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How to manage brand stretch: The complete guide

What is ‘Brand Stretch’?

The last CharityComms Brand Breakfast explored how far you can stretch a brand before it snaps. In this blog we suggest two solutions to prevent your brand breaking in two, or more: audience segmentation and brand architecture.

Charity brands are unique. They typically need to target a range of different audiences, with a variety of activities to consider; from services, policy and campaigns to various forms of fundraising.

Managing a brand in this context can mean walking the tightrope between consistency and flexibility. We want our brand to be consistent enough to be instantly recognisable – even when the logo is covered up. But we need enough flexibility in it to target specific audiences with specific products.

To prevent your brand breaking in two, or more, you need good audience segmentation and brand architecture.

How to prevent brand stretch using Audience Segmentation

‘Audience segmentation’ is the term used to describe how we break-up our target audiences to create effective marketing communications.

In the past, different parts of charities have held their own databases and viewed audiences from an internal perspective – such as a customer, donor, or campaigner. This means people might be bombarded with uncoordinated communications from different departments of the same charity.

In reality, an individual may have a multifaceted relationship with a charity. Macmillan Cancer Support, for example, talks about how many of its supporters are the same people who receive its cancer support.

As charities have become more sophisticated in their marketing approach, they have begun investing in better client relationship management (CRM). Essentially, better databases that enable you to co-ordinate campaigns and customer journeys.

As charities have become more sophisticated in their marketing approach, they have begun investing in better client relationship management (CRM). Essentially, better databases that enable you to co-ordinate campaigns and customer journeys.

The make-up of audience segments has also evolved. While they were once based on life stage and socio-demographics, they are  now primarily built around beliefs and attitudes to causes. A good segmentation will include charity engagement (how they typically engage with a charity) as well as media consumption (which marketing channels to use to reach them). In brand development, new ideas are often tested with a sample of the existing customer and supporter base, as well as potential new segments. This helps to protect and grow a brand’s market share.

Zohra Vermani and Hannah Dedman from the Parkinson’s UK marketing team shared the audience segmentation project that paved the way for their ‘Parkinson’s is’ campaign.

“The prevalence of Parkinson’s is relatively small compared to other conditions, so we began to explore whether there were new audiences we could inspire without forgetting our core,” said Zohra. “We found out that 47% of people who know us, and what we do, aren’t affected by Parkinson’s, which showed there was a growth market out there.”

Hannah added: “We embarked on an attitudinal and behavioural segmentation to increase our understanding of what motivates people and the ways in which we might engage with them. This started with a quantitative survey, followed by a deep dive with qualitative focus groups.”

How to prevent brand stretch using Brand Architecture

Brand architecture’ is simply the marketing jargon used to describe how you present your range of initiatives in relation to your corporate masterbrand. It’s an essential area of branding that’s often overlooked in the charity sector. This can result in lots of uncoordinated sub-brands, through default rather than by design.

Here are five common brand architecture models you can follow to avoid this uncoordinated effect.

  1. Freestanding or endorsed

This is when you create specific sub-brands to target specific products to specific audiences. It is most common with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as Dove or Marmite, both owned by Unilever.

Historically, the corporate masterbrand (Unilever) wasn’t as important as the product brands from a customer perspective. However, as more commercial brands are defining their social purpose and placing it at the heart of their brand and business strategy, they increasingly want the masterbrand to stand for something. Unilever’s social purpose is to make sustainable living every day, so it now uses its logo as an endorsement on products, hoping to encourage customers to choose buying from a responsible business.

Examples in the charity sector would be Scouts, Beavers, Cubs and Explorers. Or Girlguides, Rainbows, Brownies and Rangers.

  1. Family of brands

This is when sub-brands are given some independence to express themselves, within set parameters, while the corporate masterbrand remains present. Virgin (Trains, Atlantic, Active, Care etc) is one of the best-known examples as is the BBC and its family of brands.

  1. Branded house

This is when products are identified by name (and sometimes colour) only, and presented next to the corporate masterbrand. Examples of this include FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Flight, or RNLI Lifeboats and RNLI Lifeguards.

  1. Unified (Also known as monolithic)

This is when there are no sub-brands, and everything is presented within the visual identity of the corporate masterbrand. It’s where many charity brands want to get to, although they often start with a freestanding model by mistake.

  1. Hybrid

A hybrid model uses different forms of brand architecture for different parts of its business. Coke is a good example as it has a Family of Brands like Diet Coke and Coke Zero. As is Cancer Research UK with its Weekly Lottery, Race for Life and Kids and Teens.

When agreeing brand architecture, it is always best to consider it from an external audience perspective. You should also consider the cost implications of managing a portfolio of brands and the pros and cons of your reputation, and reputational risks, extending across the whole portfolio.

James Reekie and Soledad Amado from Macmillan Cancer Support’s brand team shared their brand architecture project, delivered as part of their brand refresh.

James explained: “We’d reached our teenage years as a brand, where we had kept everything we’d ever made. We’d added bits over the years. But never edited it. There were no rules, no rights or wrongs, no consistency and less recognition.”

Soledad added: “It’s easier to identify with less stuff. So we moved from being fragmented and messy, trying to be different things to different people, to a simple, monolithic brand architecture, positive in spirit.”

By showing how one single brand could be stretched to cover a range of products under one visual identity and tone of voice, Macmillan have been able to demonstrate they don’t need different sub-brands.

By showing how one single brand could be stretched to cover a range of products under one visual identity and tone of voice, Macmillan have been able to demonstrate they don’t need different sub-brands.

“Everything has to ladder back up to the masterbrand to aid recognition,” concluded James. “They all have to be in our core identity. Our strong monolithic brand makes sure we always look like ourselves.”

Need to identify and segment your audiences? Need to clean up and streamline your brand architecture? Get in touch.

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