You’re Not Nike — Get Over It
This problem is built in to the very structure of corporate branding, which is about making (and, one would hope, keeping) compelling promises about products and services. There are two kinds of corporate brands:
● The old kind. Its message is, "Buy our stuff because we are great." This used to work when there were few choices and people were less cynical. When you had two kinds of soup to choose from, of course you bought the one that was made by the company you thought was the better one.
Here's why it doesn't work
With either, the customer ends up having direct experience with the product. He always gets the chance to decide whether it lived up to the promise.
If you pay Apple, you'll get an iPhone. You'll use that iPhone and quickly know whether your money was well-spent or not. When the brand and product are both good and well-aligned, the customer turns into a fan. When the promise isn't kept, the customer typically stops being a customer.
But the whole thing falls apart when you apply that logic to a nonprofit.
Here's why: When you hand your money over to a nonprofit, you get nothing tangible in return. There's no iPhone to play with. You simply have no way of knowing whether the brand kept its promise. Since you have nothing in your hand, you are bound to have a sense that the nonprofit brand didn't keep the promise.
The only proof a nonprofit has to offer is information — stories. Stories are nice. They're critical for building relationships with donors. But when you get right down to it, stories are to direct experience what product reviews are to owning a product. Even the best story fails to help a donor experience a fulfilled brand promise.