Research: How breaking with tradition can bring people to your table.

Research. It’s where a well-planned brand overhaul starts. But just doing it doesn’t mean you’ll hit your goal. How you do it matters.

And that’s where our philosophy at Iris Creative breaks from tradition.

When re-branding, organizations are often eager to use the process to reach new audiences. But prioritizing who you wish were showing up over the people who are showing up can form an unsustainable path.

That’s why we approach audience research the way a chef mixes a perfect batch of pasta. First, she makes a well for the eggs in the center of her mound of flour. Then, she slowly draws her flour into the mixture, working her way out from the middle to bind the mixture together.

The result of the start-in-the-center method is an organization that knows its core. And when you know your core, you can expand and still hold things together.

But dump in all the flour at once? Nothing sticks.

So, what does this look like when we’re talking about people, not pasta?

It means research starts with the people at the heart of your organization— board, staff, members, donors, students, volunteers. Learn what’s important to them and understand what you are uniquely suited to offer. Find where their interests and your abilities align.

Knowing what your current supporters value puts you in a position to explore new markets without risking sustainability. By starting with your most involved audiences and working out, you’ll have the resources and support of your existing base to fuel your new endeavors. And their needs will serve as a benchmark to help evaluate which of the countless new audiences to mix in next.

When anxious for change, organizations often think the people they are not reaching are the answer. This may serve sorely-needed civic functions, fuel the pipeline of future supporters, and advance your strategic vision — but you need a core group of people who are capable and excited to participate if you want to keep the lights on.

Don’t aim for your prospects before understanding your people.

Of course it’s important to bring in new people, to evaluate where your next money is coming from, to stay relevant for the future. But reaching for everyone rarely works like you’d hope.

Imagine you are playing darts (and finding your audience can feel like that). If you aim for the center and miss, there’s a good chance you’ll still hit the next ring or the one after that. But in aiming for that outer ring of “everyone”, you’re more likely to end up with a total miss.

And we’d rather see you score points with your people.


Are you thinking about launching an audience research initiative or embarking on a rebranding? Would you like to learn more about building a thriving organization from the core out? Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at!