Purpose-driven branding and the social enterprise

A great fit

Great brands know that leading with purpose deepens the connection with audiences by helping them see the bigger picture and identify with what you do. While many companies with commercial business models attempt to develop purpose-driven branding strategies, the concept is a natural fit for social enterprises, who usually already have a meaningful purpose at their core.

Yet social businesses are often reluctant to use the methods of branding. Developing the brand of a social enterprise needs a careful hand, without doubt, but can be truly rewarding, as they can use their natural advantage of having an authentic cause to draw attention to what is truly important to them - and maybe change the world.

Helping to break the mold

How can branding help a social business? 

Branding and design are particularly effective in challenging stereotypical thinking about a social cause because they can reshape our perceptions of something. They can put an organization into a new context; create new, non-biased associations by using untypical visual codes and language, or by telling the story in a new, surprising way.      

As with most companies, social enterprises exist in a competitive environment, albeit different to a commercially-run company. They are competing for funding, sponsorship, awareness, talent, and (along with all other brands) for hearts & minds. Standing for something meaningful – and telling the story in a clear and authentic manner - remains in our view an effective way to cultivate differentiation. 


What’s special about social enterprise branding

While branding is valid and relevant for social enterprises, there are some specific differences when developing this type of brand that are worth a look.

  • Naturally authentic. The “why”, or higher purpose, is easy to recognize as Staff usually wear it on their sleeve. Authenticity and consistency of message are also not the problem they may be in the private sector, as employees are often driven by a commitment to the cause to begin with and are active ambassadors.

  • Cost-sensitive. Many people in social enterprises are critical of spending money on branding that could be used for the social cause itself. This issue is obviously sensitive – yet having a clearly articulated raison d’être and a contemporary, attractive design are all part of running and promoting a professional and meaningful organization. 

  • Passions run high. People in social enterprises are highly invested in their work, so extra time and effort needs to be planned in to listen to and engage them in the project.

  • Integrity matters. The branding approach that is developed must not be seen to compromise the values or the integrity of the organization, which is often in the public eye. 

moodley case:
LebensGroß - Thinking big about inclusion

The starting point of this project example was a social organization in Steiermark, Austria. At that time it was called Lebenshilfen, which literally translates as “Life-help”. The organization provides services to the disadvantaged, including, but not only, people with disabilities. It had grown out of its original positioning. Particularly the naming did not reflect the current situation or future goals, but instead implied a more paternalistic approach towards disadvantaged people.

The organization itself had, over time, undergone a transformation from running care homes for people with disabilities into being a leader in social innovation, with inclusion as the ultimate goal. Its service portfolio had grown significantly, including for example, employment programs, sport competitions, extending even to founding independent business ventures, such as cafés and launderettes. These services offered opportunities to a wider audience, including youths, migrants or the long-term unemployed. Yet these people often did not feel spoken-to by the name and image of the organization. 

So the branding project was all about aligning external perceptions with what the organization now stood for.

Finding the bigger story

The people at the Lebenshilfen lived and breathed their purpose, which we translated as “thinking big about life”: it centers around the belief that everyone should have the chance to live life to their full potential, whatever that may be. We discovered that Lebenshilfen was less about help and far more about empowerment, recognizing potential and enabling the individual development of their clients. This insight enabled Lebenshilfen to see their different client groups as people with a shared need for self-fulfillment and belonging.

As we looked at the heritage of the organization, we found that it had always been a pioneer in its work for the disadvantaged, and in putting inclusion on to the political agenda. We perceived an optimistic, lively and ambitious brand. 

A name with purpose

The process clearly revealed that a new name was necessary. For an organization that is over 60 years old this represented a huge and emotional step. But it was a step that turned out to be very motivating, releasing new, creative energy in the organization. In June 2023 the organization introduced the new name we developed for them: LebensGroß. German for “as large as life” and a metaphor for living life to the full. 

Design follows Character

The next step in the project was to freshen up the visual brand design in line with the bold story and develop a verbal identity to match the optimistic and ambitious tone we wanted to express. 

The idea of inclusion is expressed in the use of a colorful and very flexible illustration style.

With the style of photography we wanted to achieve a different perspective on disadvantaged people, to highlight normality and showcase their lifestyles in a positive and aspirational way.

The brand LebensGroß was launched in June of 2023. In the end it felt like an intuitive step, rather than a huge change, as the organization already embodied the idea of “thinking big about life”. Execution of the launch was carried out by the amazing internal team at LebensGroß in a highly professional manner. A true pleasure to work with!

Take a look: www.lebensgross.at

moodley services for LebensGroß

  • Brand Insights

  • Brand positioning

  • Naming

  • Verbal & visual identity

  • Brand architecture

  • Brand engagement program

Strategy: Kirsten Ives, Johanna Wohlrab
Design: Natascha Triebl, Christian Leban, Sabine Kernbichler
Illustrations: Elisabeth Krischner
Project management: Milena Kropiunik

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