Truth – LoveBrum Causes Conference

The challenge of being a charity


I remember seeing posts about Northern Bear’s ‘Donate a Day’ initiative before I even contemplated working here. The idea itself was simple, effective and fulfilled a real need: helping charities by giving them a day of the business’ time. In theory, this would be enough to get a project off the ground, a strategy fleshed out, or a piece of collateral to really shine. This approach to helping organisations that have to do a great deal of good with very little is something that drew me to the Bear in the first place.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the LoveBrum Causes Conference where Chief Bear, Chris Rushbrooke, was once again giving his time to help out small, local charities by sharing his years of marketing experience.
With only a few months under my belt here, even I took away some lessons that I thought would be worth sharing beyond the gorgeous venue of the Custard Factory’s Old Library.


1. The harsh truth and nothing but the truth


Charities will often deal with sensitive subjects, which can lead to a compromise on a message. Sometimes it is better to say it as it is; to catalyse the change that is needed. Controversy is not always a bad thing.

As part of his presentation, Chris gave an example of a previous campaign Norther Bear had worked on with a domestic violence charity called The Pathway Project. They approached Northern Bear to run an awareness campaign in the lead up to the 2018 World Cup. The truth they wanted to communicate was the rise in domestic violence rates when England play – especially when England lose. The harsh reality was mocked up across an array of collateral, including social posts, and beer mats to be distributed around local pubs.

And the response was astounding…

It certainly stirred up some controversy with people debating both sides of the argument. Crucially, however, the campaign was able to deliver exactly what it intended – it sparked a meaningful conversation around domestic violence.


2. Keep it simple


The second lesson that I took away yesterday was the value of keeping the message simple. The effectiveness of The Pathway Project’s World Cup campaign was its ability to achieve such reach and engagement thanks to a simple message.

When it comes to getting a message out there, simplicity and clarity are the priority. Also, finding a way of visually representing this message will add a serious punch – a picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

I saw a good analogy for this on LinkedIn some weeks back. In summary, it described welding a Ferrari to a JCB with the expectation of digging up roads at 100mph. But in reality, neither machine can do what it was specially designed to do anymore. Creating something to do just one thing well, or communicate one message well in this case, is the key take away.

Some of the examples Chris used in his presentation came from the WWF’s campaigns highlighted the importance of keeping things simple help to create something memorable, effective and relatable…


3. You can get it wrong


As Chris was clear to point out, there is no flawless formula for marketing strategy. Sometimes, you can get it wrong.

One of the more poignant examples that Chris used to demonstrate this was the ‘Beach Body’ campaign from Protein World.

The truth they were trying to communicate was that people will try to get into better shape before their holidays. The idea of being ‘beach body ready’ is a widely accepted colloquialism. It’s not, not true. So why did this campaign receive such a serious backlash?

The issue for Protein World was the timing, and the people they were trying to reach. Their message seemed to target women in a way that further objectified their bodies, at a time when momentum against such tactics was mounting. Whilst there would have been a captive market of people looking to hit the gym hard before summer, the brand took a significant knock in its attempt to boost its profile.

Was this their intention? This was something that was debated at length in the Bear Cave. At the end of the day, the reputation of a protein brand does not necessarily need to have a moral authority on social matters. And in fact, the controversy may have boosted their marketing campaign further and taken the limelight from their competition.

For a charity, however, appearing socially and ethically responsible will be tantamount to their reputation. Oxfam took a real hammering last year, for example, due to the actions of a select few workers across the globe. The cost of getting the message wrong can be far more costly because of the sector they operate in.

4. Honest. Daring. Bold.


Charities play a crucial, transformative role in the areas they work. In order to raise awareness and bolster support will require a degree of bravery when it comes to marketing strategy.

Could you make your self a little more bolder, make a little more impact and cut through the congestion of media, be that traditional or modern?

If you were heard more and noticed more, would that make a difference to your organisation, to your participation, your profile, your funding?

It’s something to bear in mind….

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