Branding: The next and final frontier
The New Lexicon of Fundraising Part 8
“Love is friendship caught on fire.” Northern Exposure
One of the core lessons of leadership and management is that people can only take so much change. So, on the basis that we have come to the last of an eight-part blog series to define a new lexicon for fundraising, I want to end with one final major challenge as we move into 2014, the reinvention, reinvigoration and redefinition of what we call branding.
Every charity I have ever worked with has invested time and resources in branding, rebranding or refocusing the brand, the challenge with all of this is the understanding of branding in the not-for-profit sector and what drivers the charity has behind wanting to put energy into the brand. This is a key area where silo structures and internal divisions come to the fore, as fundraising is very rarely the department or discipline that leads on branding. We entrust this to the communications team and have to fall into line with their view of what branding is and how it can work for a charity. However, in my view, fundraising is the central stakeholder in brand development as, to be successful, we have to interface with the public, our supporters and the other groups to which a charity links.
Consider this ‘yesterday the most successful charities were those that donors knew best; today the most successful charities are those that know their donors best’. So the future is not about awareness or, heaven forbid, advertising, it is about connections and inspirations. Smart charities know that they have to build relevance and meaning to their missions and visions. If we accept that donors support charities that express their values and beliefs, then we have to think that a charity’s brand is the framework that attracts, connects and delights a donor. I have long believed that branding for charities is about share of heart and share of mind, in that order. Strong charity brands allow a person to belong to something that is greater than themself and feel a level of significance in the support they give.
In commercial branding people relate to companies or products that they feel express themselves, that they are comfortable with, have a connection with or ones that they simply love. People choose brands based on who they are or who they want to be; Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi Saatchi Worldwide began describing branding ten years ago as ‘Lovemarks’, a wonderful way to bring the ultimate human feeling of love into the business world. He argues passionately that Lovemarks are brands that develop loyalty beyond reason. “The idealism of love is the new realism of business. By building respect and inspiring love, business can move the world.” While this is central to the success of Apple, Harley Davidson, Sony and many other companies, surely this is the ultimate goal for charities.
We live in a world of extreme choice and people are now firmly in control of what they want, what they like and to what they relate. You could almost say there is too much choice. There are 163,000 charities in England and Wales and 1.1 million in the USA and the majority of them all want money, time and loyalty. Our ‘cut through’ into this busy market place is to invest fresh thinking into our brands, to build brands that help supporters create meaning for themselves in the crazy world that they live in. Branding for charities is not about how we look, what we say or our overall identity, it is the collective of everything we do to help people notice us, embrace us and to love us. I also like the idea that central to love is trust and the promises you make. So, what are you doing to build trust and what promises are you making to build differentiation and make sure you are the preferred partner to bring a particular change to the community or world?
Jeff Bezos famously said “your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”, a great insight for charities when you consider that word-of-mouth marketing is now central to future growth. In the New Lexicon of Fundraising, ‘branding’ is the only word that should remain the same; but we need to change the way we view the meaning and significance of this word going forward.
 Kevin Roberts
THE NEW LEXICON OF FUNDRAISING