Keep on Moving with One Voice – Brand Development that Delivers

Posted by Emma Nicol | 3 July 2015

Categories: Branding Charity Rebranding Third Sector


You may think that the title of my blog sounds like a documentary about a boy band or a docu-drama about a choir – alas no! It’s my delegate view of the CharityComms Conference – Brand development: building a brand that delivers.

The conference and it’s theme was to frame charity branding in an environment of a fast changing world. Talks on superbrands, emerging trends and what charities can learn from these and how they simply have to respond.

Marie Stafford from JWTIntelligence kicked off with a very inspiring and quick fire presentation about emerging trends and how brands need to be aware of these in order to keep current and relevant.

  • Mobile Ubiquity – mobile is literally eating the world.
  • Ageless – a baby today may live to be 142! We need to adapt and innovate to address this possibility.
  • Great expectations – people expect faster, cheaper, better, experiences and a reason to buy.

A very quick insight into JWTs Future 100 and Trends to Watch in 2015 highlighted consumers thirst for conscious shopping. If brands are inbedding conscious good into their brands there may be the expectation that people do not need to support charities. This is a new challenge for the third sector.

The summary of Marie’s presentation was that it’s the balance between ‘medium & message’. The technology has to fit the message not the other way round. By preparing for the future you can be better prepared for today.

Kate Eden from Cancer Research UK presented on superbrands. Her focus was to get to the bottom of what is a superbrand and how realistic is it for a charity brand to elevate into that position – it’s not simply a case of walking into a phone box and emerging in ones underpants!

Question: What is a superbrand?
Answer: A brand with an exceptional scale of influence.

A superbrand is part if popular culture, embraced by millions. They bring us with them on the journey. Wanting to share in their future. But why does any of this matter to charities?
For most superbrands, social purpose is a secondary focus. With charities it’s the primary.

Kate shared her aspiration for CRUK to become the nations most influential brand. They are certainly on the path to doing so. Their ingredients and method follow a lot of the superbrand traits.

  • Total brand driven strategy
  • Living the brand briefs – it is even part of staff appraisals
  • Powerful emotion
  • Disruption and Challenge
  • Relentless self-improvement
  • Audience co-creation
  • Riding the Zeitgeist
  • An Iconic logo
  • Smart Collaboration

Superbrands have a single-minded focus and a simple message. All too often charities believe they suffer from complexity of message, numerous sub-brands/divisions, campaigns, fundraising initiatives etc and this has been heightened by digital channels. Max Du Bois from Spencer du Bois described it as ‘Logo-itus’ and this certainly caused a few titters from the audience.

Max’s presentation focused on the hard truth of 3 critical challenges for the third sector. His emphasis is that Vision and Mission should be at the heart of our communication, whatever the message, initiative, campaign or request.

Scale of Trust – the trust scale of charities has fallen from 67% to 51% in recent times.
Competition – unless you can build on scale or become a specialist – you are the ‘squeezed middle’. Carve out your territory, brand better, say it better, say it a lot, say it clever.
Long Term Effect of Technology – everybody overhypes the short term affect of technology and doesn’t focus on the long term.

One top 100 charity was used as an example of clutter of message and how this has been exacerbated by digital channels. They have 23 websites, 12 twitter handles, 12 other social media channels – to name just a few!

Brand needs to be front and centre to address these 3 challenges. Put brand at the heart of everything.

Communication and brand teams all too often have the question asked of them: “What’s brand got to do with me?”.

Mike Hopwood from the RSPB talked about how to bring brand to life internally. The RSPB have 1,500 staff and 18,000 volunteers in 15 regional offices on 200 reserves. Their challenge – to get those people to understand how great brand can be as crucial to saving nature as science.

He described how they addressed this by implementing an internal strategy. Delivering the brand confidently, clearly and with purpose within all aspects of the organisation.He illustrated how they chose a cross section of people, not just the ones who were their friends and in fact deliberately chose difficult people. They used provocation and peer pressure and used the negative energy to get to the bottom of potential barriers and challenges to delivery. They developed role descriptions – brand champion, brand advisors, brand advocates to deliver their clear proposition. Staff induction now consists of an hour on brand and the importance of it.

After lunch Mike Sanderson, Brand Director of Nike Foundation presented a case study – The sound of all of us (Yegna) which I thought combined really well the talks and emphasis of the morning – the way superbrands and retail brands are pushing communication and changing expectation and how charities can embrace these with a unified and focused ‘epic’ message. Nike have developed as initiative together with DFID link.

Yegna is a multi-platform brand designed entirely to inspire positive change for girls in Ethiopia. The initiative deals with multiple issues using music as the vehicle. Music is a medium where girls have social equality. The brand taps into the zeitgeist of the moment and talks to teenage girls like they were teenage girls. The case study described how they wanted to create properties that would live within the culture. They took tradition and nudged it just a bit!

Dan Dufour from the Good Agency summed up the day quite succinctly by describing that the sector is changing. Purpose and impact of brand and message is no longer enough. Reward and enrichment is also a requirement and expectation. People need a role in the brand story to become and feel part of it.

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