Branding 1, 2, 3
Branding is about communicating a sense of value and a set of values. For organizations doing good work, it should be a no-brainer. “For a nonprofit, that’s pretty easy because they have mission statements, they’re clearly focused on an objective that’s almost always in the interest of the public good, whereas the corporate side, you try to do the same thing but it may be a little bit harder to justify that sort of value proposition,” says Christopher Simmons, principal/creative director for MINE, a San Francisco-based design firm specializing in identity, print, environmental graphics and Web design.
Simmons offers the following tips to nonprofit organizations seeking to enhance their branding:
1. Understand clearly who you are as an organization and what you stand for.
2. Understand who you’re speaking to and what sort of messages they want or need to hear.
3. Make your message as specific as possible.
To this third point, Simmons says a common failing he sees in for-profits and nonprofits alike is trying to be too broad. If your organization can make a specific claim that it can defend in terms of its mission — e.g., being focused on K through 12 education reform, rather than preschool through college — your message will be clearer, as will your target audience. Your brand is the messenger that telegraphs your message to your audience.
Simmons recommends nonprofits enlist the help of creative and brand consultants because the objectivity of a third party can help them see the brand more clearly.
“[Third parties are] not really subject to any sort of internal politics, any sort of preconceptions of how sophisticated your audience may be,” Simmons says.
A lot of times companies and nonprofits make assumptions that people already know a bit about them, or that their audience has certain political or demographic leanings.