Tutorial: 12 July 2011

by raymanookian

Had a tutorial with John yesterday evening prior to our summer break. The main focus of this tutorial was to work out exactly the strategy and focus for the contents of the final piece. It’s shaping towards a critic on the ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ of branding within the charity sector. There is also a potential scope for output(s) involving playing off some of the findings within the study.

Here are the thoughts I have taken from this discussion:

  1. The ‘Me too’ model
  2. The toolbox
  3. Value add
  4. Audience
  5. The competitive field
  6. Accountability
  7. The monopoly
  8. Culture
  9. Globalisation
  10. Politics of ‘self’
The point of the study will be to look at what benefits and difference commercial/corporate branding has brought to the Third sector. The Third sector covers all organisations and instituions that are ‘Not-for-profit’, (charities, social enterprises and non government organisations). To ensure that the argument is as balanced as possible the aim will be to look at as far across the spectrum from two points of view. (As stated above; positive and negative).

From my own experience, branding is primarily about building relationships through trust. Having people ‘trust’ your product or service is of paramount concern and focus. Without trust there is no belief in what you stand for, and if their is no belief, then their is no relationship. Without that relationship you have no correlation with your audience; in short . . . you have nothing . . . you’re doomed!

The best any branding designer can hope to do is plant a seed in the minds of the consumer, regardless of product, that will over time grow and develop into a long lasting relationship.

The Third sector, in my mind, has an even tougher sell compared to those in the commercial or corporate arena. I take this position based on the fact, that an organisation in this sector rarely, if ever, has anything that is physical or tangible on offer. The conversation these organisation are engaged with its current or potential audiences is on an emotive level. Because of this, the challenging facing this sector is how to get donors/sponsors to ‘buy-in’ to their ideas and trust their philosophy and prophecy. Their ability to do this is paramount to their survival as being able to demonstrate this, and demonstrate this well, is key for their audience as to how and the why we should not only believe in them but fund their cause.

Professional branding practitioners have long used clever devices to trigger emotional connections with the end user, be it with intelligent seduction or skilled semiotics. So, to start with, here are the questions I am looking to explore:
  • How does the Third sector do this?
  • Are the rules the same for this sector compared to the commercial/corporate sectors.
  • What are the nuances of their methods?
  • What are the tactics?
  • Are they working?
  • How have they changed, if at all, the perception of these organisations?
The assembled numbered list at present is in no specific order of importance, and during this research no doubt, some of these will be either merged, rendered no applicable, as well as, producing more specific lines of enquiry. But to start to expand on some of these themes, here is a summary of the thought process thus far:

1. The ‘me too’ mentality
What I intend to look at and critic is the general visual language between the chosen organisations (this is to be detailed in the actual piece, right now it is focussing on mainly on the global and national players between 2000-2010), analysing the style of each of the indivdual charities and how they stand up to their own philosphy and set goals. I will be hoping to find the points of difference, if any, and detecting how they help/hinder them from the direct and indirect competition within the their sector(s).

2. Toolbox
This will look at the methods of the brand and marketing material (output) of the chosen set of organisations. Focussing on the techniques model of raising awareness, communicating their message and looking at how effective they are, how they have taken on particular issue of specific interest and how they have evolved over a period of of the last decade. I also want to try and establish how intelligent and sophisticated their techniques have become and if this is to the benefit or disadvantage. Is this actually benefiting their cause, causing a distraction, losing trust etc.

3. Value add
What value is brought into the fold by using professional techniques? The aim is to explore what exactly is gained in terms of commercial gain, standing among its peers and profile and perception in general of these organisations and ask whether this is of benefit to the Third sector. If so, what are they, and if not, what is the damage?

4. Audience
This will look at the audience, both internal and external, and how these organisations are communicating to these audiences. What types of people donate to these organisations? where are they from? If an organisation is dependant on a volunteer army of individuals, how does it ensure that everyone is aware of the organisations values and proposition? That everyone is on message? Are these organisations taking care to ensure their audiences are well informed? That the money is being well spent?

5. The competitive field
This will take part as an audit and survey of the sectors. Each will be broken down into the various specialities and genres. I want to understand what this visual landscape looks like and how each of these organisations are working to differentiate themselves and look at the tactics employed in their external collateral. Has charities become big business? Are they promoting themselves properly? What do they do well/badly? How sophisticated/naive are they? Can they justify what they are spending? What is the ROI (return on investment)? Does this matter?

6. Accountability
I’m interested in understanding if the commercial/corporate branding model has effected the perception of these organisations on the whole. The central question, as stated above, is all about ‘Trust’. Do we still trust them? Have they lost their way? What has brand brought that couldn’t have achieved without it and vice versa?

7. The monopoly
This is an extension of the competitive field study. I’m interested to find out if these organisation are using their brands effectively? ethically? efficiently? Is there a danger that these organisation are becoming too big and powerful? Losing focus of their primary aims and ambitions? Are they over extending themselves?

8. Culture
I’m intrigue to find out a bit more about the attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular sector. How do they identify themselves? The tone of voice? Imagery etc.? How has this changed over the past decade? Are they better/smarter?

9. Globalisation
What has challenges has globalisation brought to this sector, and how, if anything has brand been of benefit, or detrimental, to this sector?

10. Politics of self
I want to explore whether brand has changed the philosophy, and more importantly, the politics of this sector. Early studies have shown me that a number of these global organisations were born within or around the counter culture movements in the sixties and seventies. An era dominate with the ‘politics of self’.

These are all still quite vague, but do at least, start the journey. No doubt more questions will need to be asked and all the answers to the above may be too difficult or too broad to answer within this study. But so long as it brings to light some of the issues of my primary research, then I am happy to get started.