Tue, October 01 2013
Filed under: Branding •
In Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits, branding and design maven Debbie Millman rounds up thoughts on brands, culture, and marketing from smart folks such as Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, and Virginia Postrel. This collection of interviews is a fascinating read for anyone who is in the business of communication and sharing ideas. Two key qualities of brands appear throughout these conversations between Millman and friends. These two qualities can help you focus your fundraising and marketing to clearly communicate your nonprofit’s unique viewpoint to donors and potential supporters.
Your nonprofit’s brand is much more than your visual identity or carefully crafted slogans. The way your organization portrays itself to the world happens at a deeper level. The passion that fuels your mission, the people on the front lines, and the stories of those you serve— these are more powerful representations of who you are and what you do. Interestingly enough, your brand’s identity can take on a more personal meaning for your audience. When they become donors or volunteers for your cause, supporters take pride in owning the qualities of your organization and make it part of their identity, too.
Questions to consider: How is your nonprofit’s true identity portrayed? Is it different than the one you’re publishing in your marketing material? How would supporters of your organization identify themselves as part of your tribe?
Brands can explicitly or implicitly offer promises to their audience—in most cases they do both (whether intended or not). Beyond the explicit promises you make to your donors in your fundraising appeals or in your annual report (we are good stewards of your gift, we will use 90% of funds for program activities), your nonprofit’s brand becomes a promise in itself, implying certain values each time someone encounters your organization. This is why your work to maintain trust and transparency with your donors is vital. Of course when you’re making promises, it’s important to keep them! It’s extremely difficult for an organization to rebound from broken promises in the eyes of their fans.
Questions to consider: What promises are you making to your community of supporters? What promise does your brand convey? Do these match what your donors would say?
Thu, August 22 2013
In Ctrl Alt Delete Mitch Joel issues a wake-up call for those that may find themselves lost in a rapidly evolving landscape of technology, media, and marketing. Joel, president of the digital marketing agency Twist Image, offers sharp insights on how these changes affect the way we learn, shop, communicate, and work. It’s an important reality check for nonprofit marketers because these factors directly affect how supporters and partners will interact with your cause. Organizations that understand and adapt to these new opportunities will thrive, while those who resist will find themselves struggling to connect with donors in the years to come.
The book starts off with one of the most critical lessons for any marketer, especially those working in the nonprofit sector: embracing the shift toward more direct relationships with your consumers (donors), is no longer optional. People now have more access to information about your nonprofit, your impact, and *you* than ever before. Organizations and supporters are at each other’s fingertips, so it’s impossible (and unwise) to avoid direct contact with those who are interested in your work. Online or off, focus on creating and building relationships to succeed in raising money, spreading your message, and serving your cause. By the way, these relationships should be the two-way street kind. If you’re only broadcasting messages focused on your organization’s needs, you may need a reboot.
Here are four tactics Mitch Joel recommends for building those direct relationships, and what they mean for your nonprofit.
1) Deliver value.
Stand out and earn loyalty by first providing value to your supporters. Of course, you’re doing great work for the people and communities you serve, but if you’re not building long-term relationships with potential supporters, you’re missing out on a bigger opportunity. How do you do this? Start by focusing more on providing valuable resources to the people you’re trying to reach, instead of only talking about your needs.
2) Be open.
You can’t build meaningful relationships without trust and transparency. This is paramount for nonprofits. Donors won’t fork over their hard-earned cash to support your cause if they aren’t sure where the money goes. Show that you are an organization they can trust by being open about how your organization is run and how you use donated funds. Welcome questions and be upfront and honest if you make a mistake. Hiding in the shadows only makes people nervous, which is not a great relationship-building vibe.
3) Be clear and consistent.
Do donors know what they can expect from your nonprofit? Can they count on you for all the right reasons? Review your organization’s outreach to make sure you’re saying what you think you’re saying. Consistency also includes communicating with your donors on a regular basis to help them feel involved in your work. This means not waiting to reach out to supporters when you’re looking for gifts in December.
4) Focus on fans.
Joel says, “The majority of people do not want to friend or like your brand. They use their social graphs for friends, family, and those they made fun of in high school.” Ouch! My guess is that many nonprofits may have it a little easier than most corporate brands, but it’s important to remember. Rather than working to get as many “Likes” as possible, focus instead on providing value through your social media content and focus on your truly passionate superfans. Put these champions to work spreading the message about what you do and why it matters.
Of course, these suggestions are just the tip of the reboot iceberg. Ctrl Alt Delete delivers plenty of juicy nuggets for all marketers to heed. What aspect of your outreach or fundraising strategy would you like to reboot?
Tue, May 07 2013
Filed under: Branding •
Yesterday, I talked about brand reinvention. Today I want to talk about brand storytelling.
The biggest mistake people make in brand storytelling is they forget the party shaping your brand story is the person experiencing the brand - and not your marketing department. That’s why this cartoon is so apt.
Bad brand storytelling is:
1. Simply stating a vision or mission statement
2. Spewing jargon that describes what you do - rather than why it matters to someone else
3. Not interesting
Good brand storytelling is telling stories that emotionally plunge your audience right in the middle of your cause and stir them with your value to others. It has a heartbeat.
Here’s how it’s done.
Mon, May 06 2013
Filed under: Branding •
How can people or nonprofits reinvent their brands? What does it take to remake who we are and how we’re perceived?
I’ve been thinking about these questions since having lunch couple of weeks ago with Dorie Clark, a stellar marketing strategist. Clark graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Smith College at age 18 and hasn’t slowed down since. In addition to consulting and teaching, she writes for Forbes and Harvard Business Review and has a new book on personal branding called Reinventing You. (I finished my review copy this weekend and recommend it to those at a crossroads.)
As a branding expert, Clark has many interesting things to say about people and organizations who seek to fundamentally redefine what they stand for in the minds of others. I wanted to share four lessons I’ve learned from her, along with my own thoughts, here.
1. You have to start with the cold, hard truth of where you stand now. If you have a desire to rebrand yourself - or your nonprofit - you have to start with how you’re perceived in the present. Because a brand is not what you wish you were - it’s how other people perceive you right now. There may be a big delta between what you think you’re projecting or dream of being and how other people see you. In fact, there most certainly is. For individuals, Clark has suggests interviews and focus groups on you that shed light on strengths, weaknesses, and your current brand. Nonprofits can glean much by exercising the same kinds of listening skills. While you won’t hear everything you want, you will collect insights and positive qualities that give you a foundation on which to build - and ideas about how you should evolve.
2. Puffed up PR doesn’t reinvent anything. Shortcuts to closing the delta between an existing and desired brand don’t work. A new logo, inauthentic self promotion or trumped-up taglines can’t revolutionize your place in a market. There has to be substance to your efforts, and true reinvention is hard work. As Clark writes in her book, it might mean a person has to get training, make a host of new connections and develop a set of new skills to make change possible. A nonprofit may need a better strategy, a different approach to its donors or a drastic improvement in service. Which brings me to the fact that…
3. Real reinvention starts with showing your value to others. If you really want to rebrand, you have to solve a problem or address a true need of someone else. What you do for others, not what you say, is your real brand. I believe this is the single biggest factor of success for a person in a job or a company in a marketplace. People from Michael Milken to Al Franken have reinvented themselves by making a difference for years through research or public service respectively—as have brands like Harley-Davidson and Apple by focusing on giving people great product experiences. There was more than a change in words - there was a change in actions as well. And not just once but over time.
4. The reinvention story has to make sense - and tell the truth. You can stumble if you can’t create a narrative that helps people understand how a person - or a company - changed direction. People make sharp turns in their lives and so do companies. These shifts can be understood if they make intuitive sense and seem authentic. Clark talks about how people can go from one career to another successfully if they tell a story that builds a mental bridge between the two. The same is true for nonprofits. Provide a rationale for the transition, notes Clark, while showing you remain true to yourself. Then believe in the “new” you so others will as well. I’d add that if you’re rebranding your nonprofit, the same holds true. You need to make sure everyone who works with you believes you’ve become something new - and special - so they are united partners in the process of reintroducing yourself to donors and those you serve.
True reinvention is not easy - but for most people and organizations, it is necessary to do. As C.S. Lewis said, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
We have to hatch - and hatch again. That means doing the hard and thoughtful work of creation and re-creation - and doing it right. Don’t be afraid to try. Reinvention awaits.
Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.
Mon, December 24 2012
Filed under: Branding •
For my final posts this year, I’m featuring some of my favorite interviews on marketing from my book, Robin Hood Marketing. Today, I quote five laws on branding from my talk with Raphael Bemporad of BBMG.
We’ve found that most successful organizations follow five laws of branding.
1. First is the law of the word. Own a word in the mind of your audience that differentiates your organization from all others. It must be a clear, simple word that no one else owns.
2. Second is the law of focus. The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope. Identify the one thing you do better than anyone else, and focus your brand on that unique value proposition.
3. Third is the law of leadership. Successful organizations are perceived as being the leaders at what they do. How can your organization be the first to develop a unique approach or service? What is the category in which you can uniquely claim leadership?
4. Fourth is the law of authenticity. Does your brand truly reflect who you are and what you do? Is it relevant to your clients and the community they you serve? Do you walk your talk? Authenticity is the proof behind your promise.
5. Fifth is the law of consistency. Trends come and go, but brands should stay the same. A brand cannot get into the mind of your audience unless it is communicated clearly and consistently over time.