Don’t Let Your Nonprofit Brand Get Too Personal

Placido Domingo just resigned as the director of the Washington National Opera (WNO). That’s trouble for this cultural organization in flux and making it right has to go way beyond updating its logo.

Understandably, the WNO has relied heavily on Domingo — a universal opera favorite with memorable voice, bearing and personality — to build its brand.  The Opera has grown exponentially in the past decade and few think of the WNO without thinking of Domingo. He is, for all effective purposes, the Opera’s face…the symbol of its power, beauty and, seemingly, its success.

However, even Domingo couldn’t protect the opera from cuts in arts funding that have plagued cultural organizations in the last few years. And evidently there are bigger issues than that:  According to a recent article in the Washington Post, Domingo was an inattentive leader on both the creative and administrative sides, and the WNO is now in a real hole.

That’s branding gone bad on two fronts:

  • Think hard before putting an individual at the helm of your organization’s brand. Your brand should convey your organization’s value for the communities you serve. That’s how it  connects you and them. Although an individual may epitomize that connection in the short term, people move on and that will leave you with nothing.
  • Your brand has to be authentic. If there’s nothing behind it, it will be found out and your organization’s credibility is shattered. WNO’s Domingo brand was all about vigor, which seems to be noticeably absent from the organization. WNO is likely to find it more difficult than ever to recruit board members and other donors at this point.

Any ideas for WNO’s marketing team? I’m sure they’re looking for all the help they can get! Please share your thoughts below.

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and tools for nonprofit marketing  success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Case Studies | 4 comments
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