I have to admit, I am thoroughly sick of all the nonprofit branding talk, so when I saw “Branding Is for Cattle: What Really Matters to CEOs” in the MarketingProfs e-newsletter, I clicked on it immediately. The point of the article is that marketers who get all wound up in branding often forget why they are marketing in the first place: to reach the customers and to respond to their needs.

I am all for a unified look in nonprofit marketing materials and for updating that look every now and then. I constantly advocate consistency, so you won’t get an argument from me on that one either. What bothers me about all the nonprofit branding chatter I’ve been hearing is the near breathless anticipation that a cool color scheme, groovy graphics, and some Flash on a website will suddenly make people “get it” about an organization or issue. Anyone who makes you believe that branding will solve all of your communications problems is selling you nothing but Snake Oil 2.0.

Branding is good, but it’s only one part of the overall communications and marketing picture. You still have to know who your audience is. You still have to know what they care about and why. You still have to figure out how to reach them. Don’t give your branding (or rebranding) project more importance than it deserves.