Charity, Health, Education

Removing the mask: using brand to show the ‘real you’

Great branding is not about putting on a mask to disguise the truth – it’s about removing the mask so that you look, sound and behave like the very best of who you really are.



Whatever your organisation’s aims, competition is almost certainly fierce. You might be trying to recruit students, service users, staff or volunteers; you might be seeking to attract support – financial or otherwise – from individuals, partners or government purse-holders.

Whatever the challenge, success is intimately linked with your organisation’s reputation – in other words your brand. So when you pick up the phone and say “Hi, I’m calling from ...” does that open doors, or does it close them?

If your brand is not distinctive, it may well be the latter.

Finding your story

Distinctiveness is about standing for something. We all need to be clearer than ever what our organisation’s story is. And brand loyalty is about finding a story that our audiences can believe in, one that they aspire to participate in, belong to and become part of. It’s that elusive emotional connection that will ensure that when it comes to the moment of decision, it’s our brand that will be front of mind, for all the right reasons.

At its best, a great brand can deliver four really powerful and valuable things:

  1. Integrity – a place of internal and external consistency where who we truly are and how we are seen by others are in healthy alignment.
  2. Visibility – a strong brand can give you a face that your target audiences recognise, a tone of voice they can hear above the noise, and messages that give them hope and call them to decisive action.
  3. Credibility – delivered through a consistent experience of your brand, through both your behaviour and the quality of your service. That’s supported by consistent messaging, physical spaces and visual identity. Consistency builds trust.
  4. Loyalty – that emotional engagement that will motivate your audiences to engage with you time and again. They’ll become your advocates – proudly spreading the word about the difference your organisation makes.

Brand is a relationship

It’s crucial to remember that great branding is not about putting on a mask to disguise the truth – it’s about removing the mask so that you look, sound and behave like the very best of who you really are.

Brand is a relationship – ultimately you need to create a brand experience. For your service users, you are the brand experience. You and your team – your staff and volunteers – must embody the brand. Yes, the poster or email that advertised the service and the physical space in which we meet and the literature I walk away with are all important, but most of the experience is about you – your behaviours, your skill, your empathy, your expertise, your advice, your networks. You.

So, a refreshed brand or a new campaign won’t solve all your brand problems. First of all you have to take a really good look at your brand behaviours.

It’s no coincidence that most of IE’s rebranding clients have come to us towards the end of a significant re-evaluation, rethinking and restructuring of the organisation. They have all wrestled with how their organisation is structured and run, how they might make it more effective and how to improve user experiences and outcomes.

Waving a flag to the world

That’s the time to reach out for help from a strategic branding agency. Then the time is right to employ brand as a 'flag', to wave at the world. It can signal change and provoke a radical re-evaluation of how you’re perceived.

But woe betide you if you haven’t really changed. People will see straight through your new brand, and the mask will soon slip. You’ll be viewed with cynicism and disinterest.

Brand is not a magic wand

Brand can amplify your messages, it can improve awareness, it can help you reach out to new audiences, and to engage more deeply with existing ones – but it isn’t a magic wand. It’s certainly is not a replacement for all the hard work you’re doing in shaping your offering and improving your service.

Ultimately your brand can only be as great as your service is. As inspiring as your team is. As outstanding as you are.

“Great branding is not about putting a mask on to disguise the truth – it’s about taking the mask off so that you look, sound and behave like the very best of who you really are.”

Ollie Leggett
MD and Brand Consultant, IE