After interviewing 100+ nonprofit folks about branding, Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, author of The Brand IDEA realized that brands have a powerful internal and external effect.
The external is more obvious. Apple - cool, smart, out of the box. Steve Jobs in his black turtle neck and black jeans. Think different - the company slogan. It’s the external projection of the company.
But when I was building the brand at Liberty Hill the impact that caught me by surprise was the powerful cohering effect it had internally. Suddenly, rather than board and staff acting like the blind men and the elephant each touching a different part of the animal, each thinking they had something different in their hands, now people knew who we were.
It was a powerful distillation of our mission and values. Our gestalt, I often called it.
And once everyone owned the brand, they all became proud brand ambassadors.
Branding usually lives in communications departments, but it’s a strategic organizational asset that’s equally if not more important to understand in those strategic organizational terms.
Nathalie Laidler Kylander teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School and Tufts’ Fletcher School. She spent 10 years researching how nonprofits use and should be using their brands. Her ideas about branding first appeared in a terrific article in Stanford Social Innovation Review.