Branding Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid
Most nonprofits understand the necessity of having a strong brand. It’s knowing how to create a strong brand that’s the hard part. Quite a few sessions at the Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C. last week focused on the topic of branding and proved that a little guidance can go a long way.
In her session, “Brand and Loyalty Marketing: A Creative Approach,” Catherine M. Shaw, president of branding agency Mediastudio, reviewed the following three branding best practices that organizations can put to use to create a more effective branding strategy.
Best practice No. 1: Employ multi-faceted brand strategies. Shaw said many groups use a three-pronged approach that includes:
* 1. Research, in which they focus on segments of donors and how they behave.
* 2. Tell and sell, in which they craft messages for segments; and
* 3. Deliver excellence, where they focus on a few key brand dimensions and then over-deliver.
Best practice No. 2: Interim positioning. Organizations can use an interim brand position when moving to a new brand. Shaw recommended considering the limits of the current brand when developing a strategy to use an interim brand position.
Best practice No. 3: Stepping aside from the competition by redefining the playing field. Branding tactics help break cycles of donor habits, and subtle brand elements can help an organization net three to four times the revenue of its nearest competitors.
Shaw says mission-based organizations should use corporate branding methods that focus brand resources on opinion leaders, harness consistent messaging and branding tactics to boost donor relationships, and leverage brand power to establish partnerships with commercial entities.
Associations find success segmenting recruitment audiences with diversified messaging under one brand umbrella, renaming and re-branding to build a better connection with core audiences, and keeping identity and messaging consistent.
Shaw also identified the following six common branding mistakes that snare nonprofits:
1. Allowing your brand to stagnate. Are you ignoring its management?
2. Misalignment. This is when an organization’s offering doesn’t deliver on its brand promise or is mis-targeted.
3. Misunderstanding of branding. You can’t have a great brand if you don’t understand what branding is.
4. Not asking for help when you need it. Hire a consultant, agency or studio if you’re having trouble.
5. Never evolving. Without research and change, an organization’s brand will become outdated, no matter how hard it works on it. Even big, very established brands evolve in time.
6. Dismissing branding. This is the belief that an organization is good enough as is and doesn’t need branding.
To avoid or fix these branding mistakes, Shaw recommended the following tips:
1. Boost campaign or audience effectiveness. Ask yourself: What are the key strategic elements that our brand will achieve in X amount of time? Can our clients communicate our key differences from other organizations similar to ours to other people? Can our employees do any better? Think about your brand and then think about your outreach efforts and other tactics. Are they aligned?
2. Achieve economic success. Does each fiscal decision the CFO makes align with your organization’s purpose? Complicated messages are expensive to brand. If you are a high-end organization, do you have the funding to support that? If there is a discrepancy here, consider revising your brand presentation so you aren’t forced to spend extra money to keep up appearances.
3. Perfect the art of simplicity to avoid others asking if your brand makes sense. If you, your staff or your donors can’t explain your brand easily or quickly, revisit it. Practice your elevator speech. Make it strong. Consistency of brand helps define; frequency helps people remember.
Creating loyalty among constituents has a lot to do with the effectiveness of an organization’s brand, but also is about rewarding people for supporting your cause. Shaw said that creating loyalty with donors can be achieved by brand recognition, financial/in-kind rewards, discounts/special treatment and excellent service.
The bottom line is that different audiences respond in different ways to a brand. Shaw recommended organizations consider how clients, collaborators, vendors, employees and donors each react to the brand.
“Each is loyal in a different way,” she said. “Craft your loyalty tactics to take advantage of the differences in these audiences, and watch your retention and loyalty grow.”