Branding for not for profit organisations

Most early branding studies and literature focused on the big commercial brands, especially consumer goods as this is historically where the research has been funded. But more recently increasing amounts of research have looked at the not for profit sectors such as government, education and charities. These have subtly different requirements although many of the same principles apply.

Branding for not for profit organisations

The following are some of the common branding issues that apply to organisations:

Branding multiple services

It is common for organisations to have a few core but very distinct activities for which they are known, often with different operating centres or different teams handling the incoming communications. Distinct sub brands can be helpful, but to maximise overall marketing these should form part of the brand family with clear common link to the parent brand.

The parent brand would define the core values and perception, with sub brands including the extra service. Practically this usually works with the parent brand defining the colour palette, fonts and main part of the design, with the sub brand including the service variation as text maybe with colour variation and added design feature. This works when the number of services is limited and not likely to grow. If sub brands have variations beyond text changes then adding another unplanned service may require a re-brand.

Branding multiple locations

Many education or support type organisations operate within several defined locations (either towns, regions or countries) with separate offices and work within each, yet all working within the overall umbrella organisation. A family branding strategy can work well here, with a very strong parent brand and sub brands incorporating the location.  The most usual implementation would be the parent brand defining the core values and perception, including logo design and colour palette, and the sub brands incorporating the location as variable text. This is easy to extend as more locations are added.

Branding Multiple Programs or Campaigns

Charitable organisations in particular tend to acquire different logos (and maybe branding) from fundraising and community events. The challenge for the parent organisation or branding agency is how to determine the best branding to make ongoing marketing most effective.  The best solution will depend on the relative strengths of the organisation brand and the campaign or fund raising brand.

Where the campaigns or fund raising events have the greatest market awareness, then an endorsement branding strategy will be best. This keeps the strongest brand but builds the correct associations to the parent organisation. This assumes the core values are the same (usually the case). Practically this works best if the colour palettes are complimentary. If a charity rebrands or changes the colour palette, consideration must be given to the impact on major fundraising branding.

When campaigns come and go and the organisation’s name is strongest then the parent brand should be dominant in any campaign branding. In many cases the best solution may be an approach similar to location branding, using simple text changes (for the campaign) alongside a strong parent brand. Simple is often best. However caution should be used if any new campaign or program has a different set of core values to the parent, as association with the ‘wrong’ type of campaign can damage an established brand.


For further branding articles see:

Friday 22nd August 2014

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