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Why Values Need to be at the Heart of Your Brand

Posted by on June 15th, 2022
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding   

I recently read a blog about branding that provided a clear process for distilling an organization’s positioning. The article offered a step-by-step approach in which a strategist analyzes the competitive landscape, and identifies the “winning zone” as the overlap between what your organization does best and what your customers want. 

The post is chock full of good advice, including concepts you’ve seen Mission Minded share in this blog and with our clients. Yet I felt something was missing in this approach that took me a few reads to name: Despite the wise advice about how to uncover what makes you unique,  there is no inclusion of your organization’s values, and how values impact your brand.

A brand strategy without values is simply a veneer. If what you’re saying on the outside doesn’t match who you are on the inside then your brand isn’t honest. 

This observation is at the heart of what differentiates commercial branding from branding purpose-driven organizations. It’s not just a matter of what your customers want, and what your organization does well. What you value, what you believe, and your big “why” are all essential to establishing who you are, and attracting others to join you.

Branding, when done well, should expose your deepest truths. 

Several years ago, the authors Nathalie Laidler-Kylander & Julia Shepard Stenzel explained this well in their book The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity.

They explained that three elements are key to nonprofit branding success:

  • Integrity: Your brand must be an authentic reflection of what you believe and what you do.
  • Democracy: Your brand engages people throughout the organization and beyond to participate in bringing your brand to life, with the result that all stakeholders become brand ambassadors. 
  • Affinity: Your organization recognizes that many goals are shared and that in order to be successful you need to play well with others. Brand affinity helps you identify what your organization uniquely brings to the table, but then shares the feast, rather than hoarding resources.

While there is much the nonprofit sector can learn from consumer branding approaches, purpose-driven branding depends on authenticity, integrity, values, democracy, and collaboration. Understanding what makes your organization unique is important, but great nonprofit branding also embraces the fundamental values and beliefs your work is built upon. 

Learn what Mission Minded teaches about how to identify and articulate a powerful set of values for your organization.

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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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