You don't own your non-profit brand

warrenThe other day, I was in my home office trying to wrap up some work before dinner. The television in the other room was tuned to PBS and Charlie Rose was interviewing Warren Buffet and a few other rich guys. They were talking about the late Coca-Cola President Don Keough who recently died. I was trying hard to ignore the background noise and distraction, but then the following five simple words floating into my office:

“The people own the brand.”

These words came from Warren Buffet’s mouth in response to a question Charlie Rose asked about the time when Coca-Cola removed its Classic Coke from the shelves and replaced it with a reformulated New Coke and the public appeared to backlash.
These five simple words got into my head and have rattled around for the last few weeks. They bothered me, but they certainly sounded wiser than I ever might be.
It got to the point where I actually typed these five words into a Google browser, which is when I found a post titled “You Don’t Own Your Brand Anymore, Your Customers Do” over at iYogi Blog written by Sairam K.
I love the iYogi Blog post, and it is certainly worth a click from you. It crystallized everything for me and got me thinking about the following questions for your non-profit brand:

  • When is the last time you talked to your donors, clients, staff, and volunteers about what the brand means to them?
  • What are your key messages (and I don’t mean your marketing tag line) and how do they align with what people think about your brand?
  • How do you monitor your brand and what people are saying about your brand (especially on social media)?
  • Have you thought through how and what your responses might look and sound like in the event your brand comes under attack in social media circles? And more importantly, have you thought about the damage you might do if your strategy is simply “deleting” posts on your Facebook page?

I think the reason Warren Buffet’s words rattled me so badly was because I thought the organization owned the brand, but in reality staff and volunteers simply care for and steward the brand. The people (aka donors, community leaders, staff, clients, the community at-large, etc) do indeed own the brand.
What does this mean for your organization and your marketing/communication efforts? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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