Sunday, August 31, 2008

“What people say about you when you’re not in the room…”

That’s my definition of a ‘brand’. Well actually, I heard it a conference once and it stuck with me as the best definition for a topic that in my opinion is horribly overanalyzed.

One of the most misleading things I heard about big charities brands was in an Aussie article a couple of years back. The focus of the article was that there was a direct correlation between the size of the top 50 or so Australian charities and their level of ‘brand awareness’.

Rubbish I thought! The point was being missed.

Brand awareness didn’t make these non profits the largest (by income) – it was the other way around. The reason they had such big brand awareness was because they all had one thing in common (maybe minus the odd exception) – they spent lots on fundraising. You think World Vision Australia has an annual income of near $300m(AUD) by luck? They spend around $25m per annum on fundraising.

The point is that spending on fundraising (and specifically recruitment of donors) is the best source of brand awareness for charities that there is. Who can convince me that plastering large billboards on a high street or spending on bus back advertising will out pull fundraisers on the street actually talking to the public about their great causes (I.e. people talking to people)?

I was reminded about this as I was flying back from New York yesterday and read an article on branding that caught my eye (most just put me to sleep or drive me crazy). The author was a guy called Guy Kawasaki, the magazine called Entrepreneur.

Guy’s message was simple: if you have a great product, a great brand will follow; so long as you are sending the right message. So simple yet so true.

He makes 8 really clear points, three of which really stuck with me.

The first was about creating one message and avoiding trying many at once, which many companies (and I know many non profits) do.

The second was about speaking English and avoiding using lots of jargon. Don’t try and be too clever – keep it simple!

The third which I liked was referring to companies stupid use of money when they have too much to spend on ‘branding’. He argued that ‘too much money is worse than too little, because when you have a lot of money, you spend a lot of money on stupid things, like Super Bowl commercials’. Now I would take a slight spin on that and add we do need money to spend but on things that will result in income and donors, which then help build who you are and what people say about you (not the other way around).

So what are people saying about you (or your organization) when you are out of the room?

No comments: