Your secret peep-hole into a nonprofit re-brand launch presentation

Yesterday I shared a wonderful LinkedIn post by Mark Phillips titled How to modernize a charity brand.

Today I want to show you how that satirical and very funny post is only a slight exaggeration of what happens in the real world.

I’ll do this by showing you an excerpt from by book on nonprofit branding, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand.

It’s a narrative of a presentation by branding experts, showing how they were going to bring about a glorious new future for an organization. (It didn’t quite work out that way.) Mark and I never discussed this, yet it paints virtually the same picture of charity re-branding.

Because this is how it goes.

The Color Master held us in the palm of his manicured hand.

He was part of a team of Brand Experts that had been flown in to hand down my client’s new brand—a thing of beauty that would launch the organization into a new era of public visibility, skyrocketing revenue, and cutting-edge design. (That’s how an energetic memo from the VP of marketing put it.)

The audience of 50 or so “stakeholders” sat in a darkened meeting room, staring like goldfish at the Color Master’s slides.

The stake I held was helping the organization produce its direct mail
and online fundraising. I was at this daylong seminar with experts from the branding agency to get my “marching orders” on how the new brand would play out in fundraising.

The screen showed a solid rectangle of purple.

“Warm Medium Eggplant,” the Color Master said. None of his colors had plain color names like “purple,” and most of them had two adjectives. “Warm Medium Eggplant creates a sort of visual embrace.” Long pause. “It makes you feel cozy and included. Like you’re six years old and sitting in Grandma’s kitchen. It evokes the aroma of baking—something delicious, with a hint of cardamom.”

Everyone in the room swooned. All that from purple — excuse me — Warm Medium Eggplant?

“This is going to be a grand slam,” someone behind me stage-whispered.

While I pondered what a “grand slam” might be for a color, images of purple things flashed by quickly on the screen. A thick purple blanket. Grapes. A teapot—old-fashioned, yet purple.

Then the screen went dark. The Color Master’s face, floating above his black turtleneck, was the only visible thing in the room. “Warm Medium Eggplant,” he intoned, “is our main primary accent color.” That meant it was one of the two colors of the yet-to-be revealed new logo, and that we would be required to use it in great abundance.

“Whoever would have dreamed of purple?” The stage whisperer asked from behind me. “It’s so creative.”

* * *

The screen became a block of yellow. A pale yellow, almost white. “Light Vibrant Butter,” the Color Master intoned. He said it with such solemn drama that hearing God say “Let there be light” could hardly have been more arresting.

He told us how butter changes hue throughout the year with the diet of the cows. In summer, when they’re eating green grass, the butter is a darker yellow. Winter, while they eat hay, the butter lightens up, almost to white. Light Vibrant Butter, the Color Master said, captures the color of butter just after its palest winter hue when grass has just returned to the cows’ diets.

Someone near the front of the room made the type of sound you make for especially good fireworks displays: Ooooh! Honestly, the Color Master’s presentation had earned that reaction. I wish all the business presentations I attend were half as well done.

We watched a series of pale yellow things on the screen. None of them was butter. He followed with a quicker tour of the rest of the palette. There was no flag red. No flag blue. There was a bluish gray called Montana Pine Smoke.

After the Color Master, the presentation went downhill. He was clearly the star player on the team of Brand Experts.

The Font Guy spoke in a soft monotone. He avoided eye contact, preferring to turn to us and look at his own slides on the screen, which was behind and above him. His big reveal was the new brand fonts: I’ll call them Unreadable Sans and Unreadable Sans Extra — tall, anorexic fonts. The ascenders were extra-long, while the descenders were oddly short, as if afraid to venture too far from their letters. For most fonts, the word “extra” means bold. For Unreadable Sans, it meant extra thin.

“This font will really catch fire,” the Font Guy muttered, “when you reverse it against Medium Warm Eggplant.” The image of flaming type captured my imagination, so I couldn’t focus on him any further.

* * *

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving is available on Amazon and elsewhere.


Comments

2 responses to “Your secret peep-hole into a nonprofit re-brand launch presentation”

  1. Even worse flashbacks!!!
    Oh, wow, man… the colors!
    All I can see is Misty Angry Red. Oy.

  2. Even worse flashbacks!!!
    Oh, wow, man… the colors!
    All I can see is Misty Angry Red. Oy.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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