Brand identity. It’s one of those nebulous phrases that mean so many things to so many different people. For some, it’s a set of creative combined with colours and a typeface. For others it’s a logo. Some see it as a set of values and the ethos of a company. Whatever you feel Brand identity is, it’s everywhere you look. You can’t run and you can’t hide from it.
Brand Identity – What Is It?
In my opinion, brand way more than a logo or a set of creative. For me, a brand embodies a set of ideals, values and the drive, passions and ethos of an organisation. It’s your ‘why’? – the things that make you tick and the drive you have to make a difference in the world. It’s the thing that sets you apart from anyone else. It’s also the main reason why people will volunteer or donate to you rather than another organisation involved in the same field. All the creative does is help you communicate those values and your worldview in a way that is meaningful and engages your audience.
Over the last few years a number of very high profile charities have all undergone a rebrand. A designer I know recently commented that it was a sign that charities “had way too much money” but I think it makes real sense for all charities to have the best brand creative they can afford. Why?
Brand Identity – What Does It Do?
Firstly, a strong brand identity is important for success, enabling you to build a good reputation and stand out from competition. It also helps attract new donors and assist in bringing existing supporters down the funnel of volunteering. A strong brand identity (and the creative that goes alongside it) enables organisations to be front of mind when people think of who you are and what you do.
Notice what I said there – “when people think of who you are”. Brand Identity isn’t about what you do. As humans, we recognise other through a complex range of data – height, hair colour, voice, facial recognition, etc. None of this information tells us what we do but who we are. And so your brand identity needs to communicate those deeper, more personal values. Brand communicates your personality.
Communication is vital for organisations of all shapes and sizes, but even more so for organisations in the not-for-profit or voluntary sector.
There are supporters to thank, engage with and maintain, donors and funding organisations to keep in the loop, volunteers to co-ordinate with, motivate, encourage and inspire and a whole segment of the giving community who don’t yet support you to engage and win over. It’s a daily challenge. Believe me, I know.
Your brand identity is your trust mark. As we’ll cover in other blog posts this year, people give from their heart, not their head. So if someone is going to consider donating to you on an ongoing basis, then they need to be able to trust you, to have the confidence to know that you will spend their money wisely and be held accountable for it. Get your brand identity right and you will build loyalty and trust and grow your supporter and volunteer base.
Brand Identity – The Raw Ingredients
That’s all well and good, but how do you go about creating a strong and dynamic brand identity? In my opinion, there are five core values that any organisation of any size and type can use: Clarity. Consistency. Creativity. Collaboration. . I’ve written separate blogs on these over the so I won’t go into them in huge detail, but let me summarise as I’ll talking about these 5 C’s quote a bit over the next 12 months.
Clarity is all about how clear you are in communicating your values, your ethos, you drive and your why. It’s about how clearly you explain to people what you do, the difference you make and how you spend the money you receive. Having clarity is the first step to great audience engagement. Consistency is simply about establishing trust with your audience by being consistent in your design, your messaging, your tone of voice and the small things that make a big difference. Creativity is just that – be creative in how you think, act and communicate. Follow the path less travelled. Stand out from the crowd – don’t just blindly follow it. Does all your marketing look like it’s been done by the office junior, late on a Friday afternoon using Word and some Clipart? Believe me, I’ve seen just that! Can you up your game to present a more professional and attractive look and feel to your comms stream?
When we work together, we’re stronger. We can learn from each other and exchange insights and information. No organisation can exist in its own bubble so who can you collaborate with to help you grow and thrive this year? Finally, do all your marketing pieces connect together to form a whole picture? Do they present a full view of who you are? If not, maybe it’s time to make sure everything gets, and then stays, connected.
Brand Identity – So What Next?
The final piece of the puzzle in creating a strong, consistent and coherent brand identity is what we call “customer defined positioning”. Basically it means that you need to find out what your supporters really think of you, not what you’d like them to think. It’s not who you say you are that ultimately defines your brand but who your audience says you are. So take some time to find out what your audience think through research and taking time to ask deep questions. If there’s a disconnect you can work to combat any misconceptions or enhance their understanding through clearer and more consistent communication. But if you are on the same wavelength, then congratulations! Keep doing what you’re doing and go for it!
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