Surrendering security: Growth potential strategies and Weber

“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” – Gail Sheehy, New York Times Bestselling Author

Ensuring that a business continues to grow and remain sustainable often involves launching a new brand, extending a brand into a new market, entering into a co-product branding venture with another brand or even diversifying into a new market with a new product. Just imagine where Sir Richard Branson would have been had he just stuck to Virgin Records? Particularly in today’s rapidly changing technological and environmentally-conscious market, business as usual can quickly lead to stagnation.

In this week’s post I’ll be looking at the four potential growth strategies for a brand, as introduced by Igor Ansoff, and discuss one potential growth strategy by using Weber as an example.

Potential brand growth strategies

According to Ansoff, there are four potential growth strategies a brand can use to grow. With each strategy there are potential risks associated and each time a business moves into a new quadrant (horizontally or vertically), the risk increases (Mind Tools).

Ansoff growth strategy matrix
Ansoff Matrix (source)

As such, the four options are (Mind Tools):

  1. Market penetration: entering an existing market with an existing product
  2. Market development: entering a new market with an existing product
  3. Product development: entering an existing market with a new product
  4. Diversification: entering a new market with a new product

In the next section I will be putting forward a diversification growth strategy for Weber-Stephen Products, manufacturer of the popular Weber kettle braai and other charcoal, gas and electric grills.

Weber – For life

Weber logo grill
Weber logo (source)

Weber-Stephen Products was founded by George Stephen in 1951 when he designed the first Weber kettle braai in a metalworks factory in Chicago, USA. According to the Weber website, he was “Tired of complaining about flat, open grills that exposed his food to wind, ashes and charring fire-ups, [so] he decided to put a lid on it — literally.” Using a metal buoy, he cut the buoy in half, added air vents and legs to produce the first kettle braai prototype (Weber website).

Today, Weber produces a long list of products, including gas, charcoal and electric braais and grills, braai accessories, braai cook books, etc. Most of these products are sold into higher LSM markets. However, for millions of people in developing countries, braaing or BBQ’ing isn’t simply a recreational activity.

Today, more than 3 billion people rely on solid fuels (like wood, charcoal, coal, crop waste, dung, etc.) to cook, which causes serious environmental, health and livelihood impacts – particularly affecting women and children. According to the World Health Organisation, household air pollution from cooking kills over 4 million people every year and leads to serious health issues for millions more (WHO, 2016).

However, there are practical and safe alternatives that can dramatically reduce fuel consumption and exposure to harmful cookstove smoke like wood/charcoal-efficient cookstoves that burn cleaner, use less fuel and are safer to use indoors and outdoors.

Below is the promo video for Envirofit, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of wood and charcoal efficient stoves:

Philips has also introduced a solar fan-powered efficient wood-chip stove for emerging markets:

Other well-known market competitors include StoveTec and Sunfire Solutions.

Efficient cookstove product diversification

I suggest a product diversification strategy for Weber that introduces a wood/charcoal efficient cookstove to lower LSM markets in developing countries on a global scale (Asia, India, Africa, etc.). I think a product of this caliber will not only open up a whole new revenue stream for Weber, but it will also:

  • help to improve the livelihoods of millions of impoverished individuals who use wood and charcoal to cook on a daily basis
  • help to fight climate change and deforestation
  • open up the brand to a new environmentally conscious market, and
  • increase brand equity

Given its strong market presence, I think the introduction of this new stove will fit in well within its current brand portfolio and the product will benefit considerably from the Weber brand affiliation. This type of brand extension will give the new Weber efficient cookstove instant recognition, faster acceptance and could save substantial advertising costs for the company. The risk, of course, is that if the product fails, it could negatively affect consumers’ attitude to other Weber products. However, the new product would essentially be focused on a new market segment.

In addition, there is already a strong movement to introduce these alternative cookstoves into emerging markets like the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The Alliance has an ambitious goal of fostering the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020. Launched in 2010 by Hillary Clinton, the non-profit organisation works alongside private, public and other non-profit stakeholders in order to remove the market barriers that impede the production, deployment and use of efficient cookstoves. Actress, Julia Roberts, acts as official ambassador for the Alliance:

The introduction of these new cookstoves can ultimately form part of a new, long-term social investment vision for Weber, whereby they make their popular cooking products accessible to all LSM markets. Whilst a new business strategy will focus on retailing these efficient cookstoves into lower LSM markets, distribution into critical areas can be augmented by allocating a percentage of sales of higher value products (like the popular Weber One Touch) to a corporate social investment (CSI) programme. The expansion of such a CSI strategy would fit in well with Weber’s slogan – For Life – given that the strategy would be focused on saving and improving the lives of impoverished individuals.

In conclusion, exploring new growth potential strategies involves various levels of risk, whether its introducing a new product brand or entering a new market. Nonetheless, in today’s competitive market – refusing to explore new product or market opportunities poses a risk in itself. In today’s age of transparency and accountability, I suggest a product diversification growth strategy into efficient cookstoves for Weber.

The customer’s always right: Brand portfolio management during the age of accountability and transparency

Managing a range of brands across various product categories comes both with opportunity – like an increased share across markets and leveraging established brands – but also with challenges – like maintaining a collective corporate brand, shared values and complimentary brand identities. Effectively managing a coordinated brand portfolio in today’s society where customers have instant access to a multitude of information and can voice their opinions with a click of a button brings even more challenges to the fore for brands.

In this article I will look at how fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturer, Unilever, manages its brand portfolio by considering the brand’s reputation and consumers’ perspective in terms of transparency, ethical practices and sustainability.

Power to the people

As Uncle Fishbits suggests, today we live in an age of accountability and transparency where customers are empowered through word-of-mouth on a range of social media channels. A disgruntled consumer can easily take a brand to task on Facebook for bad service, unethical practices or unlawful conduct which could go viral and cause major damage and loss to a brand. Here are 7 Customer Service Blunders that went viral.

Increasingly, customers are demanding that brands apply sustainable practices in their operations, ethically source ingredients, reduce their carbon footprint, treat their employees better and give back to the communities in which they operate in. As such, when managing a brand portfolio it is important to make a number of pro-accountability choices that would reflect back positively on the product brand and the ethics behind the corporate brand.

Unilever and business ethics

Unilever is the world’s second-largest packaged-goods manufacturer (after Proctor and Gamble) with more than 160 production facilities globally, including South Africa. The company’s turnover in 2016 was €53.3 billion and its brand portfolio worth US$42.9 billion in 2017 (Brand Finance, 2017).  Unilever is well-known for its business ethics and more than two billion people across the world use their products every day. Its 400-strong product range include Dove, Axe, Vaseline, Lipton tea, Omo, Marmite, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and many other personal care, household goods and food products.

Unilever product range

Unilever’s diverse brand products (source)

Given such a diverse product portfolio, Unilever has purposefully ingrained a single vision across these brands: “to grow our business, while decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.” (Unilever website). This strategic vision is captured in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which has three ambitious goals:

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals image
Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals (source)

If achieved, the plan will not only cover Unilever’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water use but also the impact caused by its suppliers and its consumers (The Guardian, 2010). In order to achieve its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever focuses on building purpose-led brands. Some of the most prominent social-impact programmes of its brands include:

  • Dove, who has helped more than 19 million young people build self-esteem

  • Lifebuoy, who is teaching 300 million people to wash their hands

  • Domestos, who is helping 5 million people access toilets

  • Pepsodent, who is teaching 68 million children to brush their teeth

Here’s a short clip that encapsulates this purpose-led strategic direction of Unilever through its brand portfolio:

According to Keith Weed, Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, “Our brands that most engage with our sustainability and social purpose plan are growing faster”. The brands that have engaged the most with the plan have yielded 10% growth over the past three years. In accordance with the company’s overarching vision, Unilever puts its U logo on all its products as a ‘trust mark of sustainability’ to assure consumers that any product with the U is the right choice for the planet. It also promotes the corporate brand of the various product brands (Adweek, 2015).

“At Unilever, we have a really simple philosophy: when you bring people and brands together under the banner of purpose, ordinary people can achieve some extraordinary things.” – Unilever Vice President of Global Talent and Resourcing, Stephen Lochhead (Adweek, 2015).

Whilst Unilever’s market share continues to grow, its biggest competitor – Proctor and Gamble – are consolidating its brand portfolio in order to maintain profitability. With increased growth comes increased environmental responsibility, of course, if the company is to maintain its ethical standpoint. As such, the Sustainable Living Plan has come to encompass various business practices like ethically sourcing raw materials and reducing deforestation by Lipton tea farmers to having a notable positive influence on improving health and well-being for its consumers (source).

However, dovetailing marketing, social purpose and sustainability under a parent brand is not without risk. Some critics like Claudia Fisher of the brand consultancy, Rivia, have criticised some of Unilever’s most well-known campaigns, like the Bright Futures Speech campaign, stating that it singles out specific product brands instead of transcending its brand categories by focusing on the corporate brand (Adweek, 2015). In addition, a missed social purpose goal or a failed social intervention could lead to a company-wide backlash by critics and consumers. With the advent of social media and the viral spread of content and messages, this becomes even more risky.

As such, in today’s age of accountability and transparency brands have to carefully manage its brand portfolios  and actively make brand choices that favour sustainable and ethical practices. Amidst the backdrop of three very commendable but ambitious Sustainable Living Plan goals, Unilever might need to rationalise its brand products in order to achieve these set goals. Notably, the time-frame on one of its goals – halving its environmental footprint in the making and use of its products – has already been increased by 10 years from 2020 to 2030. Eventually removing unsustainable products from its brand portfolio could build and maintain Unilever’s reputation even more and create positive brand resonance among its customers.

The Right Blend: Integrated Marketing Communications in UNICEF’s Tap Project

Remaining competitive and ensuring that marketing activities effectively and consistently reach a specific target market remains one of the biggest challenges to any organisation. It is said that people are bombarded with more than 500 commercial messages each day.

So how do organisations cut through this ‘noise’?

This week I look at integrated marketing communications (IMC), specifically that of digital and social media platforms, and discuss how a well-known international charity –the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)– practices good IMC principles through its marketing activities.

Simply put, IMC ensures that all promotional tools of an organisation are integrated and work in harmony to reinforce the actions of each. The benefits of IMC include (among other) creating a competitive advantage, reinforcing the company brand, boosting sales/products/donations, ensuring a better overall return on investment on marketing activities, developing an on-going dialogue with a target market and promoting brand loyalty (Multimedia Marketing, 2015).

UNICEF logo (source)

UNICEF was established in 1946 by the United Nations General Assembly. Active in more than 190 countries and territories, the organisation protects the rights of children through humanitarian and developmental assistance. UNICEF’s central belief is that “All children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world” (UNICEF, 2017).

UNICEF is widely known for its potent marketing and fundraising campaigns in order to solicit donations, advocate support for its campaigns and effectively communicate its work. With the rise of social media and internet marketing, UNICEF has remained relevant and was ranked the 3rd most popular charity on Facebook and Twitter with 6 million likes and 5.4 million followers respectively (Top Non-profits, 2016).

UNICEF tap project with image of phone app
UNICEF’s Tap project (source)

A particular example of an effective IMC campaign by UNICEF, is the “Tap Project” – an award-winning fundraising campaign that raised over $6 million dollars and directly benefited more than half a million people in 12 countries over 10 years. An expert and integrated use of social media, digital and phone application marketing played a crucial role in the success of the project (UNICEF, 2016).

tap project restaurant brochure design
Tap Project Restaurant brochure (source)

The Tap Project started out in New York City restaurants where patrons donated $1 to UNICEF for tap water that they usually got at no charge. The concept was to raise awareness about how citizens in affluent, 1st world countries often take access to clean water for granted as opposed to poverty stricken areas where access to clean water is often difficult and costly to come by. The simplicity and success of the project quickly spread to thousands of other restaurants in the US and even lead to a highly popular vendor demonstration in Times Square (New York) where dirty water bottles were put up for sale (UNICEF USA, 2015). Watch the clever marketing ploy below:

However, it wasn’t until 2014 with the introduction of the ‘Tap project challenge’ that the campaign reached critical success through clever social media marketing tactics. Individuals were asked to download and open the Tap Project challenge app, then put down their phones in order to provide clean water for someone in need for a day. The concept was to highlight the perceived need of people in first world countries (the need for a cellphone) versus the real need of impoverished individuals (the need for clean water). As UNICEF explained through its campaign: “For every fifteen minutes you don’t touch your phone, UNICEF Tap Project sponsors and supporters provide the funding equivalent of a day of clean water.” Sponsors like Giorgio Armani Fragrances and S’well Bottle provided the funding based on users actions.

tap project app steps unicef
The UNICEF Tap project app (source)

The Tap Project Challenge campaign was successfully rolled out and integrated in the following ways:

  1. An ad agency, Droga5, was employed to launch a full-scale online media blitz to promote the campaign and the app (source).
  2. A dedicated website was created to track the campaign’s status and its current users (source).
  3. Traffic to the site and to the app was increased by posting about the campaign from UNICEF’s parent Twitter (5.4 million followers) and Facebook (6 million fans) accounts (source).
  4. Viral, word-of-mouth campaigning was enforced by the self-promotion feature of the app. Every time a user successfully raised enough time (15 minutes of putting their phone down) to provide one child with clean water for a day – an automatic tweet was sent to the user’s followers. Essentially, this created campaign but also brand advocates/ambassadors out of their users and dramatically increased the reach and impact of the campaign. Users were more likely to join the campaign when seeing that their friends were already participating and endorsing the campaign/the organisation. Participation and endorsement from celebrity’s like Selena Gomez (with millions of social media followers) further compounded the campaign’s reach (source).
Selena Gomez tap project challenge tweet unicef
Selena Gomez Tap Project Challenge Tweet (source)

Further iterations of the project have followed through celebrity endorsements through Youtube and digital content, like the ones below by Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Adrian Grenier:

UNICEF Celebrity Tap Project (source)

Since the launch of the Tap Project Challenge, a total of $1.6 million dollars have been raised from 2.6 million individual users – through the use of an integrated digital marketing and social media campaign (UNICEF, 2016).

In addition, the project successfully gained exceptional brand recognition for UNICEF,  broadcasted its unique value proposition (i.e. the ability to effectively and efficiently provide aid to impoverished individuals across the globe) created brand resonance among its followers (by cultivating brand ambassadors and word-of-mouth viral marketing).

As such, UNICEF’s strategic IMC approach to its campaigns, specifically through digital  and social media , ensures that the organisation remains competitive and that its marketing activities effectively and consistently cuts through the ‘noise’ to reach its target market of donors, supporters and brand ambassadors.


Just the right touch: Brand touch-points and donor engagement

Much like for-profits, non-profit organisations have a sales journey, or more appropriately, a donor journey that needs to be effectively managed in order to ensure ‘repeat business’ – whether it is becoming a monthly donor, regular volunteer or regular supporter at events or through its petitions, etc. In this week’s post I will be looking at brand touch-points, how they influence a customer’s perception of a brand and look at the five steps of a basic brand contact and planning process by evaluating some of the donor engagement touch-points of the World Wildlife Foundation of South Africa (WWF-SA).

Engaging with potential and current donors and supporters (especially those heavily reliant on individual donors) through effective brand touch points is vital to its financial survival. Research suggests that it takes on average between seven and 12 “touches” before a new donor will donate to a non-profit organisation (Angel Oak Creative, 2017).

Diagram of the various stages of the donor engagement lifecycle

A typical donor engagement life-cycle (source)

Due to the nature of the sector, internal marketing and the role of employee involvement in shaping the perception of the brand is vital. Most non-profit organisations have very benevolent, emotive, philanthropic and aspirational ideals and therefore most donors and other stakeholders expect the same level of benevolence from each employee or volunteer.  If it appears otherwise, donors and supporters can easily be alienated from the brand.

Listed below, Klopper and North (2011:161) suggest that there are five steps of a basic brand contact and planning process. These will be discussed in relation to WWF-SA‘s donor engagement life-cycle .

Step 1: All points of contact

Most non-profits will have a unique set of donor contact points. But there are a few that are common amongst most companies within the non-profit sector:

NewsletterDirect mail
Social media postsVideos
EventsMarketing collateral
Media coveragePhone calls

(Angel Oak Creative, 2017)

Step 2: Primary brand contact patterns

These include the most common contact points for a new donor. For WWF-SA, it is most likely to include the following:


WWF-SA’s website has a very modern, F-style layout, with clear call to actions, engaging content and a highlighted donate button indicating the various ways in which you can support the organisation.

Screenshot of WWF website

WWF-SA’s website

Social media posts

WWF-SA’s Facebook page has 60, 876 page likes (4 July 2017) and typically replies within a few hours – a dedicated social media officer can help to improve the response rate and therefore this touch point. The content it posts is relevant, professional and makes use of visual media. However it does not receive high levels of interaction (on face value) from its followers other than likes; i.e. posts don’t receive a lot of comments or shares. More open-ended and emotive content could help to improve response rates.

Facebook page screenshot of WWF page

WWF-SA Facebook page


I’ve attended a few events where WWF-SA was present and it is very clear that a lot of thought and planning goes into their exhibitions and events, and carefully select the staff representing the organisation at these events. I recall a Rocking the Daisies event where they had a enormous Panda-shaped dome in which there were about a dozen WWF-SA volunteers assisting with newsletter sign-ups, selling merchandise, branding customers with stickers, taking pictures with their panda mascot, etc. The volunteers were all similarly branded in WWF clothing and were passionately enthused about the work that WWF-SA does. Similarly, WWF’s annual Earth Hour events and face-to-face fundraising stalls are also well executed and staffed with good brand ambassadors.

WWF Earth hour lighting candles panda shape
WWF Earth Hour event (source)
WWF fundraising donor stand mall face to face fundraising
WWF Face-to-face fundraising stand (source)

Newsletter communication

As a subscriber of WWF-SA’s mailing list, I receive WWF-SA’s newsletters which are sent roughly once a month. The newsletter follows a similar format to the organisation’s website and are well-written, visually appealing, engaging and offers various calls-to-action. However, the newsletters do not personally address each subscriber (i.e. Dear John) and it’s not addressed from a specific person (e.g. from the Executive Director) and therefore seems less personal.

Screenshot of WWF-SA newsletter whats your junk status

WWF-SA’s latest newsletter available online here.

Step 3: Most important brand contact points

The third step in evaluating a brand’s contact and planning cycle, is establishing which points of contact holds the most value for the customer and best serve the purpose of the organisation’s brand. These can be broken down into:

First contact point: E.g. visiting a stall or exhibition, seeing a WWF advertisement, etc.

Last contact point: E.g. receiving an e-newsletter.

Frequent contact points: E.g. social media posts, other above and below the line marketing like the recent #journeyofwater campaign.

Impact contact points: E.g. when making a donation (online or at a stall), inquiring about volunteering at the organisation, purchasing an item from the online store, requesting an 18A tax certificate, attending a special event (like Earth Hour), etc.

Resonant contact points: E.g. taking part in the Panda Peleton events where supporters can ‘swim, run or cycle for nature’. Donor stewardship by staff are key to keeping participants inspired and reminding them of the good cause they’re supporting through their efforts.

As a test of one of the impact contact points, I made a donation via the website. The process was very user-friendly and without hassle. However, there was no option of selecting where my donation can go (e.g. saving rhinos or water conservation projects). I only received a generic thank you screen thanking me for my donation. A personally-addressed auto email to my inbox on behalf of the CEO or Fundraising Manager thanking me for the donation would have held more meaning.

In addition, I also haven’t received any follow-up communication (telephone call or email) since my donation; which isn’t a major critique but would add significant value to its donor retention activities.

WWF thank you for your donation screenshot

Automated online thank you response for a donation

Step 4: Brand contact cohesion strategy

As an organisation that’s nearly 50-years old, WWF-SA has a good cohesive brand that’s clearly defined and cohesive in its approach to its various brand touchpoints. The use of its widely recognized logo of the panda, its primary colours and strong messaging has been evident to me whether its receiving their communication in my inbox, seeing exhibitors at a sustainability festival or engaging with their staff.

Step 5: Managing the brand contact cohesion strategy

As part of a larger group, it has a well-structured brand guideline to ensure brand cohesion throughout the various regional organisations. WWF’s brand book is available here and sets our clear organizational values and guiding principles and how these are internalized within the organisation and communicated to stakeholders.

In conclusion, brand touch-points and how customers engage with them continue to evolve most notably in the digital space (through apps, mobile marketing, etc.). Ensuring that these touch-points – whether it be through a newsletter or at an exhibit – exude the same compassion as the organisation’s ideals and brand will ultimately ensure its long-term sustainability and the ability to fulfill its mandate.

Daring to be different: Greenpeace’s bold brand differentiation and positioning

Brand differentiation and positioning should be two important and closely linked marketing elements in any business’ marketing plan, particularly in today’s often cluttered online marketing space. In the following post I will explain the difference between these two marketing elements and discuss how they apply to a well-known, non-profit brand: Greenpeace.

Brand differentiation involves highlighting characteristics that sets the organisation/brand apart from other competitors within its competitive category; i.e. elements that sets the company apart. This could be quality, service, price, distribution, perceived customer value and many other differentiation possibilities (Investopedia, 2015).

Brand positioning, on the other hand, is about creating a brand offer in such a manner that it inhabits a distinctive place and value in the mind of a particular target customer (Management Study Guide, 2017). As such, a brand positioning strategy involves creating brand associations in the customer’s mind so that they perceive the brand in a specific way (The Branding Journal, 2016).

Much like how big companies like Apple, Virgin and Google have successfully differentiated and positioned themselves in the market and in the minds of its customers, so have non-profit organisations done so through the years. Personally, one particular non-profit that has a bold and defining approach in its activities/mission and its brand positioning and differentiation, is Greenpeace.

Greenpeace logo

Photo Credit: Robert Keziere / Greenpeace (source

Greenpeace was formed in 1971 by a small anti-war group in Vancouver, Canada. Today, it is one of the world’s largest and well-known environmental groups with five ships, 2.8 million supporters, 27 national and regional offices and an established presence in 41 countries (Environmental History, 2007).

Brand differentiation: Greenpeace differentiates itself from other environmental non-profits like WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, IFAW, etc. in a number of ways. Firstly, by taking direct, non-violent action – often in dramatic fashion – that makes it one of the most visible environmental organisations in the world. Iconic images that come to mind when thinking of Greenpeace is shielding whales from harpoons, blocking ocean-going barges from dumping radioactive waste and protecting fur seals from clubs. On the other hand, organisations like Sea Shepherd takes a much more direct confrontational approach in its actions. Greenpeace’s most well-known vessel is the Rainbow Warrior (of which the first model was sunk in 1985 by French intelligence service – DGSE) (Environmental History, 2007).

Secondly, it does not accept funding from governments, corporations or political parties. Most non-profits like Oceana or Conservation International have a mix of funding streams in order to sustain its operations.

Greenpeace book cover
© Greenpeace / Original photo by Rex Weyler (source

Brand positioning

Greenpeace’s confrontational, but non-violent philosophy echoes the nonviolent interventions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martine Luther King, Jr. It positions itself as an organisation that is one a quest to achieve a green and peaceful future through brave individual and collection action, inspiring courageous actions by supporters and allies. Greenpeace’s brand is effective in emphasizing what makes the brand different (its bold and action-orientated philosophy), justifying how it is different (demonstrating its actions), communicating this difference (through comprehensive campaigns and marketing).

A Greenpeace activist at an oil platform in Norway (source

Whilst I would not necessarily use the term competitive advantage in the strict sense of the concept, Greenpeace’s unique brand differentiation and positioning ensures that the organisation gets significant media, public and socio-political attention through its activities which directly supports its mission. Not only is the organisation operational sustained through 2.8 million supporters and private foundations, its brand helps to generate significant support for its campaigns and attract influential individuals, like popular actors. The renowned Save the Artic Campaign is endorsed by celebrities like George Clooney, Paul McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Sir Richard Branson.

Vivienne Westwood and George Clooney t-shirt Save the Arctic Campaign Greenpeace
Vivienne Westwood & George Clooney supporting Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic Campaign (source

Infamously, the campaign has led to plastic toy producer, Lego, ending its more than 50 year relationship with oil-producer, Shell. See below for the poignant video produced by Greenpeace:

Greenpeace’s actions are, of course, not without criticism and the organisation has been involved in a number of lawsuits and political disputes.

Greenpeace’s unique bold and defining brand differentiation and positioning within the non-profit sector continues to make it one of the most influential and recognisable brands in the world and ensures that its ideals remain relevant in today’s society.

By Francois Louw

Seeing panda: The verbal and visual language of the WWF brand

The importance of a strong, relevant and unique brand identity that speaks to a specific target market is pivotal to the success of any business, particularly in today’s competitive and often cluttered digital space of social media, online advertising and e-marketing. According to Klopper and North (2011), a brand’s visual and verbal language shows how a brand expresses itself both verbally and visually at every possible brand touch-point. They suggest three distinguishable properties of a brand’s verbal and visual language that ensure clear and coherent brand behaviour:  tone of voice, brand symbols and brand story.

Effective brand management is, however, not only confined to the profit-making sector. Many non-profit organisations have meticulously developed their brand identity over the years and those that do it well have remained relevant and sustained their existence. Charities like Greenpeace, Oxfam and, of course, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) spring to mind when thinking of big brand charities, many of whom are often more trusted as a brand than the most well-known for-profit brands (SSIR, 2012). In the following paragraphs I will look at WWF’s visual and verbal language of its brand identity.

WWF The Panda made me do it


WWF was established in 1961 and its mission is to “stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature” (WWF Brand Book, 2013).

1. Tone of voice

WWF’s tone of voice can be described as respectful, inspiring, motivational and humane but also sobering  and to-the-point, particularly through its marketing campaigns (see 50 Creative WWF Campaigns That Make You Think Twice). This tone fits in well with it organisation’s values which are that they are knowledgeable, optimistic, determined and engaging – summarised through the K-O-D-E acronym used within the organisation (WWF Brand Book, 2013).

2. WWF’s brand symbols

WWF’s iconic black and white panda logo was inspired by a giant panda called Chi-Chi who had arrived at the London Zoo in 1961 – the same year the organisation was established. One of WWF’s founders and the person to draw the first WWF logo, Sir Peter Scott, said they chose a panda because they wanted an animal that was beautiful, endangered and loved by people across the world for its appealing qualities. As such, the logo evokes feelings of vulnerability, nurturing, hope and the need to protect. Interestingly, they also wanted an animal that would visually have an impact black and white colour in order to save money on printing costs. The iconic logo has become a universal symbol for the conservation movement (Logo Design Love, 2017).

Historical development of WWF’s logo

Historical development of WWF’s logo (Source:

The tagline of the logo is often accompanied by the well-known abbreviation for the organisation – WWF (with its custom font type) and the slogan: ‘for a living planet’. WWF’s iconic marketing campaigns often use augmented, surrealist imagery of real-life scenes in the wild or in society to stir an emotive reaction within its audience.

3. Brand story

As with many charitable organisations, WWF has a very strong brand story which is central to its philanthropic raison d’être. The organisation was started in 1961 out of an international need to garner substantial financial support for conservation projects around the world. Today, the WWF is the world’s largest independent conservation organisation with more than five million supporters, working in more than 90 countries, supporting approximately 1300 conservation and environmental projects (WWF Brand Book, 2013).

The tone of voice, symbols and story of WWF’s brand are purposefully aligned to position the brand in such a way that the organisation can attain its overall mission of building a future in which people live in harmony with nature. Together with WWF’s other brand identity elements, these components help to solicit support (whether financial, operational, legislative or other) from members of the public, businesses, government and other stakeholders. However, it also helps to develop internal cohesion among diverse internal constituencies within the organisation and to ensure that the brand’s identity is correctly portrayed through various organisational touchpoints (e.g. built environment, signage, emails and staff engagement) (Fabrikbrands, 2017).

The chief operating officer of WWF in the Unites States, Marcia Marsh, said this about WWF’s brand, “Our brand is the single greatest asset that our network has, and it’s what keeps everyone together.” (SSIR, 2012).

Finally, through effective brand management, many non-profit brands are going beyond using their brand as a fundraising tool to one that drives long-term social goals while strengthening organisational cohesion (SSIR, 2012).

As such, WWF’s clear, coherent and consistent brand behaviour through its visual and verbal language has ensured that it remains one of the most recognisable non-profit, environmental brands in the world with uniquely differentiated brand identity.


By Francois Louw