Sunday, March 23, 2008

Buliding Your Brand

Unfortunately, I've found over the years that most of the non-profits I work with don't think too much about their own brand. Most are too focused on the day-to-day tasks associated with their agencies to worry about whether their organization's brand is where it should be. Branding, they assume, is for people that sell things - not people that are trying to make the world a better place.

In my experience, the opposite is true. Your organization's brand is your only asset. It's the only thing that matters. Without a strong brand, non-profits have nothing else to offer. Your brand is the only reason for anyone to ever donate money or time or effort to your cause. Without a strong brand – one that effectively communicates what your organization does and why it does it – there's simply no point.

This is an opportunity to take a lesson from the for-profit sector. As tastes, norms and expectations shift, companies are scrambling to find ways to keep up with their own consumers. Marketers and brand managers are gravitating to a new definition of brand. Paul Isakson over at Space150 has recently offered this definition of brand in a recent presentation:
Brand = What people say, feel, or think about your product, service or company

The key takeaway from his presentation is that your brand is earned by making your audience's life better. For-profit companies do this by creating products that make people's lives more efficient, or more fun. Non-profit organizations can do this by making people's lives richer, more rewarding, and more connected.

It seems like an obvious idea, but don't make the mistake of taking it for granted. It requires that your organization examine the entire experience of being a donor, a supporter, or a recipient of your services. Is the donation experience simple and straightforward? Is the impact of each donation clearly explained? Is the community created by your organization's services able to connect to one another?

Does each person who interacts with your organization leave with a clear sense of brand? To find out, take the time to draw a map of each experience noted above. If it's not ideal, what steps are needed to make it better? And is there really anything more important your organization should be doing right now?