165″ height=”120″ />
I wrote an article on FroogLoop which began to ask the question, “Are all nonprofits the same?” If nonprofits in general conduct similar work, why do some people feel more inclined to donate to one over another? It boils down to the experience that organizations can offer to their community. But what’s next?
Are NonProfits Differentiated?
I’d like to argue that by in large nonprofits have undifferentiated services within the same sector. Of course those within the sector know the subtle differences but to the lay person the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund are both just organizations trying to save the environment.
So what differentiates nonprofits? User experiences. Nonprofits are known for certain characteristics based on how they present themselves and interact with their community. You can see this differentiation easily when you go to an organization’s website. You can see clearly that the Oxfam website puts forth a different user experience than the American Cancer Society. Oxfam international is young, hip and edgy, while the American Cancer Society is far more institutional.
Ok so nothing innovative here, organizations have different branding. Things get more interesting when we look to the private sector to see how companies market undifferentiated products.
Is there a tangible difference between Coke and Pepsi? Between Sprite and 7UP? Between Skyy Vodka or Absolute? Loyal consumers always think they can tell their favorite products apart but in most blind taste tests, they consistently fail. Carbonated soda and Vodka (in the same quality range) are examples of undifferentiated products. How how have companies with years of marketing experience deal with products that are exactly the same? They market the experience.
Companies spend millions to convince you they stand for something other than their undifferentiated product. Think about it. What does the Pepsi Generation have to do with soda? What does Skyy Vodka’s advertising have to do with the quality of the vodka? All of the advertising is designed to sell a lifestyle and experience rather than talking about the qualities of the product itself.
Ok Experiential Advertising Exists, now what?
What can we learn from the for profit sector? We need to first acknowledge that the general public doesn’t know the difference between most of our organizations. Our supporters potentially might, but to the potential donor, we are another organization doing “good” in the world.
Once we get past this we can look at what we can do to exploit the benefits of experiential marketing.
1. What do you represent? – The first step in this process is understand who you are as an organization. Are you dynamic and energetic, or stable and organized. Companies are able to boil their messages down to easily understandable slogans, can you?
2. What does your community represent? This is a little harder. Once you know who you are, you’ll need to understand what your audience gets out of being aligned with your organization. Does your community use your organization as a status symbol to show they are doing something? Are they hardcore activists? Or are they a little of everything? Are there any universals you can draw from your existing community that you could take advantage of?
3. Marketing the entire experience, not just a part of it. Understand that your members and potential donors need to feel the same about your organization from all aspects of their engagement. Your emails need to reflect the same tone as your website. Your contests need to reflect your rallies. Nonprofits need to learn to be more disciplined with their messaging. Of course this doesn’t negate using different messages for different audiences, but the overarching message of your organization has to be consistent.
4. Developing programs to match your message. If you’re a respected AIDS research organization is a viral video right for you? Maybe not. Making programs and marketing that matches the experience you want to convey is easier than it seems. In a world of almost ultimate possible outlets for promotion, it takes discipline choosing those that are going to be right for your organization’s experiential goals.
Having a clear understanding of what your organization stand for and what your community wants to get out of their engagement with you is a powerful tool. You’ll be better able to serve your member’s needs, become more effective in communicating with them, and have the potential of reaching out to a broader audience.