Global Branding And The Non-Profit Organization

Are the typical brand management and international marketing issues faced by a powerful for-profit company the same as those navigated by an international non-profit organization?  Do non-profit organizations need to worry about a global branding strategy, website conversions, or visitor metrics?

In short, yes.

Let’s take an in-depth look at how one non-profit organization approaches this.

World Pulse is a powerful online community of women and allies of all genders worldwide, who speak out and build solutions to today’s biggest challenges.  World Pulse empowers women leaders on the ground by advancing their digital skills and leadership, to mobilize around the world and create real social transformation.

Today, tens of thousands of women from 190 nations are using to start movements and pressure global leaders to take a stand on the issues affecting their lives, ranging from the allocation of economic resources to securing leadership at all levels of society.  World Pulse’s mission is to accelerate the global changes women seek by using digital communication to unite and amplify women’s voices, solutions and impact worldwide.

Non-profit organizations like World Pulse are endowed with humanitarian missions that complicate their practice of marketing in an international market.  Even though non-profit organizations, like for-profit companies, do marketing to obtain revenue, donations and visibility, they also need to manifest their values and mission clearly, as these are the primary driving force of their brand.

A brand is what a company wants to project deliberately but also what is organically perceived via the different channels used to communicate the global identity.  Brand is in large part about emotional attachment and psychology.  Non-profit organizations need to evoke trust, empathy, and a unique kind of connection.

So what is World Pulse’s brand?  That every woman has the right to say, “No one speaks for me, I speak for myself”World Pulse is celebrated by its online community members – its customers – for being willing to address today’s toughest issues in a feminine way: through open communication, genuine listening, and mutual support.  Many members refer to the World Pulse Online Community as “a global sisterhood”.

The organization is also recognized for its use of strong, inspiring visuals of real women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes, a welcome respite from the objectifying and over-sexualized images that pervade today’s media around the world.

And what is World Pulse’s marketing strategy?  Here enters the World Pulse web site, which is the main conduit to fulfill and communicate World Pulse’s brand goals.  What makes World Pulse unique is that it is a 100% digital non-profit organization.  That means the World Pulse web site is the product, the business, and the marketing strategy.

This is why World Pulse recently redeveloped their site, based on several years of key learnings from facilitating their online community.  The new site launched on January 21, 2015 as a multilingual platform in English and French, with other languages in development.

While headquartered in Portland Oregon, World Pulse’s reach is global, aiming at connecting individuals and especially women around the world.  Users are able to join World Pulse’s Online Community quickly and easily, and then crowd-source their experiences, stories and solutions on the multi-lingual forum “communities” platform.

Communities are the central feature of the site and provide opportunities to tell one’s story in her native language, share news, resources, opportunities, training, and services.  The site is user centric, i.e., the user becomes a collaborator and builder of the brand.  For women who are under-represented in decision-making forums and in some cultures forbidden from voicing opinion regarding political, economic, social or other profound matters, the power to publish, share and post their own original content through presents a powerful new avenue for gaining confidence in one’s own voice and individual agency.

A huge component of a global marketing strategy is content quality and relevance.   Whereas the previous World Pulse site was overflowing with content, the new site makes use of minimum but relevant content.  Sentences are short and easy, layout is airy with white space that rests the eye, sections are clearly outlined and the site map is more obvious.

Translation into other languages is provided by a translation utility for visitors, powered by Google.  That feature only reaches the text content, so any text that is part of graphics is not translated, however World Pulse designers ensured that all text was part of the page, not layered in graphics.  The text is authored simply, which leaves little room for ambiguity.  Even non-profit organizations need a global content strategy, because content richness is the single most important factor in bringing in and maintaining visitors on any site.

The new site is also designed efficiently, i.e. the right content appears at the right time and in the right place.  And that is really the big difference between the old and new site.  The economical and utilitarian direction is what makes the new site action-focused, whereas the old site was bogged down in too many layers.

The main call to action “Join us” appears right in the middle of the new home page, and other lesser calls to action have been moved to the menu under Get Involved, which expresses the action that is the most important to World Pulse.  The site answers these questions: what they do, why they do it, and how you can become part of it.

Navigation and the site map are simple via a two-level layer format, and two clicks can get you to your destination.  Nothing is hidden deep any longer, and that’s important when two-thirds of your audience does not speak English as a first language and can get disoriented in a multi-layered site with a complex layout.  It is also important because the web site is all about connection –that’s the product, essence and brand of World Pulse.  And connection must be made as easy as possible for their global audience.

The launch of the new site has introduced an entirely new structure of engagement for World Pulse, centralized around collective groups, with less of a focus on the individual voice than the old website had.  Not only are these new online groups community-led, empowering community members themselves with leadership opportunities, but they also make it much easier for individuals to find and connect with others who share their passion.

Studies have shown that women naturally socialize and problem-solve in groups.  World Pulse Groups provide a place online to connect across borders, nurture ideas and solutions, access resources, network, and make things happen.

Proper web site design rules often coincide with world-ready site qualities , in the same way as accessibility requirements match globalization requirements almost to a T.  You see, responsive design, which makes the new World Pulse site look great on an iPad, any tablet, Surface, Android, in Google Chrome or Firefox, or viewed on a PC, is the child of global design and should pertain to any global marketing strategy.  Most templates are pre-built with responsive design capabilities but World Pulse has customized the layout further to reach optimal design and usability for users worldwide who access the web more regularly on smartphones and non-smartcard cell phones than computers.

The Women and the Web Report, commissioned by Intel Corporation with consultation from World Pulse, the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, and UN Women, found that more women have access to a cell phone than a computer worldwide.   And in today’s world of news spreading by the Internet and revolutions beginning on social media, mobile phones are the more agile way to gain access to current events in the world.  Just as people hop on Twitter and Facebook to share breaking news in their communities, World Pulse sees itself providing a similar platform, dedicated to uniting the voices that are speaking out for deep social, political, and cultural change.

Not only is the new World Pulse site mobile-responsive, it was also intentionally designed to be low-bandwidth: stripped down with no macro or complicated code to inhibit users with small screens, tiny alphanumeric keyboards, a slow connection, and/or a spotty internet access.

The site is also designed to speak to the needs and desires of its donors, funders, and partners.  A brand new section spotlights the organization’s impact in a way the old site never did, and gives specific honor and recognition to its greater network of supporters, all in the spirit of inclusivity and community.

When designing their site, non-profit brands have dual objectives: fundraising and the implementation of their mission.   And that requires a marketing strategy.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has Tom Scott as their Director of Global Brand and Innovation.  Universal Giving also maintains a full marketing department headed by Debi Gunders, who drives marketing and brand strategy initiatives and previously helped define and shape global identity for firms such as AOL, MSN, and Sun Microsystems.  Very telling.

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, said, “You are a brand whether you like it or not….  You’re going to leave some impression in a person’s mind [and] it’s your choice whether you want to actively manage that impression or whether you want them to come to their own conclusions of what they think about you.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a one person advocacy organization or a transnational INGO.” 

Every organization has the opportunity to shape and communicate its identity.  The key for World Pulse has been in listening to what women need on a global scale, and pioneering new territory to create the first digital change network that is powered by women worldwide.