Competition

Competition

The word “competition” can bring up very binary responses. Some think “win, superior, survival of the fittest!” Others might muse, “unnecessarily aggressive, scarcity mentality.”

Whatever your attitude about competition, knowing where your non-profit fits in the competitive landscape, and having the design that supports your position, is vital to getting the attention you need to rally support and achieve your mission.

Consider how your branding and identity materials fit among your peers. Gather logos and examples from all organizations in your niche. Looking at your peers and competition from a high level can show you what you (and your competitors) have not addressed. While taking a broad view might seem intimidating, strategizing with a clear understanding of the landscape will help you solidify your position.

But if we tend to understand what is familiar, then what makes design both fresh and easily understood? If your logo looks out of place when viewed side-by-side with your peers, you should take a more in-depth look. Do any materials stand out as particularly well- or poorly- designed? Seeing your articles in context with other organizations can bring any design issues into focus.

Also, consider what you might like about brands and organizations outside of your niche. Comparing across different sectors can also emphasize what works and what doesn’t.

Competition does not have to be a threat: especially in the non-profit sector, where everyone aims to help. Your competitors can also be your peers, your community, and your support system. Comparing yourself to other organizations can highlight your weaknesses, but there is also an opportunity to reveal your strengths.

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Is your design working for you?

Is your design working for you?

At some point, you may wonder if your design is working against you. If you saw our previous post about the success of design-driven organizations and felt a sinking feeling wishing your organization was more design driven…don’t despair! We’re going to give you some things to think about when putting some razzle-dazzle back into your design.

Strategy.

The best identity systems are those based on solid strategy. Consider your overall business objectives and review your logo, brand, print materials & website from a strategic perspective. Has the organization’s focus shifted from the original designs? If you have grown significantly or are reaching a very different audience, it may be necessary to redesign to more accurately reflect your current (and future) growth. We’ve covered strategy here, here and here.

Professionalism.

Is your design professional? Often, smaller organizations launch with materials designed by a volunteer or a student. While that may be appropriate in the early stages, as the organization grows and seeks greater opportunity and influence, the quality and professionalism of the design need to keep pace.

Equity. 

Not all logos need updating. Consider your audience’s relationship with the logo. How much equity does your logo have? If your audience is very comfortable with your current logo, it’s wise to tread lightly when it comes to redesigning. In some cases, a beloved logo that would otherwise benefit from a revision might be better off with the most modest of updates.

Usability.

A logo that is difficult to read or does not reproduce well is a good candidate for a redesign. Consider how the logo is used and note any difficulties you have in its application. Usability extends to the pain points that might prevent an organization from fully employing all of the materials and tools available to them. Knowing what you want your tools and materials to do is as important as having them in the first place. 

Consistency.

Do you have too many variations in your materials? One type of font & color scheme for one event, and something entirely different for the rest? While this is not an issue for smaller organizations, larger companies with many departments may find that they’ve lost control of the brand. This is an excellent reason to revisit the design — and create a reliable Identity Standards Manual — and then make one person responsible for managing consistency.

Competition.

Consider how your branding and identity materials fit among your competitors/peers? Gather the logos from all organizations in your niche. Do any stand out as particularly well- or poorly- designed? If your logo looks out of place when viewed side-by-side with your peers, you should take a more in-depth look.

Resonance.

Beyond the specific design elements, a strong logo furthers positive associations with your organization. Do you feel that the logo accurately represents the organization? Do you like it? Are you proud of it? Does the logo —and the broader brand system— trigger positive emotions?

Undertaking this type of analysis of your materials and assets puts you in a perfect position to make more strategic and practical design decisions.

For more information or to enlist Union Design to provide a Design Audit of your logo or other marketing materials, send a note to hello@uniondesignstudio.com.

 

 

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Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

No, we’re not talking about a police state or identity theft.

An Identity Czar, also known as the Identity Police or the Branding Guru is the go-to person in your organization who can assess whether any communications material conforms to the brand standards. The Identity Czar is, essentially, the keeper of the brand.

Brands can deteriorate over time if they are not maintained. Just like a mission can drift, so can a brand. It may seem refreshing to send out a fundraising appeal that departs from the brand standards. But too many variations add up to a fractured identity, and a confusing client or donor experience. If nobody is keeping an eye on the message and tone of the materials you send out, it becomes difficult to be unified.

The role of the Identity Czar is to ensure that the brand is accurately represented across mediums. This is especially critical in situations where an outside design firm develops the brand and the organization employs freelancers for ongoing work. An Identity Guide is an excellent reference, but it can’t cover every possible branding circumstance. This is why it is so helpful to have a single person in charge of interpreting the Guide.

This person doesn’t have to be a designer. She also doesn’t need to be called the Identity Czar. (Branding Ninja, anyone?)  Often, the Director of Marketing, Communications or Development takes this role. Sometimes it is the Executive Director. Anyone who participated in the branding process and is familiar with the intimate details such as tone, message and persona can do this job. If you’re working with an outside design firm, they can teach you to learn what to look for.

Giving one person this responsibility makes it easier to keep an eye on the variety of materials being produced. It is important that the person is officially appointed so that their role is not questioned. The Czar is not creating the brand. The Czar’s role is simply to enforce what the entire communications team has already agreed upon.

After investing time and money into developing your organization’s brand, appointing a brand czar will help maintain the consistency (and therefore trust) that you’ve put so much work into developing.

 

 

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Affection, branding, and soap.

Affection, branding, and soap.

As much as we want our business to be the best in our field, sometimes the brutal truth is that we are one of many excellent companies. Small businesses can come to dread the idea of competition, and often the idea of having to compete can keep people from promoting their services. You can narrow down your client base, but usually, there are still a lot of people serving the same audience.

So, how do you build a brand around a business like this?
Let’s look at some big brands. Not the exciting ones, like Apple or Nike, but brands for an everyday product: soap.  Neutrogena, Dove, and Aveeno are all brands at a similar price point, aiming for the same general customer. There are some product differences, but essentially they all do the same thing.

The first level of differentiation is in how each brand frames the idea of skincare. Neutrogena emphasizes healthy skin. Dove emphasizes moisturizing cleansers. Aveeno emphasizes natural ingredients.

One of these brands takes differentiation to the next level by going beyond product differences.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty promotes the idea that all women are beautiful. This has nothing to do with the quality of Dove’s products, but it is persuasive in positioning the brand as pro-women and body positive. Women have talked about (and been internally tortured by) the unreasonable beauty standards set for women for decades, and Dove finally listened. Dove is the only skincare brand that shows up as shared content on my social media feed. It gets shared because the message is powerful. Dove has connected to a powerful “why” for their brand, and people pay attention.

So what does this mean for your business? Even in a crowded and competitive field where you can’t demonstrate that you are significantly better than other service providers, your brand can stand out.

You can stand out by:

the way you speak to your audience
the values you hold
the way you deliver your service
You can stand out by standing up for what you believe.

Dove is an excellent example of an ordinary brand that has hugely distinguished itself through brand messaging — they were clear on their purpose and chose a mission that would resonate with their audience, not a coincidence! Dove makes fine products. One aspect of their brand focuses on promoting features of their product, but they distinguish themselves by the way they talk to their audience.

Can you think of the “why” behind Neutrogena or Aveeno products? Maybe these companies have decided on this internally, but it’s not as clear or as compelling in their messaging as the Campaign for Real Beauty is for Dove.

Questions for reflection:

What aspects of your purpose will most resonate with your audience?
What can you do to align your messaging with that purpose further?

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