Pottery lesson: Why branding matters to charities

From the Bronze Age marketplace of ancient Greece to 21st century third sector marketing, the power of branding has always been about integrity and trust
Tags: Branding

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When Momma Bear and the Baby Bears and I went in search of holiday sunshine this summer, after three years of hibernation, I didn’t expect a reminder that there’s nothing new under the sun. But there it was, in the unexpected brilliance of a museum of prehistoric archaeology. The potters of 17th Century BC Greece, it turns out, were pretty smart when it comes to branding.

The humble beginnings

As far back as the early Bronze Age marketplace, Greek potters marked their ceramics* with a sort of signature to show the kind, quality and provenance of the products they had in their vases. Seals stamped in Cretan clay showed ‘logos’ of bull-leaping, chariot-racing and mythical creatures. And they used standardised colours and shapes as decorations on their pottery so that, as well as it looking great, their customers knew exactly what they were going to get.

That’s the point and power of good branding. Aesthetics (because the Greeks knew it needed to look good), symbolism (with a meaningful connection to heritage, traditions and emotions) and practicality (but also useful) all coming together to show people what you stand for, and what they can expect from you.

The here and now of why branding matters

Today’s marketplace might be a bit less dusty than Bronze Age Greece, but it is busy, bustling and crowded.

And in times of economic uncertainty – when charity is even more important, but charities are under even more pressure – people really need to be reassured that they’re using their money wisely.

A standard of design, an imprint of quality and of provenance that’s consistently recognisable and tells people what you stand for, is really important. Now more than ever, people need to see and feel that they can trust your organisation and know exactly what they’re going to get from you.

And it works the other way, too. As a charity, you need to know that you’re spending your marketing budget wisely, and get value from it.

How to get started

As I’ve written before, investing wisely in branding helps make all your communications have a bigger impact. It also helps attract and build longer, stronger relationships with people and volunteers when they, too, really see and feel what you stand for day-in, day-out.

Working with agencies and people you yourself can trust, who understand and care about the important work you do, will help make your marketing money go further, faster.

The wisdom of the ancient Greeks and 3,000 years of history reminds us that great branding isn’t a trick, a gimmick or a lie. It’s actually about integrity, trust, and standing for something – so it matters that charities, of all sizes, should benefit from it.

*Please, give me credit for doing this whole blog without shoehorning in a ‘what’s a Grecian urn?’ joke. And for not labouring the fact that logo and logotype come from the ancient Greek words ‘logos’, meaning words or speech, and ‘tupos’, meaning a mark or imprint. Oh, I’ve ruined it, haven’t I?

Northern Bear can help

We’re a friendly creative agency dedicated to working with charities and not-for-profit organisations.

We work with small and medium-sized organisations on branding, strategy, design, websites and campaigns to help raise awareness and funding so together we can DO MORE GOOD.

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