Share this

Learn how inconsistent messaging and unaligned customer experiences can lead to internal and external brand confusion, resulting in diminished trust. Nonprofit organisations can address this by focusing on mission alignment, stakeholder engagement, and programmatic impact to achieve their goals and create social impact.

In the bustling business world, where brands strive to carve their unique identities, the role of branding cannot be overstated. However, when internal brand confusion sets in, a chain reaction begins, ultimately leading to external brand confusion. This article delves into the intricate relationship between internal and external brand confusion, exploring how the former can significantly impact the latter and why maintaining internal clarity is paramount.

Inconsistent messaging: The seeds of confusion

At the heart of every successful brand lies a well-crafted message that conveys its essence to the world. Yet, when internal brand confusion prevails, this message gets diluted.

Employees, the strongest advocates of the brand, may inadvertently communicate mixed or contradictory messages to the external world. This inconsistency in messaging confuses audiences seeking a clear understanding of what the brand truly represents. in the words of Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Misaligned experience: When promise and reality diverge

The promises a brand makes define the expectations customers hold. However, internal confusion often diverges between these promises and the actual customer experience. When the brand fails to deliver on its pledges due to internal misalignment, external stakeholders are left bewildered and disappointed. This dissonance between expectation and reality erodes trust and loyalty, fueling external brand confusion.

Diminished credibility: A fragile reputation

Trust and credibility are the bedrock of any successful brand. Yet, internal brand confusion can erode these foundations. As external stakeholders witness inconsistencies in the brand’s behaviour, promises, and actions, doubt begins to creep in. This doubt undermines the brand’s credibility, making it difficult to convince customers and partners of its reliability and authenticity.

For more information on this, see our recent articles on building nonprofit brand trust and optimising digital platforms to build brand trust.

Conflicting identity: The visual chaos

Visual identity, encompassing logos, colours, and design elements, is a powerful tool in brand recognition. Yet, internal confusion can disrupt the consistent use and presentation of these visual elements.

Uber, a pioneering ride-hailing service, underwent a visual rebranding in 2016, introducing a new logo and brand imagery. However, internal misalignment about the reasons behind the change left external audiences perplexed, questioning the rationale behind the drastic shift. The result is conflicting visual branding that confounds external audiences, making it harder for them to associate the brand with its intended attributes.

Internal brand confusion’s impact on nonprofit organisations

When examining the influence of internal brand confusion on nonprofit organisations, it becomes evident that the repercussions are distinct within this unique sector. While the core principles of internal brand alignment and its external consequences hold true, the specific context of nonprofits introduces challenges that require careful consideration.

Here, we explore three critical outcomes of internal brand confusion and provide actionable strategies for nonprofits to avoid or correct these adverse outcomes.

Mission dilution: Navigating the heart of the cause

At the core of every nonprofit’s existence lies its mission to drive positive societal impact. However, internal brand confusion can blur the organisation’s core mission and values, causing employees, stakeholders, and volunteers to interpret the mission differently or lose sight of the overarching goal. To combat mission dilution:

  • Clear communication and training: Ensuring the organisation’s mission and values are clearly communicated to all stakeholders is crucial. Regular training sessions and materials can help stakeholders understand and internalise the mission’s core principles.
  • Mission reinforcement: Establish a continuous feedback loop to gather input from employees, volunteers, and stakeholders regarding their understanding of the mission. Use this feedback to refine and reinforce the mission statement, ensuring it resonates with everyone involved.
  • Alignment initiatives: Develop internal initiatives and programs that align with the mission and values. Encourage employees and volunteers to actively participate in these initiatives to strengthen their connection to the cause.

Stakeholder engagement: The nexus of trust

Nonprofit organisations rely on effective stakeholder engagement, encompassing donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and partners. Internal brand confusion can erode trust among these crucial supporters, leading to scepticism about the organisation’s intentions. To foster lasting stakeholder relationships:

  • Brand consistency guidelines: Create clear and comprehensive brand guidelines that detail messaging, visual identity, and the organisation’s values. Share these guidelines with all stakeholders to maintain a consistent brand image.
  • Internal communication: Establish transparent and open internal communication channels. Regularly update stakeholders on the organisation’s activities, successes, and challenges to build trust and demonstrate a commitment to transparency.
  • Stakeholder involvement: Actively involve stakeholders in the decision-making process concerning branding and messaging. Seek their input and feedback to ensure their voices and concerns are heard.

Programmatic impact: Aligning strategy with purpose

For nonprofit organisations, programs and initiatives are direct extensions of their missions. Internal brand confusion can lead to misalignment between strategic planning and the overarching mission, resulting in a disjointed approach and diminished societal change. To ensure programmatic impact remains focused and impactful:

Strategic alignment workshops: Conduct workshops and brainstorming sessions involving employees and volunteers to align program strategies with the organisation’s core purpose and mission. Ensure that all strategies directly contribute to the overarching mission.

Regular review and evaluation: Implement a system for continuously evaluating programs and initiatives. Assess whether each program aligns with the organisation’s mission and make necessary adjustments to realign strategies as needed.

Leadership commitment: Uphold a firm commitment from the leadership team to the organisation’s mission and values. Leadership should set an example by aligning their decisions and actions with the organisation’s purpose, inspiring others to do the same.


The journey from internal to external brand confusion is complex, and its impact on nonprofit organisations is profound. The interplay between an organisation’s internal and external perceptions becomes even more critical within the nonprofit sector. The repercussions of internal brand confusion for nonprofits extend beyond their immediate operations, influencing their ability to achieve their missions and create lasting social impact.

Nonprofits must recognise that internal brand alignment is about fostering cohesion within the organisation and maintaining trust, stakeholder engagement, and programmatic effectiveness. Mission dilution can hinder the heart of a nonprofit’s cause, while stakeholder engagement relies on consistent messaging to nurture relationships built on trust. Additionally, aligning programmatic efforts with a clear brand identity is crucial for delivering the intended social outcomes.

In nonprofit organisations, where trust and authenticity are paramount, internal brand confusion can shake the foundations of their efforts. By acknowledging these challenges and proactively aligning internal perceptions with external brand identity, nonprofits can strengthen their own organisations and better serve the communities they aim to uplift.

Share this