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A brand is so much more than a logo or tagline. It defines the essence of your organization and everything it stands for. This is of particular importance for mission-driven organizations, as the brand serves as a representation of your cause, goals, and accomplishments. It is essential that your brand effectively captures who you are, who you serve, and what you do.

These common pitfalls can weaken a mission-driven brand experience. But effectively communicating your brand promise and engaging with your audience will ultimately create greater awareness and support for the organization.

The problem: Failing to understand your audience

The solution: Defining your target audience is one of the most critical pieces in establishing a meaningful brand. For mission-driven organizations, this can be particularly complex as you may have multiple subsets including investors, donors, sponsors, general community, and more.

It is also essential to understand your limits. You can’t be all things to all people, and generalizing messaging in an attempt to create a mass appeal is not an effective approach.

By developing a deeper understanding of your audiences and their perception of your brand, you can establish a focused communication effort that builds a consistent thread across all audience types. This foundation will also allow you to custom tailor messaging to engage specific groups and ultimately create a lasting impression.

The problem: Failing to understand your organization

The solution: While it may seem obvious, understanding your audience won’t create a successful brand if you do not fully understand the true purpose of your organization. Stakeholders and leaders within the organization are often misaligned on its mission, values, and/or goals. Too often, nonprofits and social enterprises get hung up on the high-level objectives of a cause, and fail to dive deeper to interpret what makes the organization unique.

The mission-driven sector can be crowded, with companies focused on overlapping causes and failing to define what it is that differentiates them from a sea of seemingly similar competitors. While causes may be similar, no two nonprofits or social enterprises are identical. Defining the root of your brand promise is the key to differentiating, which in turn attracts a target audience who share an emotional connection with that brand promise.

The problem: Failing to express your brand effectively

The solution: A strong brand also requires an effective expression of brand promise in each and every audience interaction. This includes visual communications, such as your website, business cards, and brochures, as well as verbal communications like website content, social media tone and messaging, and even interactions with employees.

Your brand promise will serve as the connective thread for the expression of your brand. Creating a unique yet unified presence across all platforms not only facilitates consistency, but it also ensures that your audience builds confidence and trust through their various interactions and ultimate perception of your brand.

The problem: Failing to maintain brand consistency

The solution: One common pain point that’s inevitable for mission-driven organizations is a lack of internal resources. Whether this is due to insufficient staff, turnover, or a lack of established procedures, the result is inconsistency in communications, business documents, marketing and event materials, and more. This ultimately causes rifts in the perception of your organization both internally and externally.

To prevent this brand dilution, create a formal brand guidelines document which outlines exact specifications of all brand interactions. This includes everything from your positioning statement to logo specifications and photography use. While brand guidelines can’t guarantee a cohesive brand experience, they provide internal staff with essential tools to execute consistently.

The bottom line

Establishing and maintaining a strong, meaningful brand can be particularly challenging for a nonprofit organization or social enterprise. Taking a step back and identifying these key areas on which brands often fail can help you set yourself up for successful differentiation in an ever-crowded marketplace.

Ben Gust

Ben is the Chief Creative Officer at D+i Creative, a Denver-based brand and product creative agency which specializes in designing contagious experiences that create worth for brands and digital products. Ben is responsible for the work product from both an original creative and level of quality standpoint, overseeing all creative execution that passes through the studio and originating ideas and solutions from a conceptual, visual and verbal approach as necessary.