Evansville Integrated branded example showing cups and food truck with their brand

Boost Awareness with Strong Branding

How Integrated Brand Experience Rekindled Evansville Rescue Mission’s Community Presence

As a creative professional working in fundraising, I’ve built my career coming up with creative solutions for marketing challenges. But this was the first time I suggested using throwaway picnic supplies as a marketing canvas. Could you put branding on a piece of trash? Our client partner was willing to find out if the strategy would win them eyes and engagement in a uniquely competitive setting.

Evansville Rescue Mission is well known in the community that it serves. The majority of their neighbors know the organization and have at least a general idea of the work that it does. “We’ve worked on being consistent with the brand and the sub-brands beneath it,” says Kyle Gorman, the Mission’s Executive Director of Advancement.

Once a year, the Mission runs a food truck, selling mac & cheese at Evansville’s West Side Nut Club Fall Festival. With over half a million visitors yearly, the festival is a huge platform for promoting awareness and sharing the Mission’s work. The mac & cheese had become a staple dish that thousands of visitors return to year after year.

As an established presence at the festival, though, the Mission was at risk of fading from view – it’s easy for crowds to tune out what they see year after year. And as one food truck among dozens, competing for the attention and dollars of thousands of visitors, they needed to stand apart.

The Mission wanted to mix things up. They needed a plan to grab attention from new festivalgoers, rekindle interest for returning folks, and elevate the experience of everyone who came to buy mac & cheese. Above all, they wanted to share the life-changing work of their organization with everyone that came in contact with them, even briefly, throughout the festival.

Evansville Rescue Mission needed an integrated brand experience – one that would begin with festival patrons and extend onward to their future outreach opportunities. Every part of their branding would need to work together, from the design and signage of the truck to the cups and napkins used to serve the mac & cheese.

What was the story the Mission wanted to tell? Their newly minted tagline shares a clear vision: “Real love. Real faith. Real change.” But their festival branding needed an extra punch. They needed an eye-catching call to action that would be impossible to ignore.

We gave them a simple, intriguing invitation: “Find Out How Mac and Cheese Saves Lives.” Then, we made sure every person who walked through the festival had an opportunity to respond with branding that couldn’t be ignored.

We helped the Mission create a new look for their food truck, with updated colors and design, their new tagline, and a banner featuring the festival CTA. In tandem, we designed napkins and cups using the same colors and CTA and included a QR code for people to immediately learn more about the Mission and how they could support their work.

Evansville Rescue Mission Food truck
Branded napkins and cup

Walking past the food truck or purchasing food would no longer be required for someone to come face-to-face with the Mission’s message. A stray napkin, or a cup spotted in a stranger’s hand could be enough to pique curiosity and drive someone to learn more about the Mission.

Three Keys To Re-Sparking Awareness

Is your organization looking to create an integrated brand experience?  These three key takeaways from Evansville Rescue Mission’s festival rebrand can help you get started:

  • Identify the brand story you want to tell.
  • Find formats that support your messaging & amplify your story.
  • Consider what design elements you’ll use in your brand messaging – colors, images, mood – and apply them throughout campaign elements.

“Word of mouth was off the charts.”

From the first piece of feedback the Mission relayed, we knew the campaign had been a rousing success. The goal had been to spark conversation among the 500,000+ festival attendees, and the spark had caught.

The Mission’s team reported an “extraordinary amount of people” coming to the truck with comments on the cups, napkins and banner – the majority of them mentioning that the CTA caught their attention, and the truck’s updated design was different from what they were used to seeing.

For festival attendees, traditions and staple menu items are a yearly draw, but the shock of seeing a well-known booth lead with an urgent new message helped drive word of mouth.

Life-saving mac and cheese was the conversation starter the Mission needed. As team members explained the meaning behind the CTA, the discussion extended to Mission services and programs, as well as goals and opportunities, and the ways that community members can help people get off the streets and begin new chapters. And these conversations helped drive traffic to the newly refreshed Mission website where people could learn more about these services in-depth.

The Mission’s primary goal was to get people interested in and talking about the Mission. That their campaign’s success translated to strong sales was an added bonus.

By the end of the festival, the Mission had brought in $37,000 in revenue. That’s thousands of dollars to support their life-changing ministry – just from mac and cheese! Their highest year ever, despite the hindrance of heavy rain during one of the days.

No one who was drawn to the truck by the new branding and bold CTA went away hungry. And the 6,100 servings of mac & cheese sold meant that 6,100 QR codes and CTAs were sent out into the festival on the sides of cups.

Get Clever With Your QR’s

How creative can you get with a QR code? It’s a question worth asking. On a standard print appeal, a QR code might get glossed over. But the possibilities go so much further than print mail. Their ease of use – and their ubiquity in the last three years – means it’s worth encouraging your development team to think about creative places and ways to use QR codes!

Their remarkable success with the festival has spurred an excitement that shows no signs of abating. Evansville Rescue Mission is gearing up for an awareness campaign in support of their new Center for Women & Children, and their approach to this campaign is greatly informed by the response to their truck’s rebranding and bold CTA.

Reflecting on the community’s response, Kyle remarked that “the overwhelmingly positive reception is so encouraging. It means that they’re paying attention, that they’re willing to engage in new conversations and embrace new ways of thinking about the work we do to help those in need.” He’s hopeful that a community that’s willing to grapple with the difficult realities of homelessness is one that will help contribute to real solutions. 

The mac & cheese messaging was a home run, and we have a strong starting point to build off for the festivals in years to come. And as the Mission develops new material for their coming awareness campaign – particularly sidewalk clings for guerrilla style marketing – they will have new opportunities to generate even more conversation among attendees.

In the meantime, the Mission can keep the conversation going by boosting awareness in other avenues. Their truck becomes the Mission Grounds Coffee Shop each month when they sell hot drinks at a local “Cars & Coffee” event. Their mission tagline is displayed on the banner atop the truck and invitations to learn more online are included in the truck’s design.

In his final reflections on the fall festival and their upcoming awareness campaign, Kyle Gorman noted that the Mission is “at their pinnacle right now.” But that doesn’t mean their impact will start declining.

The needs of their community are ongoing and evolving. The work of the Mission, then, to stay visible and inspire support, must also continue and evolve. A disposable paper cup or napkin might not seem like evolved advertising at first, but as canvases for messaging in an integrated brand experience that drove conversation, the success was undeniable.

If you’re interested in learning more about how BDI can help your organization develop strong, integrated out-of-home and awareness campaigns, please email me.

  • James Read VP Creative BDI

    James Read, Chief Creative Officer

    James believes that technology and other changes in society today are creating one of the most exciting eras for fundraising. With more than 30 years of experience, James empowers nonprofits and cause-driven organizations to communicate their world-changing ideas in ways that inspire and motivate people. He has served more than 50 organizations in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and helped organizations raise more than a billion dollars. James’s experience includes work for American Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy Association, World Vision, The Salvation Army and the University of Chicago, along with numerous rescue missions, food banks, cancer centers, humane societies and Christian ministries.

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