Marketing Foundations: Establishing & Sharing Your Brand

Your organization’s brand is an expression of its identity and values, and helps craft the way that your followers see and interact with you. Often, the idea of establishing or reviving a brand feels intimidating and huge – but we’re here to tell you that it’s much more achievable than that!


Too often, we think of a brand as corporate, high-budget, and slick. The word brand conjures images of Fortune-500 companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, or Target, and in some ways, we’re right to think that way: We’ve made associations with those iconic logos or fonts because those businesses have crafted strong, recognizable brands.

The bare basics of organizational branding should be captured in a document known as branding guidelines or a brand toolkit. This ensures a measure of uniformity both inside the organization—among staff members—and outside of the organization (shared with partners, sponsors, or even media) to secure the integrity of the brand and how others represent it. These guides typically include approved logos (often with instructions on their use), brand colors, brand fonts, language guidance, key terms, notes on voice and tone, and in some cases key photos that represent the mission and brand.


Example from Heartland Humane

Tip: If an organization has no discernible brand, a graphic designer can help develop the visual components, but it’s important for organizational leaders to craft the voice and tone of the shelter and get on the same page about language and terminology.

Check out these sample brand guides/toolkits:


But branding is so much more than just logo and brand colors. Sure, brand cohesion and proper use of color, fonts, and logo are part of the equation. But most importantly it’s how the organization transmits its mission, from first impressions to long-lasting ideas of what the organization stands for: It’s all the ways you’ll express your organization’s identity through images, words, values, and experiences.

It’s also important to note that brands will evolve over time in response to a changing world and updates to technology and infrastructure. As a result, occasional refreshes of the brand are totally normal. Whether a brand is being built from scratch or reassessed, the main goal is to provide a roadmap that all staff members and supporters can follow to ensure consistency and mission-driven messaging.


Once your brand is intact, there’s some fun to be had! Your brand will live in all the marketing materials you create—from social posts and campaigns to printed materials, from annual reports to website design, and more!

Sticker sample for Heartland Humane


Tip: There are also opportunities to create brand ambassadors, from designing uniforms for staff to volunteer tees to event materials or even building a shop to sell brand merch. A strong tie to the core brand will make these designs more fun, effective, and collectible! Working on a tight budget? One of our most favorite opportunities for creative & collectible brand expression is through stickers (we love Sticker Mule’s custom stickers)!




Learn more about branding from our friends: 

A Brand New You | HumanePro

Brand X to Brand Wow! | HSUS Expo Handout

Is it time to hit the brand refresh button? | Maddie’s University

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Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin is passionate about working with shelters and rescues to reimagine the way they tell their stories and connect with new audiences. She has served in the animal welfare field since 2008 and early on had the honor of working closely with diverse organizations across the U.S. to maximize resources, redesign policies, and find life-changing marketing solutions. In 2015, she got her MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management and in 2021, she began teaching marketing + communications for the University of Florida Master of Veterinary Science, Concentration in Shelter Medicine program. She lives in NY with a petite brindle pit bull named Sally who owns her heart.