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Developing a brand for your social enterprise

When starting a social enterprise, you’re starting a business. But you’re also at the start of a journey towards establishing a brand – what comes to mind when people think of your organisation.

Your brand will evolve over time, but if you want your organization to stick around for a long time, you should be thinking about your brand from the beginning.

What is your brand?

Your brand includes the name of your company, your logo and how people think about your organisation. It says something both about your identity as a company and about what you do.

For example, when a customer sees a bottle of water from the social enterprise Belu, they might not know that all of their profits go to the charity WaterAid, to provide clean water in developing countries. But their shorthand thinking might be “they’re the water company that does good,” which might tip them into choosing that over a bottle of Evian.

When moulding your brand, consider: what does your organisation do? If you can explain it simply in a sentence or two, the words you arrive at will feed into your brand values (more of which in a moment). What shorthand associations do you want people to have when they think about your business?

To return to the example of Belu, some consumers might not know anything about its ethical credentials – they might just like how the bottle looks and the water tastes. The unfussy design of the bottle and the font the company chose for their name imply a simplicity that suggests the purity and cleanliness of the water inside.

Even the name of the company is an anagram of the word ‘blue’ (the colour Belu uses for its logo and the colour most people associate with bodies of water). All of this makes up Belu’s identity, also part of its brand.

So, put simply, your brand is how people perceive your company and as such, is your most consistent marketing tool. If your social enterprise is the first to spring to mind when a person is considering a purchase, you’ll always have customers. Which brings us to…

Know your audience

Your brand will need to speak to your intended audience, so what values or associations do you think your customers will be attracted to? If you’re selling a service or product, you will have researched your market and have some idea of your competitors. How can you make your company stand apart from what the rest are doing?

We’ve written more guidance on selling and marketing your social enterprise here.

Want more support to start up? Discover our Lloyds Bank & Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme. 

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Brand values

Think of these as a blueprint for how you want people to perceive your company. The global business giant Starbucks has values that include “creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome” and “transparency, dignity and respect”. Note no mention of coffee, the thing they’re mostly famous for selling.

Starbucks want warmth and belonging to spring to mind when people consider going to them for coffee – making them more appealing than their competitors (and ultimately selling more coffee).

As a social entrepreneur, you will have already identified your social mission, which will help identify your values. So what values do you want people to associate with your business?

What’s in a name?

Some company names come in a flash of inspiration or are inspired by personal reasons. Others are humorous, plainly descriptive or provocative. So which way should you go? If you’re stuck, can you find a few people to brainstorm with? Pull out any recurring words that crop up in the discussions.

When settling on a name, there are several tried and tested ways to choose. Some names do exactly what they say on the tin; BrightKidz sells high visibility clothing intended to help protect kids when they’re using roads, for example.

Using a pun – being playful with words when naming your company – can be effective. You might be able to guess what kind of fast food The Codfather sells, for example (yep, fish and chips).

The name of the small Scottish social enterprise chain Social Bite is ambiguous and playful. As well as being places where you can go for something to eat with a friend (literally a “social bite”), the cafes are also there to help the homeless – they have social bite in that they are making change happen.

The coffee social enterprise Change Please also has a double meaning, being both the common refrain we hear from homeless people on the street and a general request to all of us: change is needed so people don’t have to sit on cold pavements and ask strangers for money.

As a provocative way to grab someone’s attention, calling your company Virgin is hard to beat, even more so back in the conservative 1970s when the company first started than it is now. The name hints at being free-spirited – an identity that Richard Branson seeks to perpetuate to this day by being the CEO that will get up in drag, fly around the world in a hot air balloon and bungee jump off tall buildings. All of which is good for publicising the brand, of course.


A logo is a visual identifier by which customers recognise your company. It might be a graphic, or the way your company name is represented on everything from your headed paper to your website. A good logo will help customers instantly recognise the company and what they do.

Unless you’re good at design yourself, a graphic designer can help shape your logo and choose colours. And don’t worry if you tire of your logo after a year or two – companies often change their logos to freshen up the brand and get people to notice them anew.

Lastly, should you have the budget, you can enlist the help of a marketing and communications company to help you identify your values, the associations you want people to have with your business, design your logo and anything else to do with your branding.

We’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines as your brand evolves to become as recognizable as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola (but with a better social impact!).

Want more support to start up? Discover our Lloyds Bank & Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme. 

Register your interest

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