Is your charity’s brand fit for purpose?

I’ve just spent £50 quid on a pair of FILA trainers for my daughter’s 10th birthday. [Sucks through teeth]. Apparently, nothing else will do – that is according to Tik Tok, members of Little Mix and the talk in the playground.

The fashionistas among you will know that FILA are a sportwear brand established in 1911 whose chunky Dad style trainers peaked in the ‘90s, before falling onto hard times and then making a recovery in recent years with the reissue of ‘old school’ ranges, earning favour with rap stars and even a catwalk show at Milan Fashion Week.

The revived popularity of FILA struck me as a good example of brand value – in a nutshell: a recognisable brand identity, resonance with target audiences (across the appropriate channels), carefully orchestrated brand endorsement and key influencers talking about you. Interestingly, RNID has also recently gone a bit ‘old school’ – reverting to their original name after their ‘Action for Hearing Loss’ rebrand flunked.

Those of us working in the charity sector know, however, that it takes more than a bit of nostalgia combined with a celebrity endorsement to build our brands. A good reputation is hard won and depends on consistently delivering on your charity’s brand promise: demonstrating that you’re being true to your charity’s objects (what you were set up to do); that you’re genuinely making a difference; that your actions and behaviour reflect your values; and eventually, if your brand identity packs a punch, it should become synonymous with your work and what you stand for. 

Charities with a strong brand value are without doubt in a better position to raise funds and influence policy because they’ve earnt a high level of understanding about what they do and reputation for being a ‘good cause’. It’s no surprise that Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Salvation Army and Macmillan regularly top the leader board of top charity brands (in terms of income generation) – we just know them and their logos are everywhere: on shop fronts, inside our Sunday supplements, popping up in our social feed.

But, if you’re a small charity without a big marketing budget that doesn’t mean you can’t still build the credibility of your brand with your target audiences. Take a look at the Evelina Heart Organisation which refreshed their logo to reinforce their aims as a professional yet supportive community for families of children with heart problems, whilst retaining their heart symbol which supporters knew and associated with their work. They also developed a rather natty sub brand for their bespoke support for teenagers – again using the heart symbol but this time using a computer type graphic which would resonate with younger audiences. Supporters and other audiences were involved in the rebrand and the charity reports it’s been well received.

Another example which springs to mind is YoungDementia UK Homes which was set up as a separate entity to YoungDementia UK to deliver an innovative supported living facility for younger people (in their 40s and 50s) with young onset dementia  – and yours truly was commissioned to help develop the charity’s brand identity. Having consulted with people with young onset dementia and liaised closely with the mother charity, I worked with the talented designers at Red Wire to come up with their visual identity, which clearly builds on the existing logo (and ergo brand value of the mother charity) but provides something distinctive for the ‘Homes’ project. The resulting logo and website takes on board the fact that some forms of dementia result in colour blindness – hence the introduction of an orange accent colour rather than shades of blue and green (which can look the same). The moral of the story here is that like any aspect of marketing, brand development should always be based on audience insight.

Charity branding, of course, is a different kettle of fish to the world of consumer branding, but none the less, it boils down to people making choices about where they invest their hard-earned based on how they feel about a brand. The motivations for giving to a good cause may be different to choosing footwear – but as with FILA’s customers, your supporters are faced with an array of choices, so ensuring your brand stands out on the virtual charity catwalk is essential.

I love working with charities (and any organisation with a strong social purpose) to consider how they can have better visibility and brand recognition. So, if you’re looking for a FILA style comeback, or simply looking to develop a more professional suite of marketing materials which builds recognition of your specialist expertise, then please get in touch for a chat.

Find out how Well Read can help your charity improve its brand and marketing strategy here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.