I just stumbled upon a new book that was tweeted about by the Stanford Social Innovation Review (they provide a great excerpt) called The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity. The book looks amazing and I just bought it. I intend to read over the next week or so and hope to have a review and some comments on it shortly.
One of the things that resonated with me most strongly about the book’s description and the brief excerpt linked above is the need for organizations engaging in social change work to dispose of the outdated idea of brand protection and control. The idea that a brand is something defined primarily by a logo and tagline and that a central office can command and control the evolution of brand is outdated. Brands are fluid and dynamic interactions between the ways that organizations portray and communicate their work and the ways that stakeholders, donors, volunteers, participants, clients, etc perceive that communication and actually interact with the work. These ideas remind me very much of Seth Godin.
Giving up some degree of control of brand is one of the more interesting tensions inherent in introducing grassroots community organizing into an established nonprofit organization. Community organizing demands volunteer leadership. Developing volunteer leadership demands that individuals not formally employed by the organization accept responsibility to create shared purpose within the community they hope to mobilize. Enabling volunteers to accept that responsibility means giving them responsibility and ownership over their work, but also over the brand, the very essence of the organization.
I was struck by this quote:
“Brand Democracy is the process of engaging internal and external stakeholders. It means that the nonprofit organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to participate in both the development of the organization’s brand identity and the communication of that identity. By brand Democracy, we do not mean that everyone gets to “vote” on the brand, but it does mean that there is stakeholder participation. Internal and external stakeholders are engaged in the process of defining, refining, articulating, and communicating the organization’s brand identity. In this way, everyone develops a clear understanding of the organization’s core identity and can become an effective brand advocate and ambassador. Every employee and volunteer authentically and personally communicates the essence of the brand. As a result, the need to exert control over how the brand is presented and portrayed in order to ensure strict consistency is largely eliminated. Noah Manduke, president of social sector brand consultancy Durable Good and former chief strategy officer, Jeff Skoll Group, conveyed the essence of brand Democracy, explaining that organizations need ‘a deliberate process that brings people from awareness (I know) to understanding (I know why) to adoption (I know how) to internalizing the brand (I believe).'”
I’m excited to dig in!