- Abby V. Reiner, Brand Director, Wounded Warrior Project
The more people understand the depth of meaning and enormous value a so-called “simple logo” has to a non-profit organization and the people it serves, the fewer infringements and the more money goes where we all want it to go – those served by charitable institutions.
The pinnacle for most is a “cult-like” brand – one where people are near fanatical about the brand and, fortunately, want to share it with others. These are your people who “get it.” But then, are they? Nonprofits often foster deep emotional connections with supporters due to the very nature of the organization’s mission. Sure we’re all a part of the mission, we’re all in this together. But sorry, I’m the company and rightful owner of the identity and no, you cannot use company trademarks to proudly proclaim how invested you are, emotionally or financially. So while you “get” the personal and emotional side of me, you still don’t “get” the business side of me because you’re upset, and I understand why. The sad legal reality is that sometimes the well-intentioned can do more harm than good.
I’ve seen many organizations spend an exorbitant amount of time (translation, $$$) helping people to “get it.” Trying to explain the business decisions the organization made due to the economy, target markets, weather, research, strategy, alignment, market trends, social noise – the list goes on…forever. We try to describe production schedules, shipping logistics, limited resources, the dying bee population, industry trends, weather patterns, and the timing of the Chinese New Year.
The fact is, nine times out of ten, that person won’t “get it.” Why? Because they never had the capacity to “get it” in the first place. Their mind was never open to actually learning and understanding; and their own personal biases enter the picture, clouding judgment and exacerbating pessimism even further. They heard a term like “trademark bully” and decided that must be you because your organization makes “too much” money in their minds. And everyone loves a good underdog story.
Funny enough, you were that underdog at one point. An evolution most start-ups make: “Use my logo! Promote us!” to “Use my logo only with permission! Protect the brand!” A fine line exists between wanting everyone to feel a part of the mission, raising awareness, and contributing, and protecting the logo from those who use it impermissibly to promote outside interests or, worse still, for private gain.
Focus your energy on those who do “get it.” Amplify your voice through them. This is not earth-shattering guidance but rather a reminder to continue engaging your biggest fans. By all means, try to educate those who might be open to learning the real story, but you’re betting against the “get it” odds.
Get it? Yeah, me neither.