How will charity brands need to change to engage audiences of the future?

By Ben Ryder Smith

It’s just over two weeks (25.04.18) since the Charity Comms ‘Future of engagement’ conference at Prospero House. We thoroughly enjoyed sponsoring the day, learning from the varied speakers and meeting many new faces from the charity world, as well as catching up with old friends.

Our very own Max du Bois had the penultimate speaking slot. Max looked specifically at how charity brands will need to change in order to engage audiences of the future, and today we bring you our Top Tips on engaging those audiences of the future.

#1 is flexibility. Moving into the future some things will stay the same, some will change a bit and some will change a lot. If things stay the same, your charity brand will need to do things better than the immediate competition. Your brand must also be ready to flex and shift to the degree of change required, whether that’s a new medium of social media like Vero or a wider reaching cultural trend. 

#2 your charity brand must answer the question ‘why choose me’, and inspire action from your audiences, helping you achieve your strategic goals. To do so your brand needs to be distinctive, relevant and capture the imagination.

#3 is the importance of providing a faster, easier and more pleasurable brand experience. Within a charity context the best example of this is contactless payments, offering the opportunity to seize the real time benefits of digital.

Also be sure to take a look at the Gartner hype cycle and only invest in a piece of technology once it’s proven itself by successfully riding ‘the wave of expectation’.

#4 is to reclaim your purpose. What do we mean by that? Well, what do charities have in abundance? Purpose. What have corporates stolen from the sector? Your language of purpose. They may have budgets x30 the size, but purpose is part of your DNA and mustn’t be lost in the pursuit of future engagement.

#5 ties in nicely with #4, and that is to have a brand that attracts relevant partners. Corporates may be guilty of stealing your language, but that doesn’t mean you can’t align when a mutually beneficial partnership arises.  

For example, investment management firm Black Rock, who control $6 trillion worth of assets (making it the 11th largest economy in the world), believe our governments are failing us and the companies they invest in should not only be delivering financial performance, but also demonstrate a positive contribution to society. Here lies the biggest opportunity.

#6 is to develop purpose driven commercial brands for charitable ends. Max illustrated this by referencing the brand we built for Brewbird.  By training ex offenders as baristas, Brewbird challenges preconceptions, giving people confidence and a valuable skill that is constantly in demand. Their brand flies the flag for these unique and powerful beliefs. 

#7 is your brand acting as an enabler rather than a dictator. Max cited the merger brand we created for the National Education Union. Member participation and co creation were at the heart of the new brand we built together, as NEU became the organisation that champions education as a great place to work, to teach and to learn. 

A far cry from the previous ‘defend our rights’ public perception, and a far more engaging proposition for existing and prospective members.

#8 links nicely with one of the overriding themes of the day (reciprocity) and the importance of your charity brand providing a benefit in order to engage audiences of the future. This might be an insightful or humorous piece of free content or timely and hard-hitting impact figures.

#9 is to be active, and Max used the rebrand we carried out for Tes to illustrate the benefit of an active brand. We repositioned Tes from a perception as a pure play publisher, to the world’s largest teaching community, for teaching, for schools and for whatever comes next.

#10 is to constantly evolve, in other words to never leave well alone and always have one eye on tomorrow. According to Wally Olins, Britain’s most articulate and effective proselytizer of brand, ‘where there’s a strong committed leadership, a brand will take root and become an intrinsic part of the organisations fabric. Where there isn’t, it will disintegrate and the organisation will be left with an empty shell’.

If you would like more information regarding, or a copy of, the Spencer du Bois Brand Score Card, please email Ben Ryder-Smith