In my last post, I discussed one of the ways to create a culture around a cause. A concrete mission can energize a community, but it’s only the first step. The key to creating a movement with staying power (one that is magnetic enough to have people seeking you rather than the opposite) is brand.
This term gets thrown around excessively so let me explain exactly what I mean. In essence, brand simply refers to a company’s promise. It’s a set of expectations that a particular product will do certain things or make you feel a certain way. That’s why we expect to jump high when we wear Nike and why we expect to be treated like cattle when shop at Circuit City.
Often times, brand is literally the only difference between 2 competing products. Why do we buy Claritin when the Duane Reade brand is right next to it for half the price and it’s the exact same drug? Because we have higher expectations of the Claritin brand.
But what if you don’t sell products? What if you run an NPO and there are 4 other organizations with the exact same mission (or even the same name) as yours all vying for the same donor. What makes you special? Your mission and your brand cannot be the same thing or you won’t have a differentiating proposition regardless of how noble it is.
People already feel empathy for your cause. They know homelessness is bad. They know children in third world countries need clean water. All of this has been programmed in by society. But in order to get them to buy-in emotionally, which is where the real power is, they must be connected to your culture and your people. What separates you from the 4 competitors is the personality of your organization. It’s the way you go about accomplishing your goal. It’s how your people act, talk, think, and do. That’s your brand.
Social movements grow their influence by branding their followers…both literally (with a branding iron) and figuratively. They give them names: Beatniks, Hippies, Carpetbaggers, and Trekkies. They have a specific method for accomplishing their mission: non-violent opposition, civil disobedience, art and music. They can even have a unique way of dressing: bell bottoms and tie-dye, baggy jeans and ‘Tims, dreadlocks and red, green, and yellow.
Social movements have such distinct cultures that people cannot help but identify with them. Consumer brands are starting to tap into this as they brand their employees. That’s why only “geniuses” work at the Apple store, only Baristas serve coffee at Starbucks, and only geeks can fix your computer at Best Buy.
So what would you call your people? How is your way of accomplishing the mission special? How does your organization’s culture make you special? These are the questions that can turn your cause into a movement. To get a head-start check out BRANDEMiX.