The Purpose of Social Impact Brands
The fundamental job of any brand is to build awareness and loyalty. That’s true for both corporate brands and social impact brands. In both cases, brands inspire cult-like loyalty when they tell an authentic story that ties into their audience's identities in some meaningful way. Brands are a big reason why some purchases feel more relational than transactional.
Of course, corporate brands are always tied to transactions. In the context of profit-driven organizations, brand loyalty is used to propel sales and grow markets. Market-driven social enterprises leverage their brands in a similar fashion — but with an altruistic ulterior motive.
But when it comes to nonprofits, brand loyalty serves a different purpose. Rather than products and services, it’s your mission you “sell.”
Of course, social impact organizations have long informed, educated, and advocated in their efforts to build a coalition of support. But in today’s digital-first attention economy, you need to go further. You need to build a compelling, recognizable brand and bottle your educational information and calls to action in the form of scroll-stopping content (content your supporters would never mindlessly scroll past).
If progress is your product, then brand loyalty is the glue that holds together your broad community of supporters — people who are “all in” on your vision of a better future. It’s what inspires them to deepen their relationship with your cause by reengaging time after time.
Rather than fueling purchases with your brand loyalty, your job is to stoke engagement. That engagement could take the form of donations, advocacy, volunteer work, and other actions. The more your supporters reengage, the bigger your actions can become and the more progress you can make on your mission.
One other thing to keep in mind: Your brand already “speaks” for your organization, whether you invest in it or not. The truth is that supporters and funders alike will judge your organization's effectiveness based on your brand, consciously or subconsciously. If your brand (and the components that flow from it, such as your website and communications) look ad hoc, people will draw similar conclusions about your organization. In that sense, your brand is an important reflection of your organization’s capabilities and level of legitimacy.