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Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Posted by on May 6th, 2010
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Copywriting, Nonprofit Messaging, Storytelling    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Nonprofits typically don’t have as much money to spend on marketing as for-profit companies do. But what you lack in funds you can make up for in disciplined use of consistent messages and media over a long period of time.

Nonprofits tend to up and change their messages and design far too frequently. This results in a lack of any clear message being received by the people they need to reach.

You’re not in business to entertain yourself; you’re in business to change the world. To change the world, your message has to stick. For your message to stick, it must remain consistent.

Think of how many times a year you get a chance to really connect with your target audience. Not many, compared to a high-profit marketer like McDonald’s. When the chain launched its national marketing campaign, everyone in America had probably heard the slogan “I’m loving it” inside of two days. McDonald’s can afford to plaster the campaign all over your town along with everything you listen to and watch. But equally important—and the nonprofit’s take-away lesson—is that McDonald’s knows about consistency.

What if, instead of sticking with “I’m loving it” in every aspect of the campaign, they had put “I really, really like it” on some of their posters, and “You will love it” on others, and then used the line “McDonald’s equals love” in their TV ads?

It might have been cute, but the message would have been diluted and far less likely to be remembered. McDonald’s resisted the temptation to “go wide” and chose instead to make something memorable.

Yet, nonprofits make the “variety” mistake every day. They worry that their target audience might be bored with their message. They worry that they could find a better way to say the same thing. They change their focus and so assume they need to change their message.

That’s a big mistake.

Consistent use of message over time is the way nonprofits can successfully capture attention and stand for something.

Think of some of the organizations we know that do this well: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” has been the tagline of the United Negro College Fund for decades. “Only you can prevent forest fires” has been Smokey the Bear’s motto since most of us were kids.

Pick your messages and stick to them through thick and thin: it’s the way to make your marketing efforts stick.


Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.

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