Lately I’ve found myself in the odd position of recommending an organization not pursue developing a new (or re-designing their existing) logo and tagline. Why do people so commonly think it should be their first marketing step, and why am I – a branding consultant – pulling back the reins?
Your logo is good enough – for now
There’s a lot of really, really poor nonprofit logos out there, and I would love to see groups doing critically important work have a visual representation of their brand that’s every bit as professional, memorable, and impactful as the group they stand for.
But as much as I appreciate a fine logo design that is clever and perfectly executed, you must know thyself first. Otherwise you risk falling prey to a mark that’s simply eye-catching or trendy. That’s simply not enough – you need your brand to work harder than that.
How would it even be possible to develop an appropriate logo – one that’s authentic for your organization, one that stand the test of time, one that looks just as fresh in several years as it does now – if you skip the three crucial steps listed below: Brand Values, Brand Personality and Brand Positioning?
Live with the sucky logo for now, and first, do your due diligence. If it’s survived this long, it probably has enough equity within your community to stagger around a while longer.
You don’t need a tagline – ever
A tagline done well is a useful marketing tool. However, it is not a critical part of defining your authentic brand. It is simply a short, catchy phrase that adds context to your name, who you are, what you do, and hopefully compels the reader to learn more or take an action of some kind.
But it’s not a simple task to come up with a good tagline, let alone a truly excellent one that is going to ring true in the minds of your audience members. In fact it’s really hard.
Integrity. Action. Community.
Connect. Engage. Develop.
Thrive. Grow. Excel.
Empowering People. Changing Lives.
Blah. Blah, Blah. Blah.
Several words or phrases separated by commas or periods are not a tagline. I don’t care how deeply connected you feel to these terms. You can’t pour a bunch of words or phrases or explanations on people and expect them to act in a certain way that’s beneficial to the organization.
Instead you need to hit constituents between the eyes with messages that show meaning in clear, consistent and immediately understandable ways that will connect with them on a deep level.
In other words, your brand needs to be infused with 1) values, 2) personality and to develop your 3) unique positioning. Here’s why I think some organizations need to wait on the whole logo and tagline thing:
1. You haven’t yet defined your Brand Values
Good brands make us feel like we’re spending time with old friends. Friends we understand and trust, who are reliable, steadfast and dependable. That’s because an organization’s brand stems from its identity – it flows from who they truly are, at their core.
In order to make a connection this deep with people, an organization needs to show the public who they really are, a certain way of being – like a person’s character, their values.
Defining core values takes an honest appraisal of the organization. If you haven’t yet done the work to identify your principles and beliefs – your strongest inborn traits – how could you begin to create a meaningful logo and tagline?
2. You haven’t yet defined your Brand Personality
In a similar vein to core brand values is defining how you act, look and sound – your Brand Personality.
Ultimately this guides all organizational interactions. If the group decides, for example, that one of its Brand Personality traits is “friendly”, then they’ll be able to judge their communications – direct mail, speeches, website copy, internal memos – for “friendliness”. If it doesn’t look, sound and feel friendly, they’ll know it doesn’t fit their brand personality.
A logo, tagline and all your internal and external communications must be infused with your Brand Personality – traits that ideally engage people and inspire commitment.
3. You haven’t yet defined your Brand Positioning
Brand Positioning is a critical part of developing an authentic brand. It’s a way of defining that one unique element that no one else can claim – your “competitive” edge. [This is relevant to nonprofits even if they think it’s not, since they’re also “competing” – for eyeballs, mindshare, time, grants and donations from your constituents.]
What’s the “magic ingredient” in the services and programs you provide? Are you a leader in you area? A pioneer? A specialist? There are many things you do, right now, that none of the organizations out there with similar missions – the groups people get you confused with – are doing, or talking about. This is your chance to claim that attribute. And once it’s identified and embraced, it can be used to assist your audiences, as a benefit you can promote.
How would it even be possible to develop a logo and tagline if you skip this part?
Ditch the tagline and logo re-design for now – you don’t need them yet. Focus instead on what really makes you “you” – your Brand Values, Brand Personality and unique Brand Positioning.
If you’d like help exploring which parts of my Brand Recipe process are best for you, get in touch and we’ll set up a time for a free 30-minute consultation.
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