As experiences like New Coke have shown, branding exercises can easily spiral into unmitigated disasters. Hard enough to take if you're a globe-striding corporation; but if you're a small unit just starting out it can be a disaster. However, there is one type of 'business' that nearly always seems to excel at branding: non-profits.
The number of charities that have lodged themselves in the national consciousness is enormous. Cancer Research, Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Barnardos, Oxfam, RSPCA, NSPCC, Amnesty International, Shelter, Greenpeace the list is huge, and each one is instantly identifiable to millions of people who know exactly what it does and why it does it. In other words they are a branding success and it's time commercial brands started taking notice.
The reasons non-profits succeed in delivering their messages are myriad, but today we are going to focus on five main points and these are all things any brand can learn from, so take note:
Focus – Charities always have a specific goal in mind. Businesses don't always have this goal and that can translate to an ill-defined brand image. Take Cancer Research for example, the focus is to beat cancer sooner. On the Cancer Research website the branding is clear with a message saying "Let's beat cancer sooner" and their calls to action through the focus is clear "Do something amazing" and this is when you can progress on to donate and help. On an interactive level, Cancer Research UK uses video interaction well to digital expand their awareness. Check out the TV advert video below by CRUK and just look at and read the messaging within it – the focus is clear yet again "beat cancer sooner" and written as a hash tag in order for people to remember and interactively tweet this. The call to action is also evident at the end of the TV advert – donate today.
Strategy – Notice how, whenever a charity launches a big campaign, the public tends to remember who is behind it? That's because charities always have extremely detailed communications strategies that allow them to follow up a campaign relentlessly. Too often this is missing in the business world, where flashy adverts go out and garner attention but are forgotten about two days later. I personally feel it is much better to involve the human factor in branding and marketing.
Connection – Charities rely on repeat business perhaps more than any other industry but this is referred to as repeat funding or donations for non-profits. Non-profit marketers are extremely adept at building a long-lasting relationship with their clients and the people, making them feel a part of the brand because of the evident support, care and love that is given back. I cannot think of a large business that does this as well as non-profits and relates as well as this through connection. However, you can always humanise your business better to follow these non-profit principles:
1- Start from the inside out. Enlighten your audience with what your internal people are passion or supportive about. Show the raw emotion and the beliefs of your workers and this may reflect well on your brand. Get interactive, create video snippets of interviews with them and ask them in the video why do you work for us and share this!
2- Use social media in the right way by not broadcasting entertainment or over hash tagging but by creating useful discussions. Here you need to remember to listen, watch and learn – engaging better with the humans.
Social Responsibility – Non-profits are generally respected by the public because they nearly always put others first and have a strong social conscience. Businesses are viewed with mistrust for the exact opposite reason. Building a core ethos of sustainability or social responsibility into a brand can make a tremendous difference to how you are perceived.
Efficiency – A useful tip here, non-profits are excellent at getting maximum efficiency from their spending and are often light years ahead of their business counterparts in this respect. Think about streamlining your budget and finding ways to extract efficiency from your department.
Ones to Watch
As a piece of branding, the video below hits nearly all of our five points. It's on target; it calls to action while building a rapport with supporters and, most of all, it exudes a sense of social responsibility. Now, as a business you may not be able to make something quite so heart-warming, but the important lessons are all there. It's a big message that grabs the audience's attention in a unique way, while making use of interactive media to do so. Looking to say thank you? Well here is how you do just that:
So, what future is there for charity-inspired interactive branding in business? As seen above, we clearly have a lot to learn from the non-profit sector, and there's no denying that interactive content is popular with consumers.
Jenny Beswick has experience in brand and campaign management. Jenny feels it is important to learn from non-profits and to expose your human side in business as well as in life, and encourages you to do so.