Something we come across a lot within the charity sector is an instinct to define campaigns around a slogan. To boil down the core message and essence of a campaign into just a few words.
On the surface, the appeal of this approach makes a lot of sense. Slogan-led campaigns come from corporate advertising. Some of the most successful and memorable advertising campaigns of all time have been built around slogans:
“You either love it or hate it”
“Just Do It”
“Because I’m worth it”.
At their best, slogans can help a charity campaign cut through and stick in the minds of its audience. “This Girl Can” remains one of my favourite charity brand campaigns of recent years, for example.
But sometimes, slogans can get in the way of communicating values.
Most of the time, it’s really difficult, if not impossible, to capture the emotional punch of a campaign in just three or four words. By leading with your slogan, rather than a clear statement of the values your campaign is fighting for, you could miss out on the opportunity to engage and mobilise your audience.
Time and again we see that it’s values and emotion that resonate with supporters and motivate them to take action. In our handraiser testing, we’ve seen values statements recruit five or six times as many supporters as slogans, with the same budget.
Slogans have a valuable role to play in charity campaigns. But the problem comes when the slogan, rather than the campaign’s values, becomes the starting point of the campaign messaging.
Instead, start by defining your values in a short, emotive sentence, and only add a slogan if it can amplify those values, not detract from them. Think back to “This Girl Can” again – it works so well precisely because it captures and amplifies the values of the campaign.
Companies know how powerful values can be for connecting with their audience. For evidence of that, look no further than the trend towards values-centric corporate advertising in recent years.
But where corporations often have to retrofit values onto their brand, NGOs are in the enviable position of having values intrinsically built into our missions – our very reason for existing.
Those values are our most powerful rallying cry. When communicated boldly, they can inspire people to join us in their thousands and motivate them to take action again and again. Let’s make sure we’re using that power, not hiding it behind a slogan.
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