Bold and Brave Digital Marketing

Charities need to be bolder and braver online

by Elly Woolston

The maturing of the online space has meant that we are increasingly finding comfort in tried and tested methods, rolled out time and time again. This often results in multiple brands using similar approaches to fish in the same shrinking ponds, and this should be a cause for real concern.

For charities this is especially concerning. As a sector, we have not on the whole been at the forefront of digital innovation although we have now embraced the breadth of opportunities the online world presents. However, for those charities not currently embracing bold and brave digital marketing, capturing the hearts and minds of the increasingly astute, demanding donors will be difficult. This would be a sad development for the charity sector, especially as it has been built on the lessons that consumer brands are only just getting their heads around. Charities are already capable of selling beliefs not benefits, being transparent, involving rather than informing, encouraging word-of-mouth by providing dinner table conversation starters, aligning donor values with their own and turning a consumer into an ‘armchair volunteer’ for lifetime value. Let’s face it, a little from many is worth more than a lot from a few.

The dynamic relationships that charity brands traditionally have with their donors gives them the ideal platform on which to build innovative ‘open’ campaigns, which Nita Rollins Ph.D. describes in ‘The Open Brand’ as being On-demand, Personal, Engaging and Networked. ‘Open’ is big, it’s bold, but it’s embraced only by brands which have the courage of their convictions. This makes it the ideal brand and communications architecture for charity brands, for what are they founded on other than convictions?

When considering any online activity, charities need to make their offering not only findable and accessible, but immediate. If they are to truly engage donors, content must be real-time and reflective of their needs and expectations. Interactivity in the digital space is becoming increasingly popular and for charities this is a great way to inspire donors and foster active and emotive relationships with them. Through embracing social media strategies, charities have a great opportunity in prompting donors to discuss and interact with their brand. Yes, some do already have Facebook pages and Twitter Feeds, but there is certainly room for improvement.

The issue most brands have with embracing this call for an ‘open’ campaign architecture is that they’re not bold enough to let go. As AG Lafley, CEO of P&G said, “Consumers are beginning in a very real sense to own our brands and participate in their creation. We need to learn to let go.” Charities are going to have to face the challenge of giving back to donors, in the form of information, accountability and even giving donors some say in what the charity does. As Nike and Coke discovered, once you open a dialogue with your consumers they expect you to listen and take notice of what they say. Although for many charities this dialogue is already materialising online, others need to go with it instead of resisting the transparency the digital space expects of them.

Living and giving is increasingly becoming part of people’s lives, with thousands taking to the streets to raise funds through their own initiatives. Digital media is playing a crucial role in this evolution. Just Giving, for example, has transformed fundraising. It has allowed individuals to modernise fundraising to just a click while also creating talkability around charity initiatives. The site has set the standard for online fundraising and reflects the willingness of consumers to donate to charity if given a quick and easy option.

Digital doesn’t have to mean just online ads or social media, it’s about encapsulating the brand in the right way for the right audience. There are some great examples out there. Take the RNLI ‘Mystery Package’ campaign which proves that it’s as much about digital as direct, online as offline, cause as purpose, personal as social, and response as relationship. Ultimately, charities have to get by giving. At a basic level, when Dogs Trust asked its Facebook fans for £2 each on January 12th 2009 it received £1,000 within 24 hours. How do you calculate an ROI on an investment of nothing?

For those clients who ask – “Tell me something new?” or “What should I try to break the mould?” Or for those that want to pioneer and are bold enough to champion, let’s work with them to inspire, provide, promote, facilitate and nurture, not just ask.

Elly Woolston is Managing Director of DMS in the U.K.

courtesy: Brand Republic