Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13

Creating a strong brand TWIST requires taking off your brand blinders. This means breaking free of me-too marketing by looking elsewhere for inspiration. Look at great brands (like Starbucks, Virgin, Nike, Lego, and others whose names you know) to see how they engage customers and build loyal fans and TWISTING those lessons with your nonprofit. Here’s what the president of a synagogue had to say about learning to TWIST: “The time spent during our board retreat really helped to educate our leadership on the power of brand, and the TWIST approach helped us remove our brand blinders and generate fresh ideas for member and donor engagement. We TWISTED with brands like Waze to create new ways for our members to navigate the temple experience and find a path that felt right for them.” – Louis S., Temple President Mistake #3. Trying to Target and Please Everyone With my clients in both the nonprofit and for-profit world, I always start with the same key question before we embark on building or rebuilding a strong brand: WHO? As in, who do you want to serve? It may sound counterintuitive, but the narrower your focus, the closer you’ll connect with your ideal target. Women age 25-54 is not a target. People looking for meaning in their life is not a target. You have to zero in on a single person who personifies your best customer, and start thinking about what they want that you can offer. Look at Apple, for example: a company with users age five to seventy-five. But Apple has built a strong brand by focusing on a hip, twenty-something digital native that we all aspire to be, and giving us seamless technology that is more human. Don’t Build Brands by Committee Being more targeted and selective also means that, internally, you need to realize that you can’t do effective branding by committee. If you try, you will end up with a brand that everyone can live with, but no one really feels passionate about. When I work with nonprofits in brand differentiation workshops and on board retreats, we get input from many sources: leadership, staff, members, donors, community members, and more. But I

always insist that we identify a much smaller group that will actually champion the brand direction. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in soliciting input from every level of the organization, but only at the beginning. There’s great value in bringing everyone together – not just marketing people, but also board members, volunteers, members, office staff, and people from the community. Let’s get a lot of opinions on the table at the beginning. Let’s get them excited about your brand. But making important branding decisions by committee – in other words, expecting consensus on the name, logo, or positioning – is branding by the lowest common denominator. You’ll often see this with mission statements. You can just tell that everybody had to have their say, so the organization’s mission statement is twenty- five lines long and no one can remember it. At the end of the day, every organization needs a leader who will be its biggest brand ambassador. That leader must have the courage to say, “This is how we are going forward. We may learn a few things and we might need to change it down the road, but you can trust me to make the best decisions.” Help Everyone Tell the Same Story Once you have identified your organization’s unique TWIST, make sure that everybody, from the receptionist to the head of operations, can tell the same brand story. Make sure any new employees or volunteers have the right tools to understand and act on the story.Make your brand a regular part of every meeting and a barometer by which to drive behavior and measure performance. This is particularly important as your organization grows. Bonus Mistake. Thinking Your Brand Will Develop Organically Building a brand takes time and dedicated effort. It doesn’t just evolve. As with any for-profit business, your organization needs a strategy. After we’ve answered WHO, it’s time to ask three more strategic questions. WHAT are you really promising? This is not about products and services. We’re talking about how your organization can make your target feel or what you can help

them achieve. Think of great brands like Nike.Nike’s promise, “Just do it,” isn’t really about sneakers. It’s about achievement. It implies a promise about how you’re going to feel when you wear Nike shoes. WHY should I believe you? Your target and your promise help you define your category. Pinpoint what is unique about you, that makes you stand out from the crowd. I like to point to Hugh Ballou, the publisher of this magazine, who draws on his experience as an orchestra conductor to set him apart. For someone else, it might be your process, your cultural or business background, or a cause close to your heart. How will these elements help you fulfill the promise you’re making to your target? HOW will you bring it to life? Now it’s time to talk about marketing tactics. What does your website look like? How is your main building designed or decorated? How do your name and logo support the answers to the first three questions? A brand with a strong TWIST will help you to cut through all the noise: the noise in the minds of busy people with a million things to worry about, and all the charities, organizations, houses of worship, and nonprofits they might choose over you. You have only a few seconds to interact with them and get them to listen. You need a message that is going to cut through, and that is a message with a TWIST. Exclusively for Our Readers BrandTwist is offering a special discount to our readers. You can get 15% off our Brand Health Check or Personal Brand Plan customized brand strategy sessions, with code SVLF. Go to to find out more. And if you’d like to have me conduct your next board retreat, come speak to your organization, or conduct one of my impactful TWISTING workshops, mention SynerVision and find out about my nonprofit preferred pricing. Julie Cottineau, author of the bestselling TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands , is the Founder and CEO of BrandTwist, a branding consultancy and brand learning program for entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and small businesses. Her TWIST approach applies best practices from across brand sectors and leverages them for innovative and impactful solutions. Prior to starting her own company, Julie honed her branding chops as the VP of Brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin, and at Interbrand and Grey Global.

22 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine

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