UN refugee charity preparing to overhaul brand and strategy

UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency is to focus more on marketing and brand as it looks to replicate the awareness sister organisation UNICEF enjoys.


The organisation says it has not been “bold or courageous” enough in marketing in the past but now wants to better communicate what it does to consumers, improve its brand awareness and engagement and boost fundraising income.

It is preparing to set up its first roster of global creating, branding and strategy agencies to overhaul its brand and marketing communications.

UNHCR is similar to sister organisation UNICEF in that it was set up by the United Nations and operates in 125 countries worldwide. Its work is to protect the rights and well-being of refugees displaced by conflict and violence. The organisation began in the 1950’s to deal with the aftermath of World War Two.

Amanda Seller, UNHCR’s top marketer and head of private sector fundraising, told Marketing Week while UNICEF has been engaged in branding and marketing for bout 50 years and has developed a strong consumer brand, UNHCR has only used consumer facing marketing for 10 years.

Seller concedes its name, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and its abbreviation UNHCR is a “challenge” but says that changing it is not an option within the overhaul.

“The name is a challenge, for one, it’s not as easy to say as UNICEF for starters but we don’t think that’s the core problem. We see the core problem as the need to be clearer about what we say and how.”

Part of the shift will be to prioritise the messages it communicates and focus on a handful of core messages to build consumer engagement and understanding.

Seller says: “It’s an incredibly complex message and difficult to get consumers to understand what we do but we want to develop a selling proposition that appeals to consumers.”

“In the past we have not been strategic enough or bold or courageous enough. We want to do work that from any perspective in global marketing is best in class, not just within the NGO sector.”

The organisation has a global revenue of around $3.6bn

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