Here's what's wowing me lately. 

The "B Word." Why everyone is talking branding

A couple of years ago, I was advised to be careful who I said the "B Word" to. 

Branding. Among nonprofits, people still thought it smacked of commercialism.

Now I gauge my success by the fact that everyone at Liberty Hill talks about branding. A lot of other folks in progressive advocacy circles do too.

That’s the good news.

Amnesty International's yellow candle logo

Amnesty International's yellow candle logo

The bad news is that almost no one has the same idea of what the “B word” means. It’s like the blind men and the elephant. Everyone thinks they're holding something different. 

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity will help. The book is an expanded version of a terrific article that appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review last year. 

Based on interviews with nonprofit communications leaders, the authors make conclusions about how brands operate powerfully inside and outside nonprofits. Strong brands have a binding effect internally. I saw that at Liberty Hill. It helped everyone face the same direction and sing the same tune. 

And then there's the external value. The authors saw how brands could be used not only to champion a company, but a larger cause.

Brands are a strategic asset, not just a marketing tool. 

I'm going to interview the authors soon on my KPFK show but in the meantime you can listen to a talk Nathalie Kylander gave about the SSIR article. There are also three interesting case studies associated with the book that were published by the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard. For my money, if you only read one - they're short! -- check out the study of Amnesty International's global rebranding. There are also case studies of World Wildlife Fund and Nike's Girl Effect.