I was advising an organization on their website, and one of the things I advised was this:
Make your DONATE button a contrasting color from the rest of the page. Make it the easiest thing on the page to find.
The web designer flipped his stylish lid. “That would be a disaster, he said. “It would undermine the entire color palette!”
The conversation went downhill from there.
This often comes up in discussions with designers, brand cops, and keepers of visual identity systems. They really stand up for those color palettes. They see them as paramount to the integrity of their designs. Straying from the palette to create contrast? That would be like slapping a barcode across the face of the Mona Lisa! A disaster!
Okay, it would be a disaster indeed if the entire purpose of the website were to have a perfectly congruent color palette. But that’s not the goal of any nonprofit website I’ve ever heard of. The real goal is something a little more action-oriented. Like producing donation revenue.
Or it would be a disaster if a perfectly congruent color palette were necessary to produce donation revenue. Except it isn’t. Go ahead and test it for yourself, but calls to action in contrasting colors are clearly the way to go. If you want people to act on your calls to action.
The people who insist on perfect color palettes and other forms of brand consistency that depress fundraising results are choosing aesthetic satisfaction over funding their own mission.
Beauty matters. But I think most people would agree a well-funded organization with lots of supporters is a higher form of beauty than a nice color palette.
Maybe you’ve seen the breathless unveiling of the New Logo: So often, it’s presented by a proud designer on a large piece of glossy paper, a high-end multi-color process of some kind that makes the logo look just superb.
This is the beginning of your woes with the new logo. Fundraising Coach advises 3 things to consider when designing your nonprofit’s logo:
- Will it work in one color?
- Will it be identifiable reduced to a 32 pixel x 32 pixel square?
- Will it be easy to embroider on clothing?
In real life — unlike the beautiful presentation — your fundraising happens in some pretty low-rent situations:
Tiny (in print or online), ink-jetted or similar low-end printing, crowded in among other elements, shown on a screen in a presentation. All of these things can distort, muddy, or confuse your logo.
That’s why you need to have it designed to still look like itself, even when it’s abused in these ways. That’s why I ask designers to present logos not only in huge idealized formats that will never happen in real life, but also as postage-stamp sized, black-only formats. That’s how you know what you’re really getting.
Good post by Geoff Livingston on Only One Kind of Branding Matters:
Only one kind of branding matters, and that’s the customer experience…. You can manufacture as much messaging as you want, but if your brand promise doesn’t meet the customer experience then your efforts will fail. Fast.
That’s why so much nonprofit branding is such a dismal failure. It doesn’t (or can’t) do the real job of being the donor’s experience. It’s just a bunch of wishful thinking in the from of design and copy guidelines.
If the donor’s experience with the organization isn’t what it should be, the outward appearance doesn’t make any difference. In fact, advertising wisdom is that excellent advertising only accelerates the demise of a bad product.
If you not an organization whose beneficiaries and donors are the same people (such as an arts organization, a hospital, house of worship, etc.) the best and almost only thing you can do to make donor experience great is have a thrilling call-to-action and amazing reporting back that keeps proving to donors that their giving does what you say it does. That and flawless service.
That’s the branding that makes a difference.
Some causes are harder to raise funds for than others. One of the toughest assignments is raising funds to help people who are perceived to have got themselves into their problem in the first place.
Lung cancer is in that category. Because of decades of successful anti-smoking marketing, everyone knows about the correlation between smoking and lung cancer. Some people have the attitude that those who have lung cancer “brought it on themselves” by smoking. Which is ridiculous.
I’m giving you what I assume was the brief for a campaign by the Lung Cancer Alliance and noonedeservestodie.org. The goal, I guess, was to encourage a more compassionate and sensible response toward lung cancer, which should lead to more financial support.
Let’s see how well it succeeds:
Or see it here on YouTube.
There’s a print/outdoor version too:
This campaign was reported recently in the New York Times, at Cancer Campaign Tries Using Shock to Change Attitudes, as an example of “shockvertising” — the theory that you can get a lot more attention by being shocking.
It’s true that being shocking will probably get you more attention, and has got this campaign attention. Problem is, just getting attention doesn’t accomplish anything. You have to get the right kind of attention. Just making people angry about something you said but didn’t really mean is of no value.
This campaign is in trouble because it invites misunderstanding. It’s based on misdirection — not just once, but in two layers:
Cat lovers deserve to die
Oh — ha, ha. That was a misdirection. What we really meant to say was:
Cat lovers deserve to die … If they have lung cancer
Gotcha! That was a misdirection too! I bet you’re so confused you’re more open to considering what we really want to say:
Many people believe that if you have lung cancer you did something to deserve it. It sounds absurd, but it’s true. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither should you.
If you’ve spent any time in the trying-to-make-people-understand-you field, you may have noticed that any time you say something contrary to what you want people to get, they don’t get it. They think you mean what you say. When you say “cat lovers deserve to die,” they think you’re a creep. When you amend that with “If they have lung cancer,” they think you’re some kind of monster.
And they stop paying attention.
And they don’t change their attitude.
And they don’t give any money to a worthy cause they’d no doubt have been open to supporting — if they’d been competently approached.
Once again, an ad agency has applied flawed advertising logic to nonprofit marketing. Just say no!
More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.