In the last three years, an increasing number of not-for-profits have rebranded, refreshing and giving new meaning to their brand purpose, positioning and identity. Just a few include headspace, Uniting, Expression Australia (formerly VicDeaf) and most recently Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. But why the sudden trend? A number of external market influences are at play in the industry, including social media, changes in legislation, competition and changing client needs, which may be impacting the relevancy of your brand.
Legal and regulatory change
The first factor is changes in legislation. In recent years, aged care, mental health and the disability sector have been impacted by Royal or Productivity Commissions. As a result, these industries have experienced industry-wide reputational issues where public sentiment has played out in the media in a negative and damaging way. In addition, these Commissions have also lead to legal and regulatory changes.
To protect a brand’s reputation during investigation may mean having to reply on existing brand goodwill in addition to specific marketing to promote the brand and stand apart credibly from competitors. Sometimes the damage to the industry’s reputation is so severe that rebranding is the only way to rebuild.
Exploring how your business differentiates itself in response to market sentiment is a wise move. Also, understanding how client needs and expectations are changing and determining how your brand, products or services and client experience can quickly evolve to meet these, is key.
Industries tend to go through transformation at the same time, as businesses within a sector experience the same external threats – economic, client, legal or technology changes. As a result, most competitors will have the same conversations about what to invest in and how to adapt in the face of these drivers.
The advent of social media has also changed the NFP marketing game. Connecting with specific demographics is easier and organisations no longer have to rely on print flyers in mailboxes to reach donors or clients. On the flip side, organisations have had to adapt to connect with audiences with much shorter attention spans and produce content that stands out in the sea of content which is social media. This has resulted in the need for organisations to re-brand, changing their tone of voice and positioning to become more relevant and impactful on social media.
Being ahead of the game and keeping up with emerging trends can help identify opportunities or risks to your brand and adapt before competitors do. What will be the impact if you don’t act first or are seen to be falling behind? Competing organisations can stand out, better meet client expectations and continue to build a positive reputation, which could result in a loss of clients, donors and funding.
The changing client
Not keeping up-to-date with clients’ changing needs means you are at risk of losing the trust of clients that have taken a long time to acquire. In the last 5 years, there has been a shift to client centricity and personalisation of service. NFPs speak to clients, not at them. Initiatives such as the NDIS are a reflection of this shift, giving clients much more control over their choice of NFP.
All brands need to adapt in line with clients’ needs in order to stay relevant over the long-term. A brand doesn’t have to be all things to all people. However, by understanding cultural, geographical and other nuances, and how clients’ feel about your brand, it’s more likely that you will build a product/service and client experience. A strategic brand can easily evolve to meet changing client expectations, legislative changes and industry transformation in order to stay relevant.