How to Fight for Clarity in Your Organization’s Branding
April 5, 2019
In a constantly connected world bombarded with messages and distractions, it can be difficult to know if your organization’s message is cutting through the noise. We would like to think that the people who interact with our church or nonprofit, see us and say, “Yes, I get it! Sign me up.” That can happen, but it’s often not the case. At least not right away.
Over time, how can you be confident your audience is resonating with your organization’s brand message? Sure, your mission and vision are out there, but is it truly memorable and inspiring? Sure, your team is healthy and growing, but do they all have a clear understanding of why they do what they do? Sure, you have a great logo and creative presence, but is your creative actually a distraction? How can you know?
Clear branding doesn’t start with a logo or anything visual. It starts with Essence and Authenticity.
Now, more than ever, nonprofits and churches need to communicate with clarity. The fight for brand clarity is a difficult one but is one worth fighting. Especially when the salvation of lives and communities is in the balance.
Three steps for finding clarity in your organization’s branding:
1. Define Your Brand Essence
Clear branding doesn’t start with a logo or anything visual. It starts with Essence and Authenticity—understanding who you are as an organization and communicating with transparent conviction. After all, branding is really about telling (and living) the truth, so when it comes to nurturing your ministry’s brand, it is crucial that you stay true to who you are. At the heart of every organization’s brand is conviction—an internal motivation to see lives impacted for the better. Conviction motivates and aligns us to a higher purpose. It is often uniquely tied to the history and growth of an organization. Without conviction we can’t expect genuine progress. Ultimately, conviction is where your brand essence takes root.
SO, WHAT IS BRAND ESSENCE?
Simply put, it is the essential, guiding characteristics of the brand. Typically a set of phrases or words, your brand essence is meant to capture the intangible uniqueness of your organization. Think of it as the brand’s “DNA” or “true north.” Why is it important? Because with a clear awareness of who you are, you can confidently take steps to where you need to go.
Within the branding process, an organization’s brand essence isn’t just a helpful reminder, but an insight-driven force that directs and informs the entire creative direction of the brand.
BRAND ESSENCE IN A MISSIONS ORGANIZATION
Over the past 12 months, we’ve had the privilege of working with Pennsylvania-based missions sending agency. Brought in to lead a full brand overhaul of the organization, our very first step was to bring to the surface the organization’s brand essence. Through collaborative strategy sessions with the core leadership, we were able to clarify the 3 guiding attributes of the brand:
The newly-defined brand essence has now essentially guided the rest of the process. It is the filter through which we have made creative decisions. Within the branding process, an organization’s brand essence isn’t just a helpful reminder, but an insight-driven force that directs and informs the entire creative direction of the brand. It is a clearly defined brand essence that guides how the brand should look and feel, leading to a design process built on insights, not preferences.
2. Know Your Audience
Speaking of preferences, the fight for brand clarity requires that we surrender our biases and consider all viewpoints. To do this effectively, we must maintain a posture of empathy and humility with our customers, culture and competition. Stretch yourself to step into their shoes. After all, if we want our organizations to grow, we must increase our capacity for empathy.
CUSTOMERS – BRAND CLARITY GENERATES ACTION
Insight-driven brands understand what’s valuable to their audience and provide clear paths to get there. Whether it’s your congregation, member base or potential donors, your customers are engaging with your brand for a reason, and it needs to be clear how to engage.
CULTURE – BRAND CLARITY GENERATES ADVOCACY
To what extent is the brand carried through your organization? When you look at your internal culture’s motivation and drive, is it tied to a common understanding and passion for the brand? Insight-driven brands cultivate teams that reinforce the brand in word and deed, advocating for something larger than themselves.
COMPETITION – BRAND CLARITY GENERATES INNOVATION
In a crowded marketplace, brand clarity is everything. Insight-driven brands stay ahead of the competition by knowing who the competition is, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, it requires a humble awareness of your own. This leads to an understanding of how your brand is distinct and where you need to innovate.
Brand clarity starts with awareness.
Brand clarity for your nonprofit or church starts with awareness. When you have a strong understanding of how your brand is perceived by your Customers, your Culture and your Competition, you will see action, advocacy and innovation.
3. Understand Your Brand Architecture
Brand architecture is directly tied to brand clarity. After you’ve stepped into the shoes of your users, you will have a better understanding of how they should navigate your brand. Your brand architecture represents the framework for how someone interacts with your organization. Typically, it is expressed through a system of logos and identity guidelines.
TWO MAJOR APPROACHES
There are 2 major architectural approaches that can be taken—a Branded House or a House of Brands. A Branded House approach capitalizes on embedding the strength of one, single master brand throughout the entire organization. Think FedEx. A House of Brands leverages diversity and character in its approach, by allowing a family of unique brands (each with their own equity) to fall under a typically weaker parent brand. Think General Motors.
After you’ve stepped into the shoes of your users, you will have a better understanding of how they should navigate your brand. Architecture without clarity is chaos.
WHY IS BRAND ARCHITECTURE IMPORTANT?
Think about your interaction with the architecture of an airport. The strategic layout of the airport, inside and out, plays a critical role in informing where you should (and should not) go. The placement of hallways, doors, signage and checkpoints all help to create a consistent experience with clear pathways and priorities. Airport architecture without clarity is chaos. The same is true for your brand’s architecture.
A strong brand architecture lays a framework for building a consistent experience for your external users and your internal culture, in the short and long term. When done well, brand architecture builds credibility, casts vision and creates clarity.
UNITED WORLD MISSION
When refreshing the United World Mission brand, it became evident that we needed to take a “Branded House” approach. The logo design process took into consideration the multiple sub-brands of the master brand, with the goal of eliminating brand confusion. We sought to bring to the forefront the positive brand equity already existent in the organization, and extend it through the entire family of brands. The result was a simplified design approach that builds brand recognition and lays a framework for future sub-brands.
Define your brand essence. Know your audience. Understand your brand architecture. They can be arduous undertakings, but worth the sweat. Implementing these strategic approaches early on and with the right people will lead to developing a ministry brand that’s clear and compelling.
Rethink Creative was built for ministry. Let us join you in your fight for clarity. Start a project.