Part 4: Don’t forget brand research

We’ll spend the next few posts in the series focusing on brand research. But first, let’s recall a few things about your brand in general.

First, your brand is more than your logo or tagline. Repeat that a few times.

Second, your brand only exists in the minds of your audiences. “How can that be?” you ask. “Our brand is on everything we do: our website, our appeals, our newsletters, our signage, etc.” My reply? See point one above.

Your logo and even your messaging may be out there, but your brand is more than that. Your brand is the cumulative set of associations that people have about your organization or product/service. If I say, “Apple,” certain associations or perceptions come to mind. If I say, “Velveeta,” a completely different set of responses emerge (and not all of them necessarily good, hence the old joke: What do you get when Velveeta goes bad? Velveeta…)

In both those examples, you’re not just thinking about the logo or even the ads or packaging you may have seen. You have a rich set of memories and associations formed by the organizations themselves, as well as your own experiences and the words of others which influence how you perceive that organization or its products or services.

So how does one uncover what those particular perceptions are about one’s own brand? Through brand research.

Non-profits, however, tend to make three mistakes when it comes to brand research.

The first mistake most organizations make regarding brand research is this: They don’t do it.

They think they know their donors already. Or worse, they think they know their organization better than their donors do. Which is probably true. But it doesn’t matter: Donors will form their own perceptions of you and, right or wrong, those perceptions will guide their giving.

For example, let’s say you’re a rescue mission. You know the wide variety of services you provide in your community, from recovery programs to amazing cooperative ventures with local government agencies. You may even have done some donor research (as opposed to brand research) which shows that donors give most when there’s a match involved, or because they trust you to use their funds well. All of that is great, but without brand research, you still don’t know what they truly value most about your organization or how they think about you vis-a-vis other charities.

Good brand research helps you get to that deeper understanding about what those closest to your organization love and value most about it. Brand research uncovers the emotional responses and connections people have with a brand, not just the cognitive reasons they tell themselves and others why they give. Most donations are driven by emotion. Good brand research helps reveal those emotional drivers.

That is, if you do it…

We’ll explore next time how to discover the deeper emotional connections donors have with your brand and what NOT to do with brand research.

This post is the 4th part of an ongoing series on non-profit branding. Read the other posts: