Digital and brands – a perfect match?
At Public Life we’ve felt for a while now that there’s a big overlap in the processes involved in developing an organisation’s digital strategy and in creating and managing their brands.
With budgets so tight, this may be the moment when the need for charities to commission digital and branding together becomes a full-blown trend.
Over the past decade, non-profits have upped their marketing game massively, driven by increasing competition and the realisation that effective communications can deliver substantial returns, both in supporter loyalty and money raised.
The old practice of a new logo or name being decided purely on the whim of trustees is now virtually unheard of. Non-profits expect more.
I’d argue that some of this change is down to digital, which has been leading a quiet revolution in the understanding and practice of strategic marketing within the sector.
The first discipline digital has brought to bear is effective measurement. Good data, produced through Google analytics natural search management, is easier to lay your hands on than ever before. This means that it’s easy to prove that close management of communications has an impact. In turn, this has led to better visual presentation, clearer messaging and, crucially a powerfully articulated sense of mission – all things that translate to increased returns in engagement and donations. The ease with which we can carry out A/B testing of a website live on the web means you can directly resolve which particular approach to a design situation is going to deliver returns.
The ease with which we can carry out A/B testing of a website live on the web means you can directly resolve which particular approach to a design situation is going to deliver returns.
The second digital bonus has been wider understanding of the need to understand and profile audiences. As an agency, we seldom get briefs now that want us to help clients appeal to ‘the general public’ – a catch-all category that is virtually meaningless as a guide to effective marketing, which depends on audience segmentation and targeting.
User focused design methods, enable us to create experiences, systems and journeys that explicitly fulfil particular audience needs. It is no longer such a leap to see the same type of user focused practices of audience analysis and segmentation applied to brand design and management.
Like a brand, a website is one of the few opportunities an organisation has to look at its communications holistically. Both brands and websites need to effectively address every aspect of an organisation and all of its audiences, so thinking abut one involves covering a very similar terrain to the other.
A better return
While there are loads of areas where brand and digital overlap, the key driver right now for many organisations is return on investment. We have found that the stages involved in scoping out a new website – understanding your organisation, culture and service offer, mapping your competitors and identifying differentiators and audience profiling and service design – can almost all be applied to a brand process, with a bit of tweaking and a solid grounding in both digital and brand processes. This overlap can translatee to direct savings and more effective and integrated marketing activities.
Of course, the processes aren’t exactly matched. Some things will always be web specific, such as the need to map out the user experience in paper prototypes and develop a functional spec. Likewise, some things will always be brand specific, such as the need to involve a wide range of trustees and top level stakeholders.
But there are enough overlaps to mean that combined projects can deliver substantial benefits, particularly for organisations like Locality, who have recently merged and have the chance rethink both their brand and digital services from the bottom up.
Locality’s recent success in winning the bid to deliver the national Community Organisers Programme suggests that they’ve laid a good foundation for taking their new organisation to the next level.