Harnessing your brand

by Alastair Pearce

Is your brand working as hard as it could? It can be to tell with such an intangible asset. Yet, in a time when government grants and other sources of funding are drying up, having a strong consumer-facing brand is more important than ever. So how can we harness it?

Using over 15 years’ experience and learnings from over 2,000 brands we monitor globally, the BrandVue team have developed a metric to measure exactly how a strong brand is: Brand Advantage.

It is a way for us to see how brands stack up within, and across, causes and allows us to see areas where they can grow and develop. This is why Brand Advantage is the basis of our Brand Strength in our valuation methodology.

It’s hard to quantify ROI for brand investment, but Brand Advantage allows us to do just this. Charities scoring highly in terms of Brand Advantage are also those that raise the most from individual donations. It’s clear that, the strongest brands have the most pull on our pockets when it comes to charitable donations.

Of course, not all donations are driven by brand – many are also driven by personal experience. Seeing an issue first hand is far more likely than any adverts or marketing to persuade you to give, no matter how clever they are. But if charities are truly ambitious they need to look outside their “natural catchment” to grow and to do that effectively, they need a strong brand.

Macmillan Cancer Support is one of the strongest brands in BrandVue Charities and the 4th most valuable in the 2018 valuation list. Not only is it a household name, but despite its enormous size, it stands out for its ability to develop a personal connection with its audiences.

True, it benefits from having a cause with a broad reach; 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer at some point in their lives meaning that almost all of us will know at least one person affected by it. However, the success of Macmillan is about more than supporting a well-known cause affecting many – after all, why not support Cancer Research?

For Macmillan, their high Brand Advantage comes from ensuring the brand is universally inclusive. Their resonance is a result of a marketing and fundraising strategy that is accessible and personable.

The theme “we are Macmillan”, links the brand to many of their flagship fundraising products. It’s all about connecting people and forming a community. While other charities may ask you to do a bake sale, Macmillan offers an opportunity to take part in The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

It’s inclusive. By aligning all their activities with this simple message, Macmillan harness tactical fundraising to build the brand at a more strategic level.

High Brand Advantage scores are not the preserve of charity behemoths. Many smaller charities have built up strong brands despite their comparative lack of resources. It’s a case of coupling insight with a spoonful of creativity to get a great outcome.

Help for Heroes’ income is a tenth of Macmillan but its punches far above its weight in brand strength, ranking 9th of all UK charities. Careful insight allows it to know its audience and use targeted campaigns, product placement and celebrity endorsement to build a brand with a relatively small budget.

It’s a strategy that’s working; over a quarter of Help for Heroes’ supporters started supporting after hearing about the charity in the media. By building compelling messages and targeting the right media, Help for Heroes stands out and appeals to people who don’t see themselves as typical charity supporters.

Their “Facing it Together” campaign, which went viral earlier this year, embodied this. Focusing around a short video of 51⁄2-year- old Tempy Pattinson, chatting with Simon Brown, a 38-year-old wounded veteran, it had a clear message: Help the Heroes is a charity for everyone, even those who we may not see themselves as traditional charity supporters.

The charity market is competitive and likely to grow increasingly more so. A strong brand is key to driving individual giving and the Brand Advantage metric (tracked in BrandVue Charities) allows us to translate the intangibility of “brand” into monitorable growth and source of investment return.

Different charities have different ways of building a strong brand and ultimately, there is no one size fits all approach. Every brand is different. Each must choose a specific message to spread or group to target or stance take.

However, one thing all great brands have in common is clear insight and the ability to act on it creatively.

Strong brands need to be able to spot gaps in the market and to know which messages to push to which audiences, when.

BrandVue charities provides one piece of this puzzle, allowing charity teams to track their brands’ cut through, perceptions and competitors on a daily basis, reacting to current trends in the market and sensing opportunity to try new things (e.g. new giving triggers and occasions) and improve familiar approaches (e.g. the Christmas appeal).

Using BrandVue charities, not-for-profit organisations can build a strong brand, attract and retain more income through a better managed supporter journey.

Alasdair Pearce

Since joining Morar HPI from Cambridge University, Alasdair has become one of our resident brand experts, honing his skills across sectors. Alasdair truly recognises the power, and value, of a strong brand and helps his clients towards achieving this.