Social enterprises cannot rely on customer goodwill alone. Effective branding is critical for success at the point of purchase, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar shop.
Fine Cell Work, a charity focused on building and growing the professional skills of the prisoners in the UK, recognise that and recently asked Marketors, one of the modern livery companies in the City of London, to support them with valuable advice on how to grow their commercial revenues. The work we did with them has general application for social enterprises.
In a recent study published in spring 2015(1), Microsoft identified that the span of human attention dropped from an average 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2015. The average shopping decision-making time of a consumer in a supermarket is 2.5 seconds(2) and only 50% of available products on the shelves will be noticed.
Whether you are a big commercial organisation like Unilever or a small and ethical social enterprise, the rules for successfully engaging a consumer in a retail environment are exactly the same. No consumer will be able to appreciate the amazing stories behind a social enterprise in just 2.5 seconds!
Branding in a retail environment or elsewhere starts with the definition of amazing brands: not just appealing graphics elements like a logo, but notably what the brand stands for.
A generic, ill-defined brand will most likely result in poor execution at the point of purchase. The definition of the brand is the result of a management process that brings together expert professionals and the organisation leadership. The resulting brand must be owned by the organisation – everyone must feel proud of their brand.
Fine Cell Work teaches prisoners needlework, a skill they can use to find work in future. The company’s key product line is high-quality hand-made cushions, but they are expanding their assortment to include many other soft-furnishing items. Unlike many other charities, Fine Cell Work sells products through a number of market channels: events, online, retail etc. They also commission projects from their clients, e.g.: quilts etc The management of Fine Cell Work have a clear objective to double the enterprise’s commercial revenues by 2020, while maintaining the current funding levels.
It became clear to us that Fine Cell Work could improve their go-to-market strategy by shifting their brand so it worked equally well both for charitable and commercial audiences.
The new brand architecture addresses the duality of being a charity and a commercial enterprise while focusing on the key differentiators that make Fine Cell Work unique in the market. Key elements of the new branding:
Brand purpose: “Make a house your home through the best socially-conscious British style”
Brand personality attributes:
- All our products are insired by the desire for high quality and timeless style at home.We aim to inspire our customers to personalise their home and work space.
- We are inspired by the opportunity to improve the lives of the prisoners, the dedication of our volunteers, the commitment of our staff and the generosity of our trustees and founders.
- We care about the quality of our products. Each product is the result of precise craftsmanship, liberty from production anxiety, love for hand stitching.
- We care about our community of stitchers. We firmly believe that by teaching hand-stitching skills they will improve their chances in life and contribute positively to the society.
- Our design and designers are the best of timeless British style, but not afraid to explore innovation. All our products are made in prisons in Britain.
- We and our customers give back by allowing individuals who have been less fortunate to be part of a more inclusive British society.
- Hand-stitching is craftsmanship and art. We take great care to ensure you enjoy the best products for your home and workplace.
- Our teachers and production experts are second to no-oneand thrive by passing their skills and passion to the prisoners.
I believe that, no matter what kind of organisation you are, it all starts with a strong and purposeful brand based on credible and sustainable differentiation with the customers and the other stakeholders at the core of the value proposition.
I strongly believe the building of a brand requires a collaborative process and full engagement with the organisation: they will own the brand and nurture it in the future.
A well-defined brand is also the necessary precondition to develop a message that resonates with consumers and that can be consistently executed through multiple touchpoints over time.
By Vincenzo Brugaletta, MBA
This article first appeared in Marketor Issue 74 Winter 2016, the magazine of the Worshipful Company of Marketors
(2): G2 Shopper Marketing Survey; POP Advertising Institute