Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lose the Lipstick: Your Brand is More Than a Cosmetic

I have the privilege of speaking again this year to the fabulous fundraisers at Women in Development of Northeastern NY.

Our topic?  Branding.

Branding causes undo confusion in the nonprofit sector.

My experience is that when you start talking about branding people assume that you've wandered off into the wilderness of marketing, technology, and design.  

Worse. They assume the conversation is beyond them.
  • "We know our website is out of date but we just don't have thousands of dollars to fix it."
  • "We'd like to create more video and use more pictures to describe our work but communicating is not our strong suit."
  • "We know our logo stinks but what can you do?"
These are the conversations that ensue and unfortunately, they miss the point because they focus solely on brand IDENTITY.

While presentation IS an important component of branding, the TRUTH is that your brand is NOT and NEVER WAS simply a cosmetic.

As my frolleague (friend and colleague) Larry Checco, author of Branding for Success and Aha!  Moments in Brand Management says,

"Your brand is no less than your organization’s DNA, not a cosmetic you apply to your organization to make it look pretty. It’s a true reflection of who you are and what you do. You can spend millions of dollars on marketing, and say anything you like about yourself. But if you don’t live up to your ‘brand’ in everything you say and do, then all you have is sizzle and no steak, and it won't take long for your target audiences to see the smoke and realize there's no meat.”
In other words, your brand is your organization's REPUTATION.

It's what people say about you and your organization behind closed doors.

You may have a slick website but are you making a real impact in the world? 

You may throw beautiful events but do you treat your employees, patrons, and volunteers well?

This is what people want to know and remember!

When we have conversations about branding for nonprofits, these are the questions that we have to answer BEFORE we change our fonts!

Great nonprofits think carefully (and spend money) to COMMUNICATE their impact and value.  But they also view branding as an exercise that starts from the inside out and involves soul searching.

Want to develop a great brand that garners more resources, relationships, and "real estate?"

Answer these questions first!
  • What does our organization do better than anyone else?
  • What is our impact in the world?
  • Why should anyone else care?
Then add the lipstick. 



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