Takeaways from our Grow Your Brand webinar

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Takeaways from our Grow Your Brand webinar

Following our webinar this week, we're sharing the key ideas that were shared and the main lessons to be learned about maintaining your brand and optimising your media spend.

We were thrilled to have so many familiar and new faces from across the sector join us yesterday for our Growing Your Brand webinar. Across three talks, we explored how charities’ approaches to brand have had to change over the past decade, particularly with regard to the pandemic. Using the data from our CAM monitor, we shared how we’ve been able to track not only the performance of the sector on the whole, but also to identify dos and don’ts that emerge from our data over the past decade.

So, what kinds of trends have we seen? Read on for a recap of the top takeaways from our speakers.


Tracking your charity's brand in a volatile climate

Bijal Rama, Head of Public Audiences Research at nfpResearch

Bee led our first slot to address the elephant in the room; the past few years have been difficult to navigate for branding. The gut instinct of many has been to prioritise fundraising over everything else, leaving brand to go by the wayside. But this might not be the best idea.

The current state of brand awareness is shifting quickly with unpromoted awareness for charities falling drastically since 2014, and less than half of the public being able to recall recently seeing any publicity for a charity. There are a variety of factors driving this change. Foremost is the compounding impact of the cost-of-living crisis immediately after the pandemic.

Knowing how to handle this drop off in awareness will be vital to charities moving forward. Oxfam’s spontaneous awareness has halved since the scandal starting in 2018, but their withdrawal from branded engagement has had a big part to play in their failure to recuperate their losses. But simply increasing media spend isn’t the solution either; Water Aid have seen a decrease in spontaneous awareness despite an uptick in publicity recall amongst the public. Simple promotion isn’t enough in today’s vastly competitive landscape.

Mind is now a leader in brand awareness, as they have been able to frame themselves as leaders of the national conversation around mental health. Others who have benefitted from taking part in wider conversations have been The Trussel Trust and Stonewall, and Fareshare benefitted enormously from having Marcus Rashford as a spokesperson. SSAFA and Brooke focussed on brand to great results as well, where rebranding and re-educating the public on their goals has led to more recognition.

Brand management will continue to be difficult. The public’s attention is often being drawn away from charities due to the competition in the sector as well as the emergence of high-visibility movements such as BLM, Just Stop Oil, and Extinction Rebellion. The need for investment in brand can’t be overstated, so much so that we have even recently updated our Charity Awareness Monitor to provide monthly data. This allows charities to see regular data and shifts in the sector and empowers them to compare their performances to sector benchmarks and stay aware of trends. We believe that this kind of data will be able to help charities to reclaim the spotlight, or at the very least, benefit from some stability in an unstable time.


How does charity media spend stack up?

Cian Murphy, Co-Managing Director at nfpResearch

Next, we had Cian provide a breakdown of how many charities’ media budgets have been changing for better and worse over the past decade, taking recent data from our updated Ad Infinitum report. Currently, overall media spend is on the rise, recovering from a low after its previous peak in 2015. Unlike corporate media spending, charities’ media budgets for have been growing since the pandemic, particularly in TV ads where the corporate spend has been stagnating.

This hasn’t been entirely effective, however. The shift in public priorities and how we consume media has seen TV advert recall for charities falling to around half of where we were in 2010, as the number of people claiming that they avoid adverts has been on the rise. Where corporate spending has been shifted so that a larger proportion now goes to digital media, charities have been slower to make this change. Public attitudes and recall, however, remain much the same towards digital advertising as towards TV ads, with more people avoiding ads and fewer recalling them.

More traditional forms of advertising, door drops and radio ads, have seen growth in terms of performance per pound spent, though they are now seeing less use. Once again, recall for these campaigns is down by almost half. Equally, the sector’s spend on ad spots in traditional press has halved in the past decade, a trend in keeping with corporate figures. Cinema and outdoor spending saw their biggest years in 2018, though with the dwindling performance of cinemas post-Covid, we can’t expect to see figures reach these levels again.

So why hasn’t an increase in certain spending been able to improve brand recall? Well, it partly comes down to competition. There are more charities at the table trying to vie for public attention, and a public with less inclination to give than we have seen in previous years. Seeing TV ad spending increase is certainly likely to reach the older generations who have provided charities with their core donor-bases for some time, but reaching younger audiences with digital media is what we’re currently seeing the commercial sector do to great effect.  It’s likely that this change will have to occur in the third sector if we’re going to see the post-pandemic recovery we’re all hoping for.


How to grow your brand and income

Patrick Brennan, Head of Insight at Trajectory

Our third and final seminar was led by Patrick Brennan from forecasting experts Trajectory, who specialises in identifying trends in data and creating models to predict future developments. Their horizon scanning projects are used to generate prescriptive reports and insights for clients, and we’ve been pleased to partner with them on our Ad Infinitum report to model how media spend can affect charities’ voluntary income.

We can learn a lot about ad spending from the commercial sector. In the early 2010’s, AA decided to cut their marketing spend, and by 2016 found that their otherwise good business practices simply weren’t enough to keep them afloat in the long run. A viral 2016 advert, however, saw them return to people’s screens and reversed five years of damage within the year and a massive uptick in searches. This is just one case of a widely regarded phenomena, whereby media-reliant income is often topped by paid media, and TV advertising in particularly. These improve recall among watchers and build brand effectively.

While information like this can be useful to organisations, what they need to ask of themselves and the wider sector is what effect their media decisions have on their income. This should be top-to-bottom, reflecting on social media engagement, mix of media spends, the impact of messaging decisions, or the awareness increase generated by shops. This raw data can be converted into actionable reporting, allowing charities to use sector benchmarks to rate their performance and find ways to optimise.

To create a model to forecast media spend, it’s important to recognise which metrics enter into it first. For example, we must find which marketing channels provide the best return on investment, how awareness found in our CAM data contributes, and quantify the impact a brand’s profile makes on public giving.

Through our Ad Infinitum report and media modelling research, we’re able to deliver these insights so that charities can view the impact their decisions have on key performance indicators such as donation income and legacy giving. It is also important to monitor the sector as a whole, providing an interpretation of the correct course of action to convert spend inputs onto income outputs. What charities need to do to boost their performance in the competitive world of advertising is to consider using this kind of strategic analysis to determine what behaviours they need to adapt or adopt to optimise their spending.


We extend a massive thanks to everyone who was able to attend our event. We can’t wait to see you at the next one!

You can get in touch with the speakers using the following:


If you'd like to learn more about our CAM data, download a briefing pack using the link below.

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