Why brand strategy is critical for Indian non-profits / social sector?

We have shared insights and approach to why brand building is critical and how to build a brand for non-profits/ social sector in India. There are online articles about the role of brand in non-profit, brand positioning and new insights on branding which are few relevant American insights.

What I haven’t found specific insights on brand building, is for social sector in Indian or Asian context. I also found the lack of online articles on why and how brand strategy specifically is important for non-profits. Brand strategy or strategic brand building approach for non-profits has not been understood and not implemented by majority of social sector organisations.

 

Current challenges

Brand strategy is not even recognised

Social sector/ communication professionals and organisations that are aware about the relevance of brand building but due to lack of awareness and skills overlook the importance of brand strategy. Strategy for brand building is starting point for all marketing, digital, communication and outreach efforts linked to fund raising and organisation growth. A comprehensive strategy that places brand central to all internal communication and outreach efforts that will cascade across all marketing functions. For this, the current challenge of educating and awareness among leaders and organisations in Indian social sector is critical.

– Confusion between brand building, marketing & fundraising

Based on our experience of working with non-profits across sectors, majority of professionals cannot differentiate and co-relate between brand building, marketing and fundraising. These three areas are closely overlapped strategically and execution is clearly differentiated. If they are planned and executed optimally then the organisation can leverage the benefits in many fold.

– Strategic v/s Tactical

The challenge of understanding and conceptualising a clear strategic brand and marketing plan in order to execute the tactical deliverables across brand and marketing activities is evident even among larger non-profits. The goal is to first devise a thorough strategy, then distribute the scope and execute it across formats, medium and channels.

– Incoherent across channels

Brand building is about consistency and marketing is creativity and distribution of the branded content. Many organisations that actively execute communication, marketing and digital activities have not achieved the intended goals or optimally leveraged every channel. This is because of many factors such as lack of quality content, segmentation of target audiences according to each channel, no strategic thought on picking the right channels and distribution of relevant content for the right channel depending on target audience. This leads to incoherence of audience engagement in each channel and cross-channel optimisation.

– Inconsistency with execution

As mentioned before, brand building and digital is all about consistency. The more an organisation is consistent in producing and distributing content about their work over a period of time, the more growth of audience and target goals will be met. Many organisations are sometimes to campaign focused or not regular in engaging their audience. Although the offline target audience or stakeholders of an organisation is contextual, especially digital/ online audience needs a constant, steady “frequency” of engagement or you lose that audience quite soon.

brand strategy for Indian nonprofits

The benefits of brand strategy are huge and it trickles down to all marketing and communication touch points

Clarity

A strong brand positioning and a core brand strategy for a non-profit / NGO / social enterprise can only provide the clarity and focus for the team to layout a comprehensive marketing plan. A marketing strategy and its execution needs to be reminded “why” / the purpose of their organisation’s work or marketing their impact more than just what they communicate about program outcomes. The clarity also acts as a “beacon” or reference point for multiple marketing/ outreach channels without depending on the leadership team to provide that guidance of its core brand approach.

 

Connect & Consistency

Strategic brand building is a rational and emotional connect with the target audience/ stakeholders, and that connect needs to be translated in all outreach activities. Brand strategy clearly defines (or should define) the connect with its target stakeholders or audience which helps the marketing/ fund raising team to target their marketing plans specifically towards their audience. Marketing function is “distribution” of the brand core proposition and while creating marketing assets across channels, maintaining the brand connect with its target audience is critical. This is also linked to consistency as mentioned before. The consistency of engagement will maintain the connect and drive the marketing goals.

 

Coherence

This is probably the most difficult part for a social sector over time to maintain when sufficient resources, talent and funds are limited. Once, we have the clarity of why us/ our purpose, we are able to establish the connect with our stakeholders or audience, we need to ensure that the brand strategy is coherent across all outreach channels. This will allow the target stakeholders to trust the brand over a period of time as it remains consistent across channels and with each campaign. Coherence allows us to maintain the consistency which allows the brand to be perceived as a credible brand.

 

Credibility

Majority of social sector organisations fund raise based on their credibility. This is only built over time with a process as mentioned above of clarity on purpose/ objective, connect with audience, maintaining consistency and coherence than can lead to trust among your target stakeholders or audience without the team even pitching! Credibility among leadership, the organisation’s impact, testimonials and the overall work needs to be stitched together as multiple narratives.