Habitat Builds a Brand

A dozen folks stand side by side and lift a framed wall upright, while others around them scramble to nail it in place. Volunteers give their time, energy and resources to build alongside a family who needs a hand up, not a handout. For many, that picture defines the work of Habitat for Humanity. It is an iconic image closely associated with our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. It’s an image that defines who we are and what we do for U.S. audiences.

Yet in over 70 other countries, we build in additional ways. We know that Habitat’s vision can be best achieved when we understand the countries, cultures and needs of the more than 1.6 billion people who lack proper shelter around the world. In some places, we build with concrete blocks, earthen bricks or bamboo. In others, we may not build a new house at all, but rather help repairan existing one. In the developing world, we work with local governments to change laws and regulations so a widow and her children, for example, can stay in their home when her spouse dies. We even collaborate with local firms and entrepreneurs to expand and improve available services so low-income households can improve their own shelters more effectively.

These different approaches—and our audiences’ awareness of them—were at one time largely confined to the areas in which they were applied. With the proliferation of electronic communication and social media, the world has gotten much smaller. Today’s challenge is to integrate all of these approaches into a unified message, to ensure that our branding and organizational language emphasizes the full spectrum of our work and that it’s clear to audiences (not just to us). As the world continues to get smaller and the need for our work continues to grow, our brand must evolve as well. And so we seek to highlight this fundamental truth:Habitat. We build.

No matter how we build, the reasons why we build are universal:
     • Decent, safe and affordable shelter is the anchor from which opportunity can grow.
     • When stability is achieved, a family’s well-being can only follow.
     • Healthy families help create healthy communities.

One of our key messages is that we build because we know that shelter is about so much more than a roof and four walls. In building our brand around the world, the same greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts philosophy applies. We know that our voice is but one. So as we work harder and more efficiently to tell our story, we are joined by the voices of over 1 million volunteers who live our brand each year. A young woman from Minnesota recently said this about her volunteer experience with Habitat Mozambique: “I had made a difference, a difference to other people—the difference of a lifetime.”

What more could we ask for?

Chris Clarke is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Habitat for Humanity International.

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