Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Who "Owns" your non-profit brand? Guess what, it's not you.

One of the most difficult lessons in branding is about perspective. It's easy to think that branding is all about your non-profit. You commission the brand. You invest the time. You apply the precious resources you have. You nourish and grow the brand. It's your baby, and people can be forgiven for being territorial about it.

And there's a whole school of thought that tries assign value to your brand -- brand equity. They use pretty charts and clever formulas to show that your brand has a real monetary value. So, it's not only your baby, it's also the bedrock of your finances.

But the truth of the matter is that your non-profit doesn't actually own its own brand.

That's right, you don't own it.

Think about it. What is your brand? It's not just a logo (although there's a significant number of rather foolish people who think it is). It is your identity. It is the face you wear. What you think about that face, that identity doesn't really matter. You brand exists to help you navigate the outside world, not for your own private pleasure. So, it is not what you think about your brand that really counts, it is what the outside world thinks. In other words, the value of your brand exists in the mind of the people who perceive it and act upon it. At the end of the day, if your stakeholders think a logo of a dead fish and a tag line in Klingon represent you, than that is your true brand equity. One could argue that all the branding in the world can't change the fact that it is up to stakeholders to decide who you are and assign value you to you accordingly. You can move them, convince them, cajole them to change their minds about your identity, but the power to make that change lies with them, not you.

So, who owns your brand? Your stakeholder audiences, that's who.

And that brings us back to perspective. You need to approach your non-profit brand from the perspective of your customer, and not your own organizational thought process. Ask what your brand is going to do for them, not just what its going to do for you. They're the true owner, the boss.

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