2020 Changed Everything
2020 has seen more world-changing, paradigm-shifting developments than an average decade, and it’s hard to believe we’re only nine months in.
While it is an understandably human reaction to freeze during a crisis to avoid loss or preserve capital, it isn’t advisable when it comes to your brand. Sitting still and hunkering down won’t help you mitigate damage, nor will it allow you to identify opportunities for your brand to emerge through this crisis even stronger.
Theologian Brooke Westcott said, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and perceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and last some crisis shows what we have become.”
Difficult decisions reveal the true priorities of any organization, as well as the health of its culture.
For many kingdom-minded brands, uncertainty and disruption are forcing critical decisions to be made at a pace faster than ever before. Difficult decisions reveal the true priorities of any organization, as well as the health of its culture. In these moments, when the stakes are as high as the emotions; your brand needs to be aligned from the inside out.
At Historic, we believe effective brands intentionally align 5 critical dimensions:
- Culture (who you are)
- Story (what you say)
- Service (what you do)
- Experience (how you feel)
- Identity (how you look)
We frequently work with nonprofits that have a world-changing service and a fantastic experience; however, their story and identity are so out of alignment (or just plain broken) they create barriers preventing donors from giving them the attention they deserve. On the other end of the spectrum are nonprofits who increase their brand gaps by spending buckets of money “chasing cool” with their identity and story, only to find out the promise they’re now making is totally out of alignment with what they do and/or who they are. When this happens, donors lose confidence and trust.
No matter how compelling or interesting your identity and story, if you make a promise and fail to deliver on it, you will lose funding and engagement over the long haul. When the five dimensions of brand are aligned and consistent, your brand is not only clear and compelling, but also makes a promise that rings true and delivers on expectations. That ultimately drives funding.
There are countless examples of intentional and effective brand alignment in for-profit sectors (Apple, Starbucks, and Warby Parker to name a few). Unfortunately, many nonprofits have failed to adopt modern brand strategy and have remained handcuffed to outdated brand thinking. As a result, according to GenerosityForLife, Indiana University Lily School of Philanthropy, between 2006 and 2016 there was an 18% decrease in nonprofit donors, a phenomenon representing a fundamental shift in the way people interacted with nonprofits, especially donors.
Times of turbulence and disruption provide unique and important opportunities for brand evaluation and improvement.
Times of turbulence and disruption provide unique and important opportunities for brand evaluation and improvement. It’s normal for any brand to have gaps, and taking the necessary steps to close those gaps during seasons of disruption can be a powerful way to increase trust, boost morale, and announce to key stakeholders and donors that your vision for the future has never been more important to partner with and invest in.
As you evaluate your brand and assess potential gaps, below are five tips to guide you in the process:
- Clarify True North
In seasons of change and disruption, the fundamentals of your mission become even more important to your brand. Everything has changed and aspects of your brand will likely need to be different as you prepare for the coming new normal. This current season of Covid-19 limbo is the perfect opportunity to clarify and re-articulate the “true north” of your brand in a passionate and compelling manner that mobilizes your base to action, and reminds your leaders of your true-north.
- Align Your Brand from the Inside Out
Culture is a critical driver of brand success. This is especially true for a kingdom-minded nonprofit. How your organization operates on the inside (values, leadership, decision making, etc.) should be inextricably linked and defined by your brand. How your brand is perceived on the outside (logo, website, social media, etc.) should be inextricably linked to the culture and convictions that drive you forward. Time and time again we at Historic see fantastic initiatives (new product launch, rebrand, etc.) struggle or fail because of internal culture barriers. Don’t just chase cool. Make a consistent promise that aligns to the foundational values and guiding principles of your brand.
- Prioritize Digital
Covid-19 has awakened every brand in America to the power and necessity of digital engagement. If large events or in-person gatherings were critical to your brand strategy, you’ve already had to pivot and make substantial changes to how you engage and communicate with your audience through digital channels. These trends were happening long before Covid-19 and will only accelerate in the future. Use this opportunity to ensure your brand is maximally aligned and ready for digital engagement, and that your culture can tolerate adaptation and innovation because the pace of change is not slowing down.
- Elevate the Process Over the Product
The people and process behind your brand assessment and alignment will be as important as the final outcome. This opportunity can build culture, inspire confidence, and increase trust with your leadership if handled well. Over communicate, invite candid feedback, and build a bridge to those in the process with less power so they are willing and able to speak the truth.
- Build a Launch Plan
Don’t let changes to your brand leak out prematurely. Hold your cards close. Then, like Apple releasing a new iPhone, build momentum and excitement towards the unveiling. Any mission driven nonprofit will gain significant momentum if they connect brand changes to vision and mission. When you go public with your new and/or improved brand, the intentional vision and messaging behind your changes will mitigate petty critiques and increase buy-in and support.
To drive generosity in 2020 and beyond, it’s more critical than ever that nonprofits adapt new-world brand tactics to respond to the needs and expectations of their donors. Nonprofit brands must proactively work for alignment, make a consistent promise that builds trust and confidence, and become experts in listening to donors and connecting with them in personal ways.
When you make intentional changes to your external identity that align with your internal purpose and conviction, you increase trust, deepen investment, and generate greater engagement.
This season of COVID-19 limbo has brought disruption to every sector of society and while many answers are still unclear, we know a few things for certain: there will be a new normal, and God will still meet us in that new normal, as he always does. Let us encourage you to embrace the season God has set before us and use this opportunity to do the necessary work of rebranding so you are well positioned and ready for the new normal ahead.
Ted Vaughn is co-founder of Historic Agency – a brand strategy, innovation, and design partner for ministries wanting to grow. With over 25 years of experience working with church and para-church brands, Ted focuses on the internal dimensions of the brands we serve including culture, strategic clarity, and brand alignment. If you’re ready to improve your brand, set-up a free 20-minute consultation with us today: firstname.lastname@example.org.