CBA has recently found itself working with some Italian Foundations, connected to entrepreneurial entities that have been collaborating with us for years. It has been an opportunity to reflect on the role of branding within a sector like that of non-profit organizations. Today, in fact, there are many companies that decide to make a social or cultural contribution to the territory in which they do business through the instrument of the Foundation.
Foundations vary greatly from one another: they can be created in memory of people important to companies and their founders, to support philanthropic interests, or to continue pursuing the corporate purpose-related goals through other means when they cannot be met in a purely for-profit, entrepreneurial context.
There are several examples of Foundations that excel in expressing their value to the community, both by creating real impact and, not insignificantly, by leveraging branding as a strategic element at the core of effective communication. Let’s mention the Feltrinelli Foundation, which in Milan carries out its cultural and political work through a schedule of events and publications that always stem from the concept of a historical-archive library that delves into and questions the present from a strongly progressive and democratic perspective.
In a completely different style, but effective in its uniqueness, we can see the Prada Foundation, which since its inception has provocatively, avant-gardely, and freely questioned the function (and utility) of culture and art. For these organizations, branding is foundational to not only how they represent themselves but also how they consistently think and speak.
In our work with Foundations, we know that, just as when we work with corporate brands, we must study (strategy) and create (design) brand identities capable of conveying a Unique Value Proposition. In the case of Foundations, we must start from the values and mission that the founders deeply resonate with.
CBA has overseen the branding work for the Gi Group Foundation and the rebranding of the Marco Fileni Foundation. Through these projects, we’ve come to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for Foundation branding. In particular, we had to contemplate which paths to take, especially in terms of brand architecture, to clarify the relationship between the corporate brand and the Foundation brand.
In both cases we deepened our knowledge of the profound motivations (or reason why) related to the inception of these entities, and then designed visual identities that reflected their values, taking into account the diverse target audience they always address (beneficiaries of the activities on one hand, and territorial and institutional stakeholders on the other).
The Gi Group Foundation engages in various activities, continually seeking to provide new meanings and opportunities for Sustainable Work as its corporate purpose. It begins with the workplace inclusion of the most vulnerable individuals, tackles the young NEET issue, addresses gender inequalities, and delves into the world of art. In this case, CBA opted for a brand identity that was distinctive in terms of color, language, and typography but still identifiable within the visual universe of Gi Group. In this case, the world of work is a clear and common thread that sees the Foundation and the company working together in complementary ways. In addition to the visual identity, we developed the brand manifesto of the Foundation.
The case of the Marco Fileni Foundation is different. CBA has been working with the leading poultry farming brand in Europe for years, but the foundation created by the family has entirely independent and autonomous goals and values.
CBA approached the rebranding of the Marco Fileni Foundation by starting with an in-depth understanding of the person the foundation is named after, who passed away prematurely. This understanding was gained through interviews with his friends and family. From these interviews emerged a clear portrait of Marco Fileni, where the human aspects of his personality were described almost unanimously, as if it were a coordinated chorus of voices. From this, we derived the values and mission of the Foundation, which will guide its activities and decisions from this re-founding moment. Based on these guidelines, CBA developed a new, fresh, and vibrant visual identity, with a language capable of attracting and communicating with younger audiences.
In these projects, we have experimented in the field to understand the high emotional and ideal potential that exists within these organizations: entities that, free from market-driven logic, dedicate themselves to lofty, universal themes with significant impacts on both society and the individuals involved. The key for us lies in the analytical approach applied to each brief, coupled with the empathetic approach aimed at truly understanding the origin stories, and then presenting them in the best possible way, creating brands capable of conveying all the complexity and beauty behind the scenes.
Francesco Saviola, Research & Brand Strategist at CBA