Why you should make your charity a Lovemark

Stephen Pidgeon expounds the virtues of a book on branding that influenced his fundraising philosophy

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

Over the New Year break, I re-read a book that had influenced my thinking on fundraising considerably when I first read it 10 years ago. Kevin Roberts' Lovemarks makes no mention of the word "charity". Commercial brands that are truly important in people's lives, it says, have to earn both their respect and their love.

This commercial marketing book came from a man who spent more than 10 years as chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. The Red Cross gets a fleeting reference in a long list of Lovemarks compiled by Saatchi staff. All the other brands in the list are commercial. Lovemarks come and go in people's lives and you're likely to have no more than two or three of them at a time. At a particular stage, Pampers might be incredibly important, for instance. Certainly, Apple is a Lovemark of mine - I've not touched a PC in my life.

Three factors define a Lovemark - mystery, sensuality and intimacy, with "mystery" having five elements that charities, in contrast to commercial brands, could deliver with consummate ease. "Tell your stories," says Roberts. It's what we fundraisers do all the time. "Show your past, present and future." I'm never sure how a commercial product could do this effectively, but in the post-Olive Cooke world, we must show our donors why their support for us over past years has been so important and where our vision of a better future world could take them. The third element, "tap into dreams", exactly describes where we should be leading our donors, showing them how their gifts are effective investments.

There are two more elements in "mystery". According to Roberts, we are to "nurture our myths" - the mythology of our founder's passion, the commitment of our colleagues, the focus of our endeavour. And finally, "build on inspiration". Our donors want to know we are driven by the inspiration of achievement that comes from their support.

Why am I talking about a 10-year old book written for commercial companies? Soon after it was published, I described the Lovemark philosophy to staff at Macmillan Cancer Relief, gathered for their annual conference. Afterwards, I understand, the chairman at the time turned to Peter Cardy, who was CEO at the time, and said: "Why can't Macmillan be a Lovemark?" Ten years, a massive rebrand and some exemplary management later, the charity, now known as Macmillan Cancer Support, is hugely important to millions in the UK. To them, Macmillan is a Lovemark. And this is the important bit: in 2003, its income was £63m. By 2014 it had grown to £218m. This was achieved through consistency of message, studied warmth and a commitment to donors as well as clients.

Read the book and reflect on how you could make your charity a Lovemark to your donors. Fundraising success will surely follow - long-term success, not the short-term games we've played for too long.

Stephen Pidgeon is a consultant and a teacher

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