When Brand Goes Bad: The Red Cross Runs Into Trouble, Again

Many of us have lusted after the brand recognition held by the American Red Cross. No organization is better known, by name and by logo, by donors in every generation.

That’s great, until an organization runs into trouble. Then the brand recognition works against it. If a scandal had rocked a lesser known organization, there are few of us who would recall that when we received a solicitation a year down the line. But since the Red Cross brand is so memorable, we all remember its egregious missteps.

Last fall, as I chose where to direct my post-Katrina donations, the Red Cross’ bungles were top of mind. And so I gave to two organizations based in the Southeast that I felt were much more likely to use my money effectively to help hurricane victims. Early this week the New York Times reported that the Red Cross is now investigating wide-ranging accusations of impropriety among its Katrina volunteers.

Remember, brand goes beyond your nonprofit’s name, logo and positioning. Nothing is a more important brand component than your organization’s promise to deliver consistent value to its stakeholders. Your brand promise.

Since honesty is part of the value expected by Red Cross’ donors, relief recipients and other stakeholders, these recent scandals emphasize the organization’s failure to carry through on their promise. Now that’s a real disaster.

At this point, the American Red Cross is off my donation list for the foreseeable future. Its brand has gone bad, and I don’t see much hope of resurrection.

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments

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