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How can Social Enterprises Create Good Branding on Small Budgets Think ahead, and consider how you want to be viewed by potential customers, investors or employees, and put branding first

By Jessica Selwood

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Being ethical has never been so cool. Gone are the days when people that cared about the environment, or the ethics of big companies were awkward outliers. Now, we have school children bunking to protest climate change and young consumers flocking to brands such as "thank you' and "who gives a crap', which not only have ethics at their heart, but have also nailed good branding and superior product offering.

It used to be that buying recycling toilet paper, shopping only in op shops and avoiding technology was for the "hippies'. They were forgoing style and aesthetics for ethics. But this is no longer the case. In fact, it's the opposite. Brands like "thank you' and Kathmandu don't only do good, but they make you look good too.

But many smaller social enterprises or not for profits don't have big budgets to appoint large creative agencies to brainstorm their brand personality and develop suites of mockups and printed materials.

Research shows that many social enterprises face a lack of resources for business growth, such as marketing, which is why we launched a new grants program to support these ethical business with branding and design. We're so excited to review the first applications in a few weeks time, to see how the $8,000 we've allocated can be invested in brand-building services, such as design and branding, marketing, PR and copywriting.

If you're busy growing your social enterprise and don't have time to think about brand, I urge you to reconsider branding. It may seem time-consuming and costly, but here's some advice on how to build a brand without breaking the bank:

  • Company mission – you've probably already brainstormed this. But make sure all team members understand what your "why' is and how you are going to get there. You'll need to consider this at every stage of the brand building process.
  • Website – you can't get away without one these days. Even if it's just a simple Squarespace site, you need to have somewhere that people can find the most basic details of what you do, and how to contact you.
  • A PR plan – it doesn't have to be anything too strategic or "big picture'. If you're launching a new product or service, why not let people know about it through the media? Buy some of the local papers or your industry publications and see who is writing about what, then contact them to let them know about your business. This can often get the ball rolling, and you can invest in something bigger and more strategic down the line.

  • Social media – no brand, however big or small can get away without social media in this day and age. Depending on your audience, decide which platforms are the most appropriate. LinkedIn is great for building business profile, Twitter useful for creating conversation, and Facebook and Instagram are pivotal for consumer-facing brands wanting to visually display content, and communicate with people. If you go for these two, do invest in a "business' profile from the start. The cost isn't prohibitive, and it will help you to function and use them for advertising more seamlessly when you grow.

  • Logo and brand ethos – this will require some investment but it's worthwhile. It might be the next step on your journey, but if possible, assign some budget to an expert who can advise and support you on this journey – the printed stationery and business cards can wait, but having a simple logo and colour scheme on your website and socials will go a long way toward cementing a brand identity that people will recognise and resonate with for the future.

Remember, people won't expect glitzy branding from day 1 from a social enterprise. In fact, it might make them suspicious. But think ahead, and consider how you want to be viewed by potential customers, investors or employees, and put branding first.

The next generation of ethically conscious people are starting to have purchasing power, and will soon be entering the workplace. And as they cite climate change as their number one concern**, companies need to get wise to appeal to this demographic. Gen Y, which grew up with social media, is often accused of being "me' focused, so the next generation is rejecting this, looking at the bigger picture – the wider world and the people and creatures in it, and planning to leave a legacy they can be proud of. But they're still savvy to branding – they're likely to be using products that are known for their image, such as Apple, Netflix and Uber. And they'll expect the same from social enterprises – so make sure you prioritise branding and marketing, to set you up for future success.

Jessica Selwood

Founder, The Commune Space

Jessica Selwood is an illustrator, designer and the founder of The Commune Space, a design, branding an events studio based in Brisbane, Queensland. As an ethically conscious consumer, Jess is passionate about helping brands and people do good in the world, using branding as a tool to make a difference and create more impact. Jess spotted an opportunity to ‘give back’ to enterprises that are making a difference, partnering with complementary suppliers in the marketing sector to provide advice, expertise, and services that the startup founders may not have, but that will be essential for their business growth and to solve their problem.

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