When it comes to brand strategy to build brand affinity, it’s tempting to focus solely on the surface facets of branding. But building trust with your audience through genuine emotional connection and shared values is an essential prelude to cultivating growth within your organization.
Good Scout Group Senior Strategist Evelyn Allen shares how a well-developed and articulated social impact strategy helps forge a bond of trust with your customers or supporters, ultimately benefiting your brand, its message, and its reach.
“Many organizations tend to jump right into the tactics of branding without taking a step back to look at their strategy and what kind of affinity and feeling they are seeking to build with their customers, supporters, and employees,” Allen explained.
Before initiating on-the-ground plans, it’s best to spend time internally developing an understanding of your core values and how those values translate to the way you interact with your stakeholders. “Consistent, mission-centered brand messaging and storytelling that resonates on an emotional level can help nonprofits and impact-generating brands reinforce and enhance those connections,” Allen said.
Brand Affinity and How It Relates to Social Impact Strategy
Brand affinity plays a unique role in your overall brand strategy and can be fueled by your social impact goals. First, it’s not a standalone feature of your brand. Affinity is affected by other strategic decisions you make, and it also largely depends on how your brand lives in the minds of your internal and external audiences.
“Affinity is a precursor and predictor of brand loyalty,” Allen said. “In other words, if someone has a positive association or perception of a brand, it is likely to lead to more consistent engagement with that brand, in some cases on an automatic level without them even thinking about it.”
Brand affinity creates the impulse to connect with and interact with your brand. As brand affinity grows, your organization builds trust and longevity with your core audience (internal and external), leading to repeat engagements, purchases or donations, word-of-mouth marketing, and employee satisfaction/retention.
Allen shared Siete Foods as an example of a brand whose story she personally connects with. “I have faced some similar autoimmune issues as Siete Foods’ co-founder and president Veronica Garza and found healing through holistic food choices. I also found it hard to locate high-quality, whole-food Mexican food choices until Siete Foods came along. They solved a real problem for me and I’m now a loyal brand enthusiast, and always delighted with my purchases.”
“Their brilliance and strength is in the alignment of their brand values—family- and community-focused, juntos es mejor, together is better—and the causes they support, such as their Siete Juntos Fund to uplift Latino/Latina/Latiné-owned businesses and their efforts to create opportunities for artists,” Allen continued.
Through their impact strategy and well-aligned brand storytelling, Siete Foods is continually cultivating a positive brand affinity in the minds of their employees and customers.
Creating a Strategy to Build Brand Affinity Authentically
Brand affinity builds by virtue of a powerful brand strategy—one that is intentional and carefully planned. However, it’s not as straightforward as simply choosing what you want your organization to be known for.
“A common misconception is that a nonprofit or company can simply decide what their brand is and set about telling people about it,” Allen said. “For example, you may want your brand to be perceived as luxurious and high-end, yet consumers ultimately set the standard for such prestige.”
While you may not be able to wave a wand and have all the puzzle pieces fall into place, your organization can certainly take steps toward building emotional, authentic connections with your employees, supporters and customers. Being purposeful and responsive and listening to your audiences will help to naturally cultivate brand affinity.
“Nonprofit organizations have one of the most powerful points of connection to naturally cultivate affinity. Their mission is their brand in many ways,” explained Allen. If your supporters are drawn to your nonprofit organization because of the purpose and impact you are pursuing, that is an excellent starting point for growing brand affinity.
Increasing Brand Affinity with Your Approach to Social Impact
Designing your social impact strategy in service to brand affinity takes time. Your audiences want a relationship, not a transactional environment. Listening to your core audiences and building relationships with them requires focus and attention.
There are myriad ways to start thinking about brand affinity more intentionally. Allen shared a list of potential tactics to find out if your strategy aligns authentically to your brand and if the strategy will increase brand affinity:
- Conduct an assessment of your brand culture to determine what unique social-impact positioning you can claim.
- Study perceptions of your brand in the marketplace and where consumers derive value from your offerings to inform your strategic approach.
- Plan a communication strategy to link your brand messaging with social-impact messaging goals. Marketing and communication efforts should blend seamlessly together and not operate as though brand and impact are entirely separate universes.
- Survey your employees about the social causes that most energize them and best fit your company culture.
- Assess alignment across the enterprise for maximizing your impact goals. True impact strategies are rarely effective if they are not widely embraced by the organization.
Brand affinity is just one beneficial outcome to which your social impact strategy can lead. But keeping it in mind as you implement strategies and work toward strengthening relationships can help to drive your growth and your overall impact.
“The very best brand strategies and social-impact strategies both entail being bold and standing apart, sometimes even being provocative,” said Allen. “The goal isn’t to resonate deeply with everyone, but rather, to resonate deeply with enough of the right people.”
At Good Scout Group, we find the intersection of performance, branding, and data to help organizations strategize consistently and achieve measurable impact goals. Learn more about maximizing your organization’s potential by contacting our team.