Branding is being adopted by charities and written about in academic and practitioner charity literature with increasing frequency. There is also growing concern, however, about the over-commercialistion of the sector and the misappropriation of techniques developed specifically for the commercial environment. Literature supporting the claim that charities are values-based organisations is reviewed and the proposition is made that it is in fact the non-negotiability of charity values that differentiate them from commercial organisations. Given the significance of values in the charity sector, the paper argues that a clearer understanding of how values are conceptualised in branding is necessary in order to establish whether branding is an appropriate and effective tool in the charity context. To achieve this, the paper reviews relevant branding literature focusing in particular upon the delineation of the values dimensions identified in for-profit branding models. To aid further understanding of these values dimensions in the non-profit context and their applicability (or otherwise) to it, the metaphors of brand as ‘mirror’, ‘lamp’ and ‘lens’ are introduced.
It is argued that in the corporate sector the brand concept has been utilised to ‘mirror’ those values that underpin the needs and desires of consumers. In contrast to the passive mirror, when operationalised as ‘lamp’, it is claimed that the brand aims to influence both the values of the organisation and the values of its target audience. It is postulated that neither of these approaches is appropriate for values-led organisations and that it is only as a metaphorical ‘lens’, projecting the values of the organisation itself that branding offers an applicable and effective model in the charity context.
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.