‘Selling’ the intangible: branding efforts are different in the not-for-profit sector because the NPO is trying to ‘sell’ a social mission for the benefit of the larger community rather than trying to sell a product to increase shareholder value. NPOs are especially tethered to the intangible nature of their ‘products’ requiring unique approaches to branding (Stater, 2009). The benefits of an iPhone can be tangible and immediately experienced in the Apple Store. However, the benefits of helping immigrant children integrate into their schools are less tangible and experiential for the donor or funder.
Stakeholder motivations differ between the for-profit and not-for-profit contexts. Instead of providing service for customers, the NPO engages volunteers, funders, clients, employees and stakeholders. Constituents become involved with the social mission of an NPO voluntarily rather than being motivated by a personal need that can be satisfied by purchasing a product (Stater, 2009). Donating money is voluntary whereas buying food is obligatory.
Main Point: for an NPO contemplating a branding initiative it is important to understand that it is trying to ‘sell’ an intangible product to a market that is not intrinsically compelled to make a ‘transaction’. Do you know what motivates your existing stakeholders to ‘sell’ your intangible ‘product’?
Stater, K. (2009). The Impact of Revenue Sources on Marketing Behavior: Examining Web-Promotion and Place-Marketing in Nonprofit Organizations. Journal Of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 21(2), 202-224. doi:10.1080/10495140802529540