The seven co-operative principles are our DNA – but look for clear marketing messages

In a world suffering from a deficit of democratic representation and from short-termism, co-operatives demonstrate how business can be done not only differently, but better – not only...

In a world suffering from a deficit of democratic representation and from short-termism, co-operatives demonstrate how business can be done not only differently, but better – not only for their own benefit, but for the world’s.

This first paragraph is the opening sentence to the identity section in the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, published last year by the International Co-operative Alliance. It encourages co-operatives to figure out a way to be more accessible to the everyday public.

One of the strongest messages in the document, which was crowd-sourced from across the global sector, was that co-operatives need a way to define themselves. This call to action was taken up by the ICA’s communications committee, chaired by Co-operatives UK’s Ed Mayo, and led to the design of the COOP Marque by UK worker co-operative Calverts, with research and support provided by Barcelona- and Buenos Aires-based Guerrini Design Island. Signature images were developed by The Hague-based BrandOutLoud. And all this co-operation formed the brand guidelines behind the marque.

As the Blueprint says, it is important for the co-operative sector to believe in a sense of shared identity – and what better way to do this than through an identifiable co-operative message?

It is difficult to truly distinguish those businesses that are built on co-operative principles, those that act socially and ethically, putting people and the interests of community before profit and rewards for a handful of shareholders. Each and every day, people around the world consume millions of co-op products, from Ocean Spray cranberry juice to Amul Dairy milk to Cabot Dairy cheese. But how do shoppers know they have made the co-op choice?

As co-operative communicators, it is our responsibility to help consumers make the best selection. And by using our co-op advantage we can show the better choice. The seven co-operative principles are the movement’s DNA – and should be the foundation of any marketing campaign.

But how do we communicate these? The Blueprint recognises that these principles can be sometimes difficult to communicate to consumers, but the Alliance has set the ball rolling by promoting a shared visual and online co-operative identity encouraging all co-ops to get on board and use them.

A .coop domain and the COOP Marque are the ‘clothes that we wear’, and are a significant step in showing that you are a co-operative – and different – to a potential customer, consumer or contact. By being proud to display the co-operative identity on office stationery, websites and products, we are differentiating ourselves from other forms of business.

A .coop domain name and the global COOP Marque are symbols of the co-operative movement and of our collective identity, demonstrating our unity of purpose.

• Nicola Huckerby is marketing lead at domains.coop and guardian of the global co-operative identity. Find out more about the Co-operative Identity through the official toolkit. Also register for the marque online: identity.coop.

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