity to change the message. 

As you build your brand, make sure the whole organization is aligned. When everyone understands your brand and is consistently confident in your organization’s direction, you can expect to see growth and loyalty from all involved.

(embrace change – grow with your services and audience)

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Jimmy Dean

Take a minute to check out the evolution of the Apple or Starbucks logo. Both began as complex, intricate designs that told an expansive story. And they both have migrated into a much simpler icon.

While we don’t encourage you to rapidly change your visual identity or overall brand, you should be checking the success of your brand and brand message regularly. You should know how the brand is being played out with your loyal supporters and how available it is for new supporters. 

One of the most interesting aspects of brand for non-profits is generational change. As organizations have “grown-up”, they have changed. They are no longer who they were 75 years ago. Engaging with new audiences while maintaining loyal supporters is tricky and should be done carefully. If, like World Vision, your original icon holds little brand affinity, change is not dangerous. But if your icon is very well known, like the Red Cross, icon changes must be subtle. 

The Canadian Blood Services has gone through several messaging changes. It is important that they maintain integrity with their mission and their audience. This past year, CNIB has significantly changed the way it serves communities. They made that change very carefully, working for more than 3 years behind the scenes to align the brand. 

Embrace change. Use brand to walk with integrity with your audience. The people who know you best will support you through a brand change… as long as you take them with you.

Communicate with Impact

Barefoot Creative is always here to help. 

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