Saturday, June 25, 2011
Branding or Bling?
An interesting feature of donor-funded development projects is the necessity of making sure that everyone involved knows that they are participating in a donor-funded development project. The idea can't be organically blended into community activities; it needs to be a distinct event. This is one of the reasons why, when submitting a new proposal, we inevitably have a major panic attack when we realise right before submitting that we haven't come up with a name: that name will be the symbol of the project, the gem that holds everyone involved together, doing something together.
The name is soon used as a basis for a professionally-designed logo, and over the course of a 2-3 year project, calendars might be made, along with some engraved agendas, pens, maybe even some bags. All these bits of bling will have the project's logo and the logo of all the donors as decoration. This is called 'branding', and it is important because helps keep the project distinct from normal life, and it helps everyone know where the money came from. (It also helps if a donor actually has an attractive logo, as that will now become the back of a t-shirt or the border of a photo that beneficiaries might hang in their houses.)
So... this is the last week for a project in my office here. After three years of doing some great things, the final ceremony is about ticking off boxes: making sure everyone with any political or societal standing at all is thanked for their support of the project, honouring the participants, remembering the uniqueness of what was done and the singularity of the project participants, and handing out a bit more branded bling.
This last Thursday, I attended the closing ceremony (complete with up-and-coming band performing in a room whose acoustics were designed for speakers or occasional break-out sessions). As a participant in the closing ceremony, I was given: a pin with the project logo on it, coasters with the project logo on it, a pen that can double as a ruler, a USB flash drive, a CD with project stories on it, and a laptop bag with the donors' logos taped to it. When preparing for this ceremony, staff had at one point forgotten to include donor logos on the bling - instead they only put the project logo. But a blighted donor is a reluctant repeat donor so this needed to be rectified quickly. And so it was that the team printed up some little papers with the donors' logos and then taped them to the laptop cases using packing tape.
Further branding included a big banner for the project that was made for this closing ceremony. It's made of durable waterproof material. (Catch the irony here?) It also included the invitations themselves which were thoroughly and appropriately branded. It also included graduation caps and gowns for leading project participants - branded with the project logo. Apparently, as the evening drew to a close, one of the 'graduates' asked what she was supposed to do with this cap and gown? She was told it was a gift from the project and she repeated her question. I like this girl already.
I realise I'm using a frightfully sarcastic tone in this post. Sorry. In all fairness, the bling was quality and cute and I know many people will enjoy their coasters. The branding is fair - as long as community programming is done through big donors, we will have to credit those donors for their support; we give them publicity in exchange for cash. Give a little, take a little... there's no such thing as a 'free' project, we all know the drill.
And it all ended well for me, because as I was leaving a colleague regretted that she'd forgotten to get her laptop bag (with pen/ruler, USB, coasters, CD etc. therein), so I gave her mine.