branding expected; Marketing is Education – PRINT Magazine – PRINT Magazine | Wonder Mind Kids

In the nonprofit space, the different functions of communication often become blurred, especially when it comes to branding and marketing. Although they are interconnected and interdependent, these are entirely different stages of communication that require different approaches.

Because I love metaphors, I want to explore how these two phases relate to each other in a way that many of you might be able to identify with. I will draw from two areas of personal experience – I am a father of three and run a design studio that has guided dozens of nonprofits through the branding (or rebranding) process. Having played both roles in parallel for many years, I noticed some striking similarities between expecting and nurturing children and expecting and nurturing brands.

Branding is as expected

You and your partner have decided that you are ready to have a baby. It feels like the right moment in your life to take the plunge and you are determined.

When it comes to your nonprofit organization, you and the communications team anxiously and eagerly begin the process of growing and maintaining an organization’s brand. You’ve secured internal buy-in, you’ve identified your stakeholder team, and you have a budget ready to go.

You are a ball of emotions. You feel anxious, expectant, hopeful! You are entering new territory and you know that it will change your future. You can already feel the enormous responsibility on your shoulders.

The journey will be long. Nine months seems like an eternity – and also like an incredibly short time for all the things that it takes. You have so much to learn and immediately feel overwhelmed by the situation, so you seek comfort and support.

First you seek advice from those close to you. How will the process look like? What lies ahead? What should you pay attention to? Who should you speak to? Some of their answers are helpful, others just confuse you more and give you excitement. But you want to be as prepared as possible for the endeavor ahead.

Your research and the more knowledgeable guides will help you realize that there are experts out there who have been through this a million times and know all the ins and outs.

For both expectant parents and brand managers, choosing a team that offers the right mix of coaching, emotional support and subject matter expertise is one of your first big decisions. These professionals are there to guide you through the process: to bring clarity to the surface, to help you and your team through the wondrous and anxious moments, to be by your side as your brand is born, and around moreover, to provide continuous support das. You can breathe easy knowing that you are in good hands.

First trimester: branding strategy

The first three months are full of new milestones. That is real! It happens. All of this is slowly taking shape. It’s really intense at times, but the progress is tangible, meaningful. It’s so exciting to imagine the future. This newborn will be the quintessence of everything you stand for in the world – so no pressure!

Throughout the brand strategy phase, you and your team will reflect deeply and share discussions that you never had a serious opportunity to engage in. You will balance different perspectives and align with the values ​​you want to instill in your baby from day one. You’ll also realize how important your work is to your employees – how vast, complex and impressive it is. Finally, guided by the values ​​of your organization and the expertise of your agency partner, everything begins to crystallize.

Second trimester: Verbal and visual identity

Everyone knows you’re pregnant and paid you a visit to share memories and commemorate this groundbreaking moment. Those involved in your life journey have witnessed so much. They offer a wealth of knowledge—some of it affirming, some of it humbling, some of it eye-opening. Coupled with what you’ve learned so far, things are beginning to focus and you can see some important insights. You feel better about how things are progressing.

You’re starting to see fuzzy, abstract images that help you visualize what your child will look like and you’ve downloaded a baby names app to start brainstorming. Your core brand idea and creative brief will anchor further work and help you envision how your brand will ultimately look and sound. They serve as the basis for the verbal and visual identity design phase of the journey.

Third Trimester: Building your brand and preparing for launch

You are now on the home stretch. You are now at a point where your new brand is almost fully developed – the strategy and idea are clearly reflected in a strong verbal and visual identity. You’re convinced your baby is waving a peace sign at you with his tiny fingers in the latest sonogram. You’ve seen some convincingly real 3D renderings to help you imagine what they’ll look like one day. You can’t wait for the world to see what you’ve seen so far!

Delivery Day: Launch of your new brand

But first you need to prepare for the delivery day. You pack your bag with everything you need: a comfortable pillow, a change of clothes, a good book, a streamlined brand guide, and all the templates you need to bring your new brand to life. They even created a new website to share this special moment with everyone you know. They did all your QA at the last minute to make sure everything was in perfect condition.

You’re ready to tell the world too! You’ve queued your social media startup posts and planned the newsletter blast you’ll be sending out to the thousands of people on your mailing list once your baby is born. The contractions set in. Let the brand rollout begin. This kid is ready for the world!

Marketing is like parenting

Congratulations! They’ve got a healthy new brand with curly toes, big cheeks and really loud whistles. Everyone you’ve shared pictures with has passed out. Your team is so proud and so invested in what you have achieved together. You feel more synergies than ever before.

Then you realize you have to teach this baby how to do it all. Factory settings are limited to crying, sleeping, and trash removal. Walk, talk, drink, eat, think, strong values, empathy, make a living – it’s all up to you now. Buckle up: It took you nine months to get to the starting line. Now that you have this baby, what are you going to teach them?

How will you guide them as they evolve and grow?

Your new brand will help focus your team’s culture and communication like never before. It will inspire your employees to post more content and share more ideas. It will help you attract new funders and talent. But achieving these things requires consistent and careful management. Your new brand is the tool your business has been waiting for. It’s now up to you and your team to make sure it’s always a vibrant brand that never forgets what you stand for.

How will you use it to continue building on the ideals at the heart of your organization? How will it inform people about your work and inspire them to support it? How will your new brand help you gather and strengthen your community? How will you use it to change the world?

You have a great responsibility to nurture this newborn through the world, but the potential is endless. Let the parenting fun begin.

You cannot have one without the other

My years as a parent have taught me the importance of everything we share with our children being rooted in a clear, consistent, and shared understanding of what we value most. When we turn and behave in an unexpected way, they immediately notice and question it.

Some nonprofits pay little attention to branding because they think their money is better spent on marketing — or rush through a superficial rebranding effort that ignores a lack of internal alignment and clarity about how you communicate your work. These organizations run all kinds of siled campaigns and events with no strategic or visual basis. Your communication ends up feeling inconsistent and scattered. Your teams waste precious time and energy searching in the dark for a unifying idea and tone to guide their work.

Others invest resources and energy into a rebrand but don’t have the discipline and long-term commitment to communicate it to the world and really capitalize on their investment.

Branding – and I promise this is my last hit with the metaphor – takes up an entire village. Your team, your board and funders, your community and a group of experienced and compassionate professionals who can safely and confidently guide your organization through the process. We are these professionals, your designated care team. If you’re in the early stages of this life-changing experience for your business, we should start speaking immediately.

Marketing is the expression of your organization’s DNA as it is encoded in your brand. It has the potential to improve and activate the behavior of your organization. And like parenting, it never really stops, not even when your nonprofit organization has matured and is successfully fulfilling its mission.


This essay was originally published in Hyperakt’s Insights newsletter, a purpose-driven design and innovation studio that enhances human dignity and inspires curiosity. Illustration by Merit Myers.

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