BRANDE : blog archives for March 2016

March 21, 2016

Stars and Cars: Escapism as a Marketing Method

You’re watching TV and the voiceover stops you in your tracks. Its grit and resonant tone are so distinctive you know without seeing a face that it’s Christopher Walken touting the vehicle. Walken is an actor known for his unique roles; a man who is as far from cookie cutter as you can get (think:  The Deer Hunter or Pulp Fiction.) So it’s no leap of faith that the Kia Optima is anything but basic, and will enable some fortunate driver to stand apart from the pack.

huracan-lp580-2_hook_1000x1000 In 2014 it was another star who was Kia pitchman in a Super Bowl ad—Pierce Brosnan,  who counts James Bond among his daring, fast-paced investigative roles. Bond is slick,  sexy, always navigating a challenge and facing an open road; exactly why cars and stars  are such a perfect marketing match.

According to a 2007 post in iMedia Connection “They are both selling the same dream:  escapism. Part of the lure of buying a new car is that your vehicle will transport you from your hum-drum reality.”

Take for example the recent set of commercials featuring Matthew McConaughey. We watch him don his tux and slick his hair, checking his dimples in the mirror. He’s grooming for a date with the most significant person, could be his supermodel wife or the Queen of England. All we know for sure is what transports him there: his dark and sleek car. Like the actor, the Lincoln MK series is lean and elegant, with a distinctive grille.

And who can forget Ricardo Montalban? The Mexican-American actor passed away in 2009 but his sexy voice and the way he stroked the soft Corinthian leather of that Chrysler have eternal allure. Readers who weren’t around in 1979 can experience these commercials on YouTube.

When it comes to stars and cars certainly both exude sexuality, and both evoke speed and living dangerously. As branding experts, though, we know nothing is universal and much hinges on the particular brand of car. Some have maverick appeal while others are pure and family-focused ─ like the Subaru which has a golden retriever clan as their spokesmen. The demographic of the buyer is another consideration, and a good reason for using 45-60 year old legends to market luxury cars.

Take a moment to think about your business as if it were a car: what brand hallmarks would it have and who could best speak for them? We’d be happy to help you explore.

March 7, 2016

Branding for Non-Profits

Non-profits aren’t selling products or services like other organizations. They’re selling a mission, a goal, or a belief in a cause. This can create a branding challenge for NPOs — which also usually operate with smaller budgets. Here are some branding tips for non-profits that maximize their strengths while keeping costs low.

Aim for the heart, not the head

I agree with fundraising platform Classy‘s suggestion to make emotional appeals to your audience. This doesn’t just mean showing the “victims” that your non-profit is trying to help. It also means showing the satisfaction people get from supporting the cause. Classy lists such content as donor testimonials and blog posts that highlight volunteers and supporters, to “show your audience that helping your cause is emotionally rewarding for donors too.”


As with consumer branding, creating an emotional appeal may require research to determine the exact emotional bond that exists with your donors, and to possibly change it to the bond you want to create. Notice how the SPCA International shows far more  images of dogs licking their owners’ faces far than wrenching photos of animals in distress. No facts or figures here; it’s all about forming a loving connection with the SPCA’s mission.

Brand everything consistently

Constant Contact points out the importance of consistent branding across all a non-profit’s communications, including emails, website, social media, and print materials. This can be difficult, as different departments don’t always share assets, and some materials are updated more often than others. But branding — by definition — means a coherent, consistent voice. That means all communications should look, sound, and feel the same.

Possible via Constant Contact

Constant Contact spotlights Possible, which provides healthcare in some the world’s most impoverished or dangerous places. That NPO uses different images for its website, Facebook, and Twitter, but they’re united by the common theme of helping people in Nepal. Its distinctive blue and red cross serves as its profile icon on social platforms and is used throughout its website. This effort costs virtually nothing but is important to creating a branded tone and feel for a non-profit.

Tell stories

Storytelling is an increasingly popular idea in branding and marketing, and I’ve advocated it for years. Nonprofit Hub reinforces this philosophy, advising NPOs to share stories not only of their beneficiaries but also of their donors. “Nothing generates buzz better than a story about a changed life or someone who benefited from your organization,” writes Nonprofit Hub blogger Randy Hawthorne. People love to share feel-good content on social media, so any success stories an NPO provides can turn almost anyone into a brand ambassador.

Veterans river rafting - Sierra Club Outdoors blog

For example, the Sierra Club’s website features expected information about retiring coal plants and protecting wildlife habitats. But the organization also writes a blog, Outdoors, that features stories of outings and adventures in the environment that it strives to protect. A recent post followed a group of veterans going river rafting as a form of therapy. It’s a heart-warming story that seems ready-made for social sharing, and which strikes a different chord than a chart of statistics on, say, solar energy.

Be true to yourself

This last piece of advice comes directly from me: Make sure your branding is an accurate reflection of your mission, vision, and values. Branding derives from the heart and soul of your organization, so it must be genuine. Don’t change your logo or color palette just because you want a new one. And don’t create a new tagline and mission statement without doing research to determine what your brand really is, and what connects with your ideal audience.

EPIC website

One non-profit my agency re-branded was the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island. Our research included interviews with board members, surveys of employees, and discussions with the people the organization served, along with their families. We realized that each party of the NPO was extraordinary: the people being helped were remarkable and unique, while the staff was dedicated in a way I’ve rarely seen. We turned these two ideas into a new tagline: “Extraordinary People In Care,” which refers to both groups. The first letters of those words spell Epic, so we re-branded the EFLI into EPIC.

Brandemix can help

My agency has a decade of experience in creating marketing, branding, and recruiting communications for non-profits. If you found these tips helpful and want to learn more, or you’re ready to get serious about branding to expand your donor base, contact me. We offer special rates for non-profits and know how to maake the most of a limited budget.

Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.