Birth of a brand, brilliant and completely unintended

Once upon a time two very intelligent, dedicated people created a non-profit organization and in the process created an enduring identity. The organization is Focus: HOPE (focushope.edu) and they say what they are about far better than I.

In 1968, Father William Cunningham (1930–1997) and Eleanor Josaitis co-founded Focus: HOPE, an organization dedicated to intelligent and practical solutions to the problems of hunger, economic disparity, inadequate education, and racial divisiveness. Together, they adopted the following mission:

Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection. Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant. —Adopted March 8, 1968


I highly recommend visiting their web site and learning about the organization. I could write forever and not cover the half of the good they do. But this is about their branding and how they created a brand that endures, that any branding strategist would die for. This organization created a brand when the concept of creating a brand was unheard of. They had and unpopular mission at a time when feelings ran high in possibly the most polarized city in the country. They just wanted to be remembered and get out the message no one was interested in hearing.
First the mission. Everyone knows the mission statement. The mission statement is posted every where. Inside, outside. Plaques on the walls on every floor, out side on the buildings. And my absolute favorite, the mission is printed on the cardboard that backs the scratch pads. When the last sheet is torn off, mission statement. The other brilliant piece of branding they do are pins. Pins of their logo (as soon as I get permission, I will post it) every employee is required to wear one while working. My husband still has dozens and he hasn’t worked there in several years. That isn’t where the genius is though; any time anyone wearing a pin is asked about it, the wearer gives the pin to the questioner. Automatically the giver has the opportunity to talk about the organization. It’s brilliant. When Jennifer Granholm was running for governor of Michigan, she wore a FOCUS: Hope pin on her lapel, every public appearance, debate, press conference she wore that pin. You can’t buy that.
A mission statement and a pin, that’s branding? No. What’s behind it is branding. Conviction. The Good Father and Eleanor had and have an unwavering, unshakable belief in their work. Unyielding, relentless in pursuit of a better world, the message never waviers. Now you’re thinking, “Well it’s easy to believe and be passionate about something so important.” I’ve heard passionate discourses about pastrami–no lie. You have to believe your branding, if you don’t, there’s something wrong with it. You’re not selling your branding you’re believing in your product or your service. And your task is to get your colleagues to embrace that belief with complete conviction. Because they will take the message to customers, the public and on and on. What else? Next week.

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