Posts Tagged ‘branding’

Four branding authors agree: Imitation is the sincerest form of fall-flat-tery

Robert Antell and his wife, Marguerite, decided to make a break from the norm in their rural town of Perinton near the Canadian border in New York State. In 1970, the Antells built a home that most would call bizarre and others might call original. Their “Mushroom House” still stands today and is 4,200 square feet of sprouting concrete pods made to look like Queen Anne’s Lace Flower.

Modeling what already exists—in this case nature—is understandably a favorable strategy because, in most cases, it works. There are many forms of architecture that mimic nature beautifully. Depending on your taste, you might say this home is a work of art or a vision gone wrong.

In the case of nonprofits imitating corporate brand management, however, it’s not a matter of esthetics. Four authors agree it simply doesn’t work. Why? Allow me to excerpt each of their views.

Nonprofit life shouldn’t imitate the art of corporate branding

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand

First, author Jeff Brooks in The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand says, “Simply applying the principles of commercial branding to nonprofit fundraising is exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s the cause of most branding accidents.” He further explains commercial branding does not work for nonprofit
organizations because it focuses on abstract ideals of products or services. Nonprofits need to show clear, emotional images to motivate and connect with their donors. There are warning signs that your brand is too commercialized and doesn’t focus on the donor: the work is not grounded in donor behavior; the brand describes your organization in a symbolic way rather than in a clear fashion that moves donors to act; or the brand is design and little else.

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity

Second, The Brand IDEA by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel argues today’s brands must uphold mission impact by building trust, cohesion, capacity and impact, not necessarily qualities for which corporate brands strive. Kylander and Stenzel’s book is the result of more than two years of research and collaborative effort, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, to examine the role of brands in the nonprofit sector and recognize that nonprofits are over-relying on corporate sector practices to oversee their brands.

The coauthors’ acronym, “IDEA,” further gives us insight into honoring the truly nonprofit brand. Integrity (the “I” in IDEA) is the “alignment between the brand identity and image and the mission, values, and strategy of the organization.” Democracy is the “extent to which an organization engages its board, staff, members, participants, volunteers, supporters, and other stakeholders in both defining and communicating the brand identity.” Brand Affinity “represents a mindset and an approach to brand management in which the focus is on shared social impact, rather than on individual internal organizational goals.” Kylander and Stenzel’s brand philosophy further brings to light that corporations often look at alignment between their image and selling a product, whereas the nonprofit brand aims to move a community and achieve social impact.

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Third, author Sarah Durham’s philosophy is built upon branding that is grounded in the nonprofit mission. Specifically, “brandraising” is the process of developing a clear, cohesive organizational identity and communications system that supports raising money and increasing visibility. Additionally, brandraising makes it easier to express your organization’s mission effectively and consistently. Durham claims brandraising is a holistic approach to communications that involves everyone within the organization—board, staff leadership, volunteers, program staff and donors. Brandraising is ultimately measured by how the mission is advanced.

As you read each author’s viewpoint on how a brand must uphold the mission, you may have also noticed these authors agree on the brand’s role as champion of visibility and revenue. Follow other high-performing nonprofits and their pursuit of brands created with a nonprofit lens rather than a corporate one; otherwise, your corporate imitation will be the sincerest form of fall-flat-tery.

See also:

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

Married to the Brand

Marketing Series Volume I: 4 summaries in one bundle

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Reignite your brand management with a new IDEA

Using your brand as a fundraising and marketing tool is becoming outdated. Your brand must embody your mission, requiring everyone associated with your organization to participate in brand management. How do you manage today’s brand?

With the I-DE-A framework.
Julia Shepard Stenzel and Nathalie Laidler-Kylander inThe Brand IDEA give you a framework to revolutionize your brand, increase your brand’s impact and collectively manage it.

The IDEA framework:

I – Integrity:
Does your brand align with your mission and core values?
Does your brand identity (internal) align with your image (external)?
DE – Democracy
Do you engage all your stakeholders in defining and communicating your brand identity?
A – Affinity

Does your brand allow you to collaborate and extend your sphere of influence to maximize your impact?

Join us!

Join CausePlanet founder and publisher Denise McMahan for a lively discussion with the creators of the IDEA framework, and we’ll explore how to apply this innovative lens when making critical brand decisions that affect your mission.

Subscribers, log in and register here.

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Where do most boards fail when managing their brand?

In many of the organizations I’ve worked with in the past, nonprofit leaders viewed their brand management as something that existed in a silo under marketing and quasi-related to their fundraising efforts. In reality, the most high-performing brands are those that are embedded in every aspect of an organization and are rooted in a connection to the mission. Rather than looking for brand management answers in the corporate sector, you can find a useful framework in a new book called The Brand IDEA.

Branding through the nonprofit lens

The Brand IDEA presents a revolutionary framework that acknowledges the interrelated concepts of Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. At first, you might be asking how these lofty notions relate to the business of promoting your brand. After a closer look, you’ll realize how The Brand IDEA authors, Kylander and Stenzel, have created a way to cultivate your brand in a manner that’s compatible with your nonprofit.

Put “IDEA” to work for you

The authors of The Brand IDEA have created a branding framework that is founded in three principles—Integrity, Democracy and Affinity—that produce the acronym I-DE-A. This framework is both a diagnostic tool for determining whether an organization is managing its brand effectively and a prescriptive model to guide organizations in their brand management efforts. The IDEA method helps you identify potential problems with your brand, clarify your organization’s core strategy and determine whether rebranding is necessary.

“We believe The Brand IDEA fills a critical need, providing a useful framework that is focused specifically on managing nonprofit brands. Our framework is based on what a number of cutting-edge nonprofit organizations are currently doing and it has resonated strongly with many people in the sector. During our [book] interviews, we learned how the terms of Integrity, Democracy and Affinity gave people a new language to talk about brands and provided an “on-ramp” to a new way of managing brands,” explain coauthors Kylander and Stenzel.

Where do we fail?

This week, I wanted to share two of our interview questions that touch on Kylander and Stenzel’s answer to why most nonprofits fail as well as how to broach the branding topic with your board. Let’s read on about how the coauthors address these two topics:

CausePlanet: Where do most nonprofits fail when trying to manage a brand effectively?

Kylander and Stenzel: Many nonprofits fail from the outset because they do not grasp the importance of their brands in driving their missions and they fail to see the value of proactively managing their brands. In nonprofits, the brand plays important roles both internally and externally in building cohesion and trust and generating capacity and impact. You have a brand whether you manage it or not. The first step is to view the brand as a strategic asset for implementing your mission. When individuals are stuck in the old paradigm where they see the brand only as a tool for fundraising or are skeptical about the role of the brand in nonprofits, they are not able to be effective in managing the brand to achieve the organization’s desired impact.

What should your board know about brand management?

CausePlanet: What rationale might you give a board that questions the resources (time, treasure or talent) necessary to manage a brand effectively?

Kylander and Stenzel: Brand management is less about the use of financial resources and more about embracing a brand mindset throughout the organization. If you understand the brand as the embodiment of the mission, a strategic asset that enables you to increase your organization’s impact, then the brand and brand management become part of everyone’s job. Brand Democracy suggests that organizations do have to spend time and effort including all stakeholders in the articulation and communication of the brand, but the result is not only much greater organizational cohesion but also a greater number of brand ambassadors. Many individuals spoke to us about how their brand acted like a “north star” for the organization or “the lines in the road.” When you have an effective brand, it facilitates decision making and can help clarify what programs, partnerships and people best fit the organization. It also allows nonprofits to reduce the amount of control needed to manage the brand. Organizations that have invested time in building brand Integrity, Democracy and Affinity have been able to subsequently build capacity and increase their impact.

Kylander and Stenzel have created a useful methodology by which we can effectively manage our brands while simultaneously acknowledging that we run mission-driven organizations. Ask yourself if your brand is embedded in every aspect of your organization and does it reflect the mission?  Consider Kylander and Stenzel’s I-DE-A framework and investigate whether your brand is bolstered Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. Consider reading The Brand IDEA to explore how high-performing nonprofits use their brand as a north star when making decisions.

See also:


Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide

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Brand management: sector trends shape new practices

“You have a brand whether you like it or not. Really the only choice you have is how actively you want to shape and manage that brand,” says Ingrid Srinath, executive director of Childline India.

Coauthors Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel share this quotation by Ingrid Srinath in their book because they identify with her passion and conviction for proactively managing your brand.

Last week we featured a revolutionary approach to branding, which Kylander and Stenzel present in their new book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. The authors argue that the nonprofit world is changing and so must our notions surrounding brand management.

We can no longer simply borrow corporate prescriptions for overseeing our positional growth. Instead, we must adopt a framework that is both a guidepost for decision making and a test for relevancy. Integrity, Democracy and Affinity (I-DE-A) are mutually supportive terms contained in the authors’ framework and serve as the foundational concepts you can live by and depend on for organizational collaboration and expansion.

We asked Nathalie and Julia about the paradigm shift they account for in brand management as well as the most critical concept within the brand IDEA framework. Join us for the answers.

CausePlanet: We like your approach to brand management and how the framework addresses a paradigm shift. Will you please explain how the IDEA framework accommodates this shift?

Kylander and Stenzel: The Brand IDEA framework builds on the paradigm shift we have been seeing in the nonprofit sector. The framework as a whole is about effectively managing your brand to drive your desired social impact. This is a central idea in the paradigm shift, where we see the role of the brand moving from being focused on fundraising to a much broader and more strategic focus on mission impact.

The new paradigm sees the brand not as a logo, but as the embodiment of the organization’s mission and values. This is captured in the concept of brand Integrity, which includes aligning the brand with the organization’s mission and values.

Communications are no longer one-way projections of a specific image focused on donors but are about participative engagement. This is captured in our concept of brand Democracy, which actively engages internal and external stakeholders in articulating and communicating the brand.

The positioning of the brand is not to gain competitive advantage, but to achieve greater clarity and effective partnerships. This corresponds to the concept of brand Affinity, which includes leveraging your brand to identify and attract partnerships and collaborations to achieve shared goals and increase your impact.

CausePlanet: While you acknowledge the IDEA concepts are mutually supportive, which of them is most critical?

Kylander and Stenzel: Brand Integrity and brand Democracy are closely intertwined and we believe these are the most critical and the best starting points for effectively managing your nonprofit brand. The participatory process of brand Democracy is essential in creating brand Integrity. The process of achieving Integrity, or the alignment of the brand with your mission and values and the alignment of internal identity and external image, helps in turn with implementing brand Democracy. Specifically, having this alignment allows you to empower brand ambassadors by letting go of strict brand controls and providing guidelines and templates for wide use. Brand Affinity is about using your aligned brand to support partnerships and collaborations. Increasingly, nonprofits are recognizing their social objectives cannot be achieved alone. Using your brand to support shared goals can substantially increase the impact of your organization. Once you have a strong brand identity with an aligned image, which you have built through a process of brand Democracy, you can then use this brand to drive key partnerships and collaborations to achieve greater impact.

See also:

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money through Smart Communications



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Living the brand means rethinking the business model

Co-creation of brands

A brand is much more than a logo, tagline or key message. It is an authentic expression of a nonprofit’s promise to the world. Branding experts agree our organizations alone don’t control our brands. Brands are co-created with our stakeholders–-our audiences, volunteers, board members, funders, partners and service recipients. One’s perception of The Red Cross, for example, is informed by what it communicates directly, but also what our friends, family and social network say, as well as our own experiences. Those impressions ultimately create a collective consciousness of the brand itself. Our impressions of a brand and the authentic manifestation of that brand promise in the world influence how we engage with that nonprofit as donors and ambassadors.

Brand + business model

How can we more effectively engage stakeholders in the mission of a nonprofit? While brand engagement is critical to consider, we must think beyond the marketing function alone. It is time to fully imbed our brand promise in the way we do business day in and day out, which necessitates new thinking about business model design. At the core, we are talking about operating in new and different ways.

Value creation in your business model

A well-designed business model creates and captures value. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Fueled by the interests of our stakeholders, we can leverage organization-driven and user-driven experiences to inform, engage and influence opinions and actions. Data-driven strategies and tools can improve marketing, fundraising and volunteer engagement. The trick is not solely beginning and ending there. It is time to intentionally design your nonprofit’s business model to add value to your key stakeholders on a regular basis, recognizing the unique and overlapping needs of each group. By keeping an eye on value creation–-from the point of view of your stakeholders–you will capture more value within your nonprofit in the form of financial support and active ambassadorship for your cause.

So, where to start?

1.       Begin with clarity of brand promise.

2.       Design your business model to activate the brand promise.

3.       Use data to refine and reevaluate along the way.

4.       Keep an eye on creating and capturing value via a scorecard that tracks key metrics.

Three-component business model

The case studies profiled in Rippling by Beverly Schwartz and Forces for Good by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant evoke a three-component business model, one that is designed to maximize 1) programs and services, 2) financial resources and 3) community engagement. It’s no longer sufficient to merely consider what you offer and how you fund operations. As the growing recognition of the importance of nonprofit brand suggests, a well-designed business model creates and captures value through imbedded approaches aligned with brand.

See also:


Forces for Good

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results


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Building a social purpose brand: the new nonprofit imperative

If the 2000′s was the decade of “why,” 2012 and beyond will be about social purpose and creating a clear value proposition for your nonprofit organization. How do you create this and engage your stakeholders in your social purpose and the value you create for society? It starts with discovering and expressing your organization’s higher purpose and focusing on outcomes, not activities!

Organizations that stand for a clear and inspiring social purpose and bring commitments to life through outcome-driven action will deepen relationships, foster loyalty, build sustainable organizations and achieve positive social change.

To infuse asocial purpose into your organization, define and demonstrate a three-dimensional brand value proposition:

  • Head: Articulate your leadership position–Identify what your organization stands for—the unique, differentiated idea that sets it apart and explains what the organization does better than others.
  • Heart: Express your social purpose–Forge an emotional and personal connection with your core stakeholders. Elevate your leadership position to a higher purpose with specific outcomes—something bigger than organizational activities, something your constituents care about and believe in.
  • Hands: Rally your community–Use your social purpose to create a sense of community–inside and outside of the organization–to rally and inspire action. Unite people around shared commitments, values and interests that add meaning to their lives and help change our communities and the world for the better.

This new approach requires a profound shift in philosophy. It calls for a deep commitment to ensuring that what your organization stands for–its social purpose–is communicated and lived through every stakeholder interaction. This is a shift from:

Standing for everything to articulating a clear purpose: In an effort to satisfy multiple stakeholders, nonprofits often try to be everything to everyone. To truly break through, a nonprofit finds and expresses what it stands for–its higher social purpose. It uses that bigger purpose to tell an enduring story that helps unify its actions from year to year.

Reporting activities to demonstrating outcomes: There is an old saying that states, activities tell and benefits sell. Rather than just reporting on activities, a BNB (Breakthrough Nonprofit Brand) focuses its communications on the benefits and outcomes that deliver value. By issuing compelling, personally relevant offers, a breakthrough organization makes association with its brand a top choice over all other alternatives.

Undertaking transactions to building relationships: Traditionally, nonprofits emphasize annual numbers and dollars raised. An organization that invests in and rewards staff for building long-term relationships will break through. It takes the time to engage in a meaningful dialogue with donors. This ongoing conversation helps illuminate what the organization means to its supporters and what their involvement says about them to others. It creates a true community of believers.

Being well-known to being well-owned: Being better-known does not equate to being better-understood or valued. A breakthrough organization appreciates the importance of awareness and fundraising but spends just as much time engaging internal and external communities in the higher purpose. It believes in the power of many and meaningfully engages a critical mass of people in its cause. Inclusive, not exclusive, it creates owner-based relationships with constituents and encourages creative engagement. By empowering an army of supporters who call the organization their own, it causes people to take another look and creates waves of new recruits eager to commit to the cause.

Moving from organizational silos to integration: A high performance nonprofit uses its clear social purpose as the force behind everything the organization does, making it the central management preoccupation for the CEO, board, executive team and all staff and volunteers. It is at the heart of governance, operations and mission achievement. A concerted effort is made to break down internal silos and bring the organization together around the social purpose for operational effectiveness.

With the leadership of the CEO and senior management, a social purpose brand can become the catalyst for continual self-assessment and innovation. It is a must-do to create a unique organizational identity infused with passion and trust. Forward-looking senior leaders ensure this brand-centric philosophy is embraced by the whole organization. They leverage the brand to strengthen donor loyalty, recruit top executives, rally staff members, meaningfully engage volunteers, drive diversified funding streams and ultimately, make a greater social impact.

A powerful social purpose brand conveys the organization’s focus, credibility and unique contributions. In today’s environment, it is critical to focus on ways to stand out and win head, heart and hands. This approach maximizes trust, forges stronger relationships and secures a continuous flow of resources to fulfill critical mission objectives. Social purpose branding is the new nonprofit imperative.

See also:


Cause Marketing for Nonprofits

Married to the Brand

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Three branding experts agree

What do you get when you mix the expertise of Brandraising author, Sarah Durham, and Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding co-authors, Jocelyne Daw and Carol Cone? You have a wonderful blend of advice that’s caffeinated with a triple shot of branding smarts.

When two books we’ve featured at CausePlanet converge on the same topic, I can’t help but highlight where thought leaders intersect. It’s like having two consultants in the room agree on how to give your communications a jumpstart (or espresso shot). What a luxury! Here are only a few of the many author intersections I discovered:

Developing a strong brand requires everyone playing caretaker

BRANDRAISING: “Brandraising, like barn raising, involves everyone in your nonprofit’s community—board members and staff leaders, volunteers, program staff, and perhaps donors and funders. Everyone plays a role in the development of effective communications,” says Durham.

BREAKTHROUGH BRANDING: Breakthrough nonprofit brands (BNBs) represent a shift from organizational silos to integration: Traditional organizations ask their marketing teams or individuals to perpetuate the brand. Because a BNB views itself as synonymous with the organization itself, care for the brand belongs to everyone.

Exceptional brands convey your mission, vision, and values as well as your identity or personality

BRANDRAISING: Durham explains that her model starts with the organizational level and makes up the top seven elements of the brandraising pyramid, because they direct all aspects of the organization’s work. These elements are the vision, mission, values, objectives, audiences, positioning and personality. Your organization’s personality is a reflection of both what your organization is and how you want your organization to be perceived.

BREAKTHROUGH BRANDING: Discover the authentic meaning of your brand. Vision, mission and values should rarely change, but operating principles and practices must constantly evolve, says Daw. A brand is the bridge between a nonprofit’s unwavering mission and its evolving strategies. It’s the embodiment of the focused, compelling idea at the heart of the organization’s identity. Articulating what a brand stands for enables it to connect with constituents’ core values.

View branding as a strategic investment that impacts all aspects of the organization

BRANDRAISING: Just like businesses analyze the return on their investment in marketing, nonprofits can begin to measure how the mission is advanced by brandraising. Durham further emphasizes the importance of strategically branding with the long view and how this position can empower nonprofit leaders to act with planning and agility versus react with costly short view decisions.

BREAKTHROUGH BRANDING: BNBs represent a shift from viewing branding as a cost to a strategic investment: BNBs of all sizes know that branding is one of the most cost-effective, sustainable ways to strengthen and sustain any organization. Smart branding is about strategy, not costly ad campaigns.

If you want to read about more convergences from the Page to Practice™ book summary of Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications, by Sarah Durham, and Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Seven Principles to Power Extraordinary Results by Jocelyne Daw and Carol Cone, subscribe to the summary library, visit the summary store or visit to order these terrific books.

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