Ali Moghadam

Why Charities Need to Protect Their Brand

9th Oct 2014 Brand 6 minutes to read

Ice Bucket ChallengeProtecting brands online isn’t just reserved for businesses. Charities are branded too. Does your charity rank for its brand name, the cause it fights for and its latest campaign? And why does that even matter? Let’s find out!

Online Brand Protection in a Nutshell

Keeping tabs of your brand online is not limited to social media mentions. It encompasses SEO and search visibility, PPC, competitors trying to out-fox you, the whole smash. What happens when you don’t rank for your main product anymore, the product you developed, because a competitor has gone for it? Or they’re bidding on your brand name in Google AdWords?

Unfortunately by this time it’s usually too late, because without a solid campaign and plan in place that includes digital, it becomes a scramble for whatever’s left. That isn’t to say there is no way of getting control back; it just means it’s a lot harder than it should have been.

Case in Point – The Ice Bucket Challenge

The charity event of the year (and possibly to date), still fresh in our minds, took the western hemisphere by storm – the Ice Bucket Challenge. Although the concept itself was not unique or original, it worked on so many levels for the ALS Association (the charity famed for and at the heart of the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge). And the platform of the Internet was more than just a springboard for success. It was the only medium by which this could have worked. In this instance, it worked – and how!

Celebrities, average Joe, children, businesses – everyone and their nan got in on the action. It spread like wildfire. People scrambled to re-arrange their day to make their own ice bucket video, so they too could nominate their friends and family. And so it went on. Around the USA. Across the UK.

Until (nearly) everyone forgot what it was for. Nobody shared donation page links. Then people just did the challenge out of some strange kind of social media peer pressure, got it out the way, passed it on (or ended the chain in some cases), didn’t donate and started mentioning a different charity. The message was almost null and void come the end of the craze. If it weren’t for the advocates reminding us, it would have been lost altogether.

But the message by this time was confused and diluted. In the UK, Macmillan Cancer Support adopted the challenge and began marketing it, after the monstrous success seen by the ALS Association. There were challenges and nominations going out to the same people, for different charities. So people starting picking and choosing.

I’m not saying this is a particularly bad thing when you’re talking about charity. A huge amount of money was raised. A massive amount of awareness was garnered. I suppose it doesn’t matter when the end justifies the means. And nobody could have predicted the phenomenon would unfold as it did.

Protecting What’s Yours?

There came a point where the ALS Association tried to trademark the Ice Bucket Challenge. They wanted to preserve the phenomenon for themselves to perpetuate their cause. Fair enough you might think? Well, no. Not only was this move highly unpopular, it couldn’t be justified.

You see, many think Macmillan “cashed in” on the Ice Bucket Challenge. That they hijacked it, stole it – whatever. But it wasn’t anybody’s to own in the first place. In many ways they did hijack it. They saw a popular activity that people were using to promote charity, giving and community. They saw an opportunity and they took it. And the donations for cancer care and support started to pour in. Did anybody lose out? Yes – the ALS Association, the charity that brought the challenge to worldwide attention.

Their response to trademark the Ice Bucket Challenge was met with hysteria – and rightly so. You can’t really trademark something you didn’t invent just so you can continue to rake in all the rewards. If someone has the foresight and means to compete, they’re going to. Macmillan went for it and they had every right to. People may question whether or not they were morally justified to jump on the bandwagon, but in the end isn’t it the cause that counts?

Even now, the ALS Association doesn’t rank in Google for Ice Bucket Challenge:

Google Ice Bucket Challenge Results

Macmillan has overtaken by a country mile. The only search results for ASLA are news mentions, thoughts on their success and numerous jibes from pundits, both professional and armchair. The only reason many of us knew about the ALS Association was because of social media. Without the search optimised element, the campaign falls apart and becomes someone else’s. But all of this could have been prevented.

With simple campaign planning and by claiming the necessary domains, social properties and designing web properties and apps to cater for the challenge, the ALS Association could have not only cleaned up, they could have truly owned the Ice Bucket Challenge from day one – all without having to file for trademarks.

Of course, a charity is there to raise money, not to spend it. But without working the full digital spectrum into a marketing budget (especially when the campaign was a social media one), get ready to start losing out to those that did.

How to Secure a Charity Online

Securing a charity brand online is much the same as any other online entity or business. It means taking charge of profile sites (not just the big ones) and branding up with your unique stance, your values and your message.

But it also means staying true to your cause, always working for that goal – and that means campaigns. TV, radio, social media, PPC – these can all tie together to push a fundraising idea into the stratosphere. What’s more, it makes certain that the brand you’ve built and secured online is associated with that campaign for the lifetime of the campaign and beyond.

So what steps can a charity follow to make their campaign work?

  • Make a solid, secure website that works well on all devices, is super user friendly, informative and can handle a large number of users. The last thing you want is servers overloading when people want to donate!
  • Link up all your social properties – claim the ones you don’t have. Get talking and spreading your cause
  • Integrate campaigns and make your budget go further – use more than one channel and communication platform. Make microsites with a domain for your campaign name, apps that help people engage on mobile. Create social media events for everyone to get involved with. Create awareness with TV, radio and PPC advertising in search and social
  • Create a donations page for each campaign that is as simple and clear as possible, with sharing buttons
  • Be responsive and reactive. Encourage the community you build around the cause. Be thankful if the idea you create or use is taken up by others – it means it was a winner! Turn it into a positive and use it to shout about your idea and cause to a new audience

There’s enough there to make sure you’ll nail it first time round. Just remember what you’re fighting for, what inspires your charity to be the best. Put this at the forefront of everything you do – including the above. In the end, it’s the passion for the cause that will win the day.

For more information on Brand Protection, why not speak to a specialist today?

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Ali Moghadam

As kooky as they come, Al even describes himself as weird. He’s in a band and has performed at many festivals and gigs in his time. And as the rock star he is you wouldn’t think he’d be afraid of moths… and butterflies.

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