Branding in the third sector.

January 7th, 2015

Our latest guest contribution is from David Girling – lecturer and Director of Research Communication in the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia. David shares with us his thoughts on a range of third sector brand case studies.

I’ve joked before with colleagues that ‘branding’ is marketing re-marketed, but sometimes I genuinely wonder if this is the best definition I can offer. So many people think that branding is just about a logo or corporate identity, which is why I was pleased when I worked alongside Norwich Business School to produce a video infographic – ‘What is Branding?’ – to dispel some of the myths around branding.

Branding is so much more than a logo. Sure, a well designed logo or corporate identity can help organisations position themselves as contemporary, traditional, serious, fun, professional, quirky, cheeky etc, but in my opinion the most important thing is a clear understanding of brand values and portraying them in everything you do. To demonstrate this I want to use a few examples from the third sector including Save the Children, Oxfam, Help the Heroes and a small NGO in Uganda called 40 days 40 smiles.

Save the Children is one of the largest international NGOs in the UK, but in the past they have been criticised for their use of “poverty porn” or “flies in the eyes” type imagery in their advertising campaigns. This kind of imagery has been frowned upon in recent years for misrepresenting distant suffering, however others would say that this type of guilt strategy is still necessary to succeed in fundraising. Either way it doesn’t seem to have tarnished their brand image too much. One of the ways that Save the Children balance their more hard hitting imagery is via their YouTube Channel where they spend a great deal of time and money producing some excellent videos. The most recent example is the Most Shocking Day which shows the Syrian conflict through the eyes of a girl in London. It’s an extraordinarily powerful piece of storytelling and film-making and is a far cry from their direct response TV adverts.

Oxfam recently celebrated their 70th anniversary and operate in over 90 countries around the world. In the UK they are probably best known for their high street charity shops. In 2012 they employed Wolff Olins to create a single global identity with bright colourful imagery and positive messaging. Personally I think their brand refresh was well overdue as many of their shops were old fashioned and stuck in the 1970s often managed by equally tired looking volunteers. As part of their new global brand they updated the exterior and interior look and feel of their stores with positive outcomes. A highly visible high street shop frontage and window display can send strong signals about your brand.

Oxfam - Wolff Olins

Unlike Save the Children and Oxfam, Help the Heroes has only been around for 7 years but has managed to fundraise a phenomenal amount of money in that time. The brand evolution of Help the Heroes brand is a remarkable story. There is no sophisticatedly designed corporate identity, in fact their bear logo was designed by the founder, Bryn Parry, who is a sporting cartoonist. Bryn is like the Richard Branson of the charity sector and has built the brand around innovation, excellent media coverage, effective celebrity endorsement and visible accountability of how donations are spent.

The last example of brand effectiveness is a group of recent graduates in Uganda who simply wanted to make a difference on Facebook, rather than just ‘liking and sharing’ photos of their friends. In February 2012 they decided to launch on online campaign called 40 days and 40 smiles. In 40 days they managed to collect two truck loads of donations in the form of food, clothes, books, toys and games to give to an orphanage. This was all achieved via social media and the group won the best social media campaign in Uganda in 2013. The group has continued to successfully fundraise entirely on a volunteer basis. The organisation has a clear sense of purpose and strong leadership and have built a strong brand that people believe in and people feel part of. In total they have around 120 volunteers organising all sorts of events to raise funds for vulnerable children and communities.

Branding is much more than a logo and the third sector is a great place to look for good examples of brand innovation and leadership.

David Girling is lecturer and Director of Research Communication in the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia. David is a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years marketing and communications experience in the public and non-profit sector. His interests are multidisciplinary but he is particularly interested in social media in developing countries and how charities and NGOs use social media. David teaches on the MA Media and International Development and some undergraduates courses.

David has a niche blog and last year he produced the video ‘Does social media have the power to change the world?.’

In 2014 the Guardian named David as a development tweeter to watch. You can follow David on Twitter here.


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