RAZOR BRANDING BLOG: The Art of Branding a Cause

The Art of Branding a Cause

Chances are good that you have either donated your time or written a check to help a worthy cause. 

But have you ever truly gotten involved?

Our job, as a branding agency, is to build loyal followers for our clients. When that organization happens to be cause oriented, we work hard to find those who will not just cut a check, but also those who will invest their heart and soul behind the cause. 

Yes, there is often little money involved with not-for-profit agencies, but as Mr. Albert Einstein said, “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”

So how does one build a brand for a not-for-profit organization or a cause, while building a strong base of loyal followers and advocates?

Well, first off, you have to stop thinking of yourselves as a not-for-profit, and start believing that you are, in fact, a business.

I know this sounds harsh, but in today’s world, we have to fight for attention, awareness and money. You have to also understand your competition – and make no mistake, you have competition.

Competition for not-for-profits is growing every day as more and more organizations join the fight to better the world.

While this may be good for society, it is problematic when everyone is dipping into the same pool. Throw in a troubled economy and an audience that appears to have lost faith in charitable organizations, and you have a more than a few challenges to deal with. 

In order to rise above the noise and make your voice heard, you must first identify your audience, and no, your audience is not “everyone with a pulse". You have to seek out those who will connect most with your mission and cause. These core members of your tribe will provide the advocacy that no ad campaign or billboard can provide.

Next, you need to identify your promise – a single point of differentiation, or a difference that can be authentically claimed and delivered. It is, in effect, the essence of the brand itself. If the experience as a whole does not support your promise, then the brand will either suffer, or at best, fail to build loyalty and advocacy. 

Once your promise is established, you need to find your voice and work to “change the conversation.”

Your voice is your identity, or your personality as it is viewed by the world. It establishes a consistent delivery of your message that will resonate with your core audience. Changing the conversation then provides the public with a way to easily understand how your mission can enhance their lives and the lives of those within their community. 

While we cannot mandate how our audience feels, we can influence their behavior – by giving them something to connect on an emotional level with your brand.

There is so much more that goes into building a strong brand, but hopefully this will get you thinking about the possibilities that are out there – but there is a catch. You can’t do this on your own.

As good stewards of donors’ money, or the lack of funds in general, many not-for-profit agencies attempt to do everything themselves, or hire a board member’s best friend’s niece to develop their brand. The problem is, you get what you pay for, and being that you are paying nothing, that is generally what you get.

Now, I am not suggesting you go into debt hiring an agency, but I am saying that you should be prepared to spend something. Most agencies will be more inclined to donate their time when something (anything) is offered in return. 

Our agency charges pennies on the dollar when we work with not-for-profits. We do this to level the playing field by forcing not-for-profit agencies to respect the value of our work, and never abuse our time – the number one reason most reputable firms refuse to take on charity work.

The value of a strong brand is worth as much as the building you are housed in, and if your roof is caving in, you would want a professional to fix it – same principle applies when you are looking to improve your brand.

Michael Russo
Creative Director

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