Does brand matter? The simple answer is yes, but in the increasingly competitive world of health and human services, I think brand will matter more and more. The reason is simple – we are moving from a “commodity-based” service market to one that is more competitive. In this case, competitive means appealing to payers and consumer alike in terms of preference. The “new” value equation is a combination of service and convenience and brand – which is why thinking about “brand” may be a more important in the years to come.
But branding may take on even more strategic role for non-profit organizations. I was intrigued by a recent article on this issue by Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone, The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Their premise: “Many nonprofits continue to use their brands primarily as a fundraising tool, but a growing number of nonprofits are developing a broader and more strategic approach, managing their brands to create greater social impact and tighter organizational cohesion.” They present four principles as part of “Nonprofit Brand IDEA” (Brand Integrity, Democracy, Ethics, and Affinity):
Brand integrity – “[This] means that the organization’s internal identity is aligned with its external image and that both are aligned with the mission.” A house divided cannot stand, whether that is because your mission says one thing, and the actions of management says another, or the internal workings of the organization don’t exemplify either the mission, or the external image. All three components (mission, actions, image) need to align.
Brand democracy – “[This] means that the organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to communicate their own understanding of the organization’s core identity.” This message sounds at odds with the traditional approach of total brand control, but the catalyst (social media and online communication) makes total control almost impossible. Making staff part of the solution, is the solution.
Brand Ethics – “[This] means that the brand itself and the way it is deployed reflect the core values of the organization.” By taking “brand integrity” and making it part of organizational culture, and organizational actions, the brand can align with all the strategic and operational pieces of an organization together.
Brand affinity – “[This] means that the brand is a good team player, working well alongside other brands, sharing space and credit generously, and promoting collective over individual interests.” In a health and human service industry that is rolling quickly toward integration, collaboration and managed care, brands that can attract partners will have added value.
For more on branding, check out these resources:
And, for a broader look at the marketing issues facing the field, check out my piece, Three Components Of A Communication Campaign , in the March edition of the OPEN MINDS Monthly Management Newsletter, where I took a close look at marketing best practice strategies and tactics, which need to include a great brand management initiative.
For another free resource, see: Can Your Management Team Answer These Three Questions About Your Brand Name? all members