Photo by Ugo Mendes Donelli on Unsplash
4 min Read
April 24, 2024

Should your campaign identity match your brand identity?

Whether it’s a capital campaign for a specific initiative, an effort to recruit participants, marking an anniversary through fundraising, or something else, we find that clients frequently ask us the same question: When should the identity of my campaign be the same as my organizational brand, and when should it be different?

During the process of creating a campaign, it’s important to find the right balance between reflecting an organization’s existing brand and setting it apart from everyday materials. Going too far one way or the other runs the risk of creating an unnecessary hurdle for audiences. If the campaign identity doesn’t have any or enough of a distinguishing characteristic, audiences may fail to realize that a campaign is happening at all — they might simply register it as just another piece of communication from the organization (and potentially overlook it). If a campaign goes too far the other way, and has so much differentiation from the existing brand that audiences can’t readily connect the two, then the organization loses an opportunity to capitalize on the brand equity and relationships that have already been built. 

Creating balance

To start, let’s think about some of the reasons that a campaign identity might need to be different from an established brand. When communicators are designing and creating a campaign, they are often trying to do something new: recruit new participants or donors, change narratives or beliefs, bring awareness of a topic to a new audience, raise new funds beyond what they’ve already been able to, etc. With this being the case, it would stand to reason that to achieve something new or reach different goals, the approach would also need to shift — even if only slightly (the approach, in this case, potentially being the campaign identity).

At the same time, there’s no need to make changes just for the sake of making changes. As my colleague Ally Dommu noted last year when referencing anniversary campaigns, it’s “an opportunity to reinforce your nonprofit’s core values — the central beliefs that guide your organization’s decision-making…the anniversary can be a platform to showcase these foundational values that have shaped your organization’s identity and defined your story.” Ask yourself: Are the changes being made because of material differences between the campaign and overall organizational efforts? Or are they largely being made so the campaign feels fresh, new, or exciting? If the answer is the latter, it is probably wise to pull back on the level of differentiation being proposed. 

Keeping this balance in mind, we find that it typically makes sense for most organizations to leverage their existing brand in a campaign identity while incorporating a distinguishing element that can “elevate” it above the day-to-day. Practically speaking, what does this mean?

Leveraging your existing brand:

  • Stick to the core of your visual identity. Use your existing logo, colors, typography, and general visual style in terms of photography, content density, etc. This is not the time to start experimenting with a new symbol or palette.
  • Continue to write and speak the same way. Write within your existing messaging and language guidelines, using the same tone, style, and overall structure you do for other content. While the topics or ideas may be different, it should still be you.
  • Use your existing channels of communication. It may occasionally make sense to create a microsite or landing page for a campaign, but generally, you should not be creating a separate website, separate social media accounts, etc. For the most part, the campaign communications should still live within/be accessible through your main platforms.

“Elevating” above the day-to-day:

  • Incorporate a visual accent or element that signals a distinct effort. We still want to stick to the core of your visual identity, as mentioned above, so this is not creating a whole new logo or image. Incorporating a distinct element might be something like adding a campaign pattern/print to materials, an overlay or patch for a portion of the existing logo, etc.
  • Develop a campaign name or theme to identify it clearly. In some cases, this involves creating a distinct theme that can stand alone in the same space. In others, the identity is developed within the context of still being “owned” by the organization — “Organization’s [Name] Campaign.” The campaign typically does not need a full set of distinct slogans or messaging that are likely to compete with the existing brand, aside from material content differences.
  • Develop a dedicated application or material that can be shared to give the campaign proper attention. Whether it’s a full case statement, a one-sheet, or something in-between, there should be a way to let audiences know the efforts and aim of the campaign go beyond business as usual. 

Campaigns are a powerful tool that nonprofits can use to highlight both pressing and big-picture needs. Follow the steps we’ve shared to make sure that in creating your next campaign, you are striving for a middle ground that allows audiences to easily identify you while still being excited about something new. 

Ryan Gerhardt

Ryan Gerhardt is the Copy Director, Worker-Owner at Big Duck

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