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SYNOPSIS: The Marsh Children’s Home is Acapulco’s most famous and beloved orphanage. Not only do they set the standard for childcare in Acapulco, they raise the bar. The Marsh Home has been caring for abused, homeless and abandoned children for over 25 years. They had survived over the years due to the hard work and dedication of Jovita Godiñez, her late husband Eduardo Castañon and her sister Ruth. Their tireless dedication to improving the lives of these children has inspired the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy. These three institutions have been actively involved in volunteer work to expand and improve the Marsh Home’s establishment, helping them to grow from 15 children some 12 years ago to over 80 children today. However, they have flourished due to the donations a small group of private donors, led by Ricardo Irvine, the former U.S. Defense Attaché Representative in Mexico.

The have also prospered because of the continued support of a Mexican non-profit organization, Amigos de Acapulco (Friends of Acapulco), both of whom have very generously donated their time and money over the years, creating a better life for the children at the Marsh Home.

Their phenomenal success has also attracted the involvement of some of Mexico’s and the world’s most recognized brands. The Marsh Children’s Home boasts the following corporate donors: Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, MetLife, HSBC, UBS, Costco, Fairmont Hotels, Harley Davidson, Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Lines, Foundación Dr. Jose Maria Álvarez, Cinépolis, Bodega Aurrerá, Leche Lala, Restaurantes 100% Natural, Oxxo and Grupo Yoli.

Despite their incredible success, they lacked a strong brand and online identity. In 2007, Mindcandy Studios approached the director of the Marsh Children’s Home to assist them in developing a powerful brand to help them in their global fund-raising efforts. Our goal was to create an online identity that would personify the most important characteristics of all successful non-profit organizations: credibility, trust, reliability, accountability and professionalism.

In addition, we also needed to invoke a hard-hitting emotional response from our audience by building these additional traits into the brand’s character: beauty, purity, youthfulness, playfulness, innocence, fragility and potential – all of the characteristics one finds in children.

In order for their online fundraising efforts to be as successful as possible, the Marsh Children’s Home brand needed to exemplify all of these traits in a manner that would solicit a powerful emotional response from their audience, inspiring them to get involved through child sponsorship, donating or by visiting and volunteering at the Marsh Home.

STRATEGY: We began by creating a brand character statement in conjunction with a highly unique brand identity. Next we defined the information architecture for their online brand. The information architecture would not only need to capture the Marsh Home’s rich history of community and corporate involvement, it would also need to support the credibility, trust, reliability, accountability and professionalism aspects of the brand’s character. We recommended creating an "Our Mission" section to the online brand (which would appear first on the Website) that would include a formal Mission Statement along with the following subsections – "Code of Ethics", "Accountability" and "Beliefs & Guarantees" which would clearly outline the philosophy and culture of the organization.

Following the "Our Mission" section would be the "About Us" section. This section of the website would need to explain in detail the history of the Marsh Home – its founders, directors, benefactors and the "Pillars of Strength". The Marsh Home’s “Pillars of Strength” are those who find themselves on the front lines of this institution and those who dedicate their lives on a daily basis to improving the life of the children at the Marsh Home. This section would also need to clearly define the legal status for the different Boards of Directors, the Marsh Children’s Home Acapulco, Inc. (a U.S. non-profit corporation) and its Mexican-based counterpart (Hogar Infantil Marsh, A.C., a Mexican equivalent to a non-profit status).

Because the Marsh Children’s Home already had such a rich history, including the cooperation and assistance of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy, we recommended including a section on the history of these institutions as a way to increase the Marsh Home’s credibility. We believe that people are much more likely to donate to non-profits organizations when they see that they have already had the support of government institutions and some of the largest brands in the world.

We also stressed the importance of creating of a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the United States to add even greater credibility to the organization and to assist in fund raising efforts both in the United States and abroad. Mindcandy Studios worked in tandem with a small group of individuals in the private sector who set up the U.S. 501(c)(3) corporation. After I.R.S. approval, Mindcandy Studios served on the Board of Directors and as the Director of Marketing for fund-raising operations in the United States and Mexico.

Our strategic recommendations for the Marsh Home’s Website included creating an online identity that would attract donors in both the private and corporate sectors. We also stressed the importance of creating a process efficient, solution-oriented Website. The new Marsh Children’s Home Website would not only help to strengthen the brand, but it would also play a vital role in the administrative activities and day-to-day operations of the orphanage.

Also included in our strategic recommendations was to build into the Website a “Featured Children” and “Sponsor of the Month” section. Both sections would utilize dynamic, data-driven functionality, using a programming language named PHP. These two sections would help to strengthen the brand and increase word-of-mouth communications to expand our base of sponsorship donations with new potential donors and volunteers.

The "Featured Children" section would need to include photographs, names, ages and a brief history of each child that would be added each month into an Excel spreadsheet. This strategy would assist potential sponsors to connect with a child who shared similar interests, dreams or even childhood histories. Using PHP, the Marsh Home’s website would dynamically display new "featured children" automatically, at the beginning of each month. This would save both time and money for the Marsh Home. Their administrator would need only to regularly update the Excel spreadsheet and upload it to the web server, preventing them from having to pay a Webmaster for Website maintenance.

Similarly, the "Sponsor of the Month" page on the Website would include a photo of the sponsor, their name, occupation, hometown and a brief description of what motivated them to get involved in supporting the Marsh Home by sponsoring a child. All potential sponsors would need to be officially approved by our administrator only after they are cleared from the National/State Sex Offender Registry database – a free service of the United States Department of Justice. This would ensure that they do not present any type of threat to the children at the Marsh Children's Home. Once approved, each sponsor would be issued a user name and password for the Marsh Website. This password would allow them to access our “live chat” page so that they could communicate directly with their sponsored child.

Another strategy Mindcandy Studios recommended to the Marsh Home was to create a main section on the Website named "Get Involved" and a sub-section named "Marsh Ambassador™". This section would allow our audience to support the Marsh Children’s Home from wherever they are in the world by allowing them to play an active role as a "Marsh Ambassador™" by utilizing word-of-mouth communications to get their families, friends, co-workers and communities involved. Additionally, it would increase our Website traffic thereby increasing our Search Engine rankings while simultaneously building an online community for the Marsh Home.

Our final strategic recommendation was to use powerful imagery in the development of the brand’s image. The Marsh Children’s Home’s founder and director, Jovita Godiñez, refers to the Marsh Home as “the home of happy children. Based on that, we decided that we needed to use as many photographs of smiling children as possible. We also recommended using those exact words for the Marsh Children’s Home positioning tagline. Therefore, their online identity, brand identity system and marketing materials would be filled with photos of smiling children. However, we felt that our strategy needed utilize some additional powerful imagery to connote the following characteristics of childhood: beauty, innocence, purity, fragility and potential so that the Marsh Home’s Website would profit from these additional, highly symbolic features.

RESULTS - BRAND IDENTITY: The Marsh Children’s Home brand identity is conceptual very strong. We created two figures holding hands, representing both mutual love and support. The blue figure represents the adult, with one hand holding and supporting (both financially and emotionally) the child (the green figure). The other hand of the "adult" is outstretched, portraying their efforts to solicit donations and sponsors for the children. The blue "adult" figure's leg is moving forward, suggesting "leadership", "progress" (forward motion) and "initiative". The green figure represents the child, which is connected to the adult by the “embraced hands” and by "LOVE". The heart symbol is what "binds them together". The "child" is "reaching for the stars" - representing "hope", "ambition", "education" and a "brighter future.”

The shapes of the Marsh Children’s Home brand identity were first created on the computer, then we used a crayon to "color in" the shapes and letters (the fonts). This strategy gives the brand identity the "look and feel" as if it was created by a child, but when looking at the logo as a "stand alone" unit, it obviously has a professional composition. This supports the trust, credibility, responsibility and professionalism aspects of the brand’s character. The complete logo helps us to create a powerful brand image supporting the "core aspect" of the brand - or the "brand essence", which is youthfulness.

The psychology of color played a vital role in the development of the Marsh Children’s Home brand identity. The color blue represents security, loyalty, reliability, conservatism and fiscal responsibility. Think of any bank's logo: Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Banamex, Bancomer, etc. – all use blue as the primary color in their brand identities. The logos of those banks that do not contain the color blue are strategically avoiding using blue because their competitors are – and because they want to distinguish themselves from their competition.

Green represents growth, vigor, youth, prosperity, nature, potential and abundance. All of these characteristics we find in children. The color red represents passion, love, excitement and stimulation. Finally, the yellow star represents abundance, warmth, playfulness and creativity.

Many of the characteristics of the Marsh Children’s Home brand identity are only communicated in a subconscious manner, but they are nonetheless communicated, whether or not the conscious mind wishes to acknowledge them or not.

In addition to the significance of our “four” primary brand colors used psychologically in the brand identity we also utilize these colors to emphasize the Marsh Children’s Home four principles: Love, Respect, Dignity and Achievement. These colors are utilized strategically in our printed and online “e-brochure” to significantly strengthen the Marsh brand. (download brochure). A color “grid” or “matrix” is then carried over and utilized as graphic elements throughout our brand identity system, along with the images of smiling children, flowers and butterflies to create a powerful and cohesive brand image.

RESULTS - ONLINE IDENTITY: The online identity that Mindcandy Studios created for the Marsh Children’s Home reinforces the credibility, trust, security, reliability, accountability and professionalism aspects of the brand’s character. It also fulfills our strategic objectives by serving as an administrative tool for the directors and administrators of the Marsh Children’s Home. All of the necessary legal, administrative, database and fund-solicitation documents are kept on the server in a password-protected directory for those with the proper security clearance to access whenever they need.

The credibility, trust and professionalism aspects of the brand character are supported in a variety of ways. Featured on every page is an animation with the brand identities of our corporate donors. We also have created web pages with clearly defined terms of use and our privacy policy, along with a page about security. The security page explains in detail our sponsor screening process and serves as a deterrent to potential child predators, reinforcing the reliability, trust, accountability and security brand characteristics.

Mindcandy Studios used a series of powerful images, in addition to the photos of smiling children, thereby evoking powerful subconscious emotional responses from the Marsh Home’s audience. To support the beauty, purity, fragility and potential characteristics of the Marsh brand, we utilized images of specific types of flowers and butterflies on the Website, marketing collateral and also on the Marsh Home’s brand identity system.

Flowers, both beautiful and fragile, will blossom only under the right conditions in nature. They need sufficient rain, sunlight and the appropriate nutrients in the soil to support their growth and the eventual production of the flower itself. A flower’s blossom is fragile, ephemeral and above all incredibly beautiful. These images symbolize the fragility, beauty and the miraculous and precarious nature of childhood itself. Similarly, children must have love, security, food, shelter, health care and education to develop into productive and happy members of society.

We strategically chose four specific types of flowers: a water lily, a ginger flower, a “bird of paradise” and an orchid. A water lily is a white flower, symbolizing the purity and innocence of youth. Additionally, it is one of the few flowers that will flourish under specific conditions (living in a soil-free environment), thereby reinforcing the necessity to meet the previously mentioned specific needs of children.

The red ginger flower symbolizes passion, love and excitement – all of which are essential characteristics found in motherhood while nurturing a child in a loving manner. The “bird of paradise” flower is an incredibly beautiful and very unique looking flower. It symbolizes the fact that every child is highly unique and therefore has unique personalities, needs and desires. Many flower enthusiasts see orchids as the most beautiful flower in the world. In Mexico orchids have a very important historical relevance because they are symbolically used by the native Indians, each one conveys a sentiment associated with different ceremonies or religious figures.

All of these four types of flowers are found primarily in the tropical regions of the world, reinforcing the tropical characteristic of the brand’s character.

The butterfly images symbolize the transcendence of a child into an adult and the precarious and inevitable nature of the process itself – symbolizing the metamorphosis of the larva as it transcends into its second stage of life – a magnificent butterfly. First we chose an image of a Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies are among the most widely recognized type of butterfly in the world – giving them a universal appeal to our global audience. Additionally, the Mexican state of Michoacán, which borders the state of Guerrero (where the Marsh Children’s Home is located), is known throughout the world as an extremely popular tourist attraction in Mexico because it is home to the largest community of migratory Monarch butterflies.

We also utilized two other types of butterflies: a “Blue-Eyed Sailor” and a “Mexican Greenwing”. Both of these butterflies are well known in the state of Guerrero and the southern regions of Mexico, appealing to both donors and sponsors in Mexico.

As a vehicle to increase our donor base and sponsorship monies through fund-raising activities and word-of-mouth communications, we actively promoted the "Get Involved" and the "Marsh Ambassador™" sections of our Website. Mindcandy Studios created brand names for the five types of "Marsh Ambassadors" – each of whom perform different duties based on their specific personality types, vocations, skills and desires. Generally speaking, the different types of Marsh Ambassadors perform the following variety of activities: Fund-raising campaigns; Letter-writing campaigns, E-mail campaigns, Sponsorship Solicitation, Collecting Donations, Distributing our E-Brochure, participating in our Internet Link-Building Campaign to increase traffic to our Website. The brand names we created for the five types of Marsh Ambassadors are: Marsh Ambassador First Class™, Marsh Ambassador Computer Compadre™, Marsh Ambassador Social Butterfly™, Marsh Ambassador Executive Officer™ and Marsh Ambassador Wordsmith™.

As Director of Marketing, Mindcandy Studios researched various data-mining companies and direct marketing list brokers to initiate the Marsh Children’s Home first official online marketing campaign. As with all non-profit organizations, budgetary constraints are always a concern. We negotiated a discounted rate using our 501(c)(3) non-profit status to acquire an email list of "Churches who Donate" from one of America’s leading direct marketing firms. Because the Marsh Children’s Home is a Christian organization, we decided to first target churches in the United States. Our goal was to initiate our fund-raising campaign on December 4th, 2007. The objective was to take advantage of the Christmas “gift giving season” providing pastors, priests and chaplains a three-week window to address their parishioners and encourage them to “get involved” by making financial donations, setting up fund-raising events, sponsoring a child or becoming a Marsh Ambassador™.

The "News" section of the Website fulfills several specific strategic objectives. It informs the audience about the various special events and outings that the children attend. This provides our audience with tangible elements of proof that our administrators, corporate donors, sponsors and visitors are dedicated to improving the life of the children. The "News" section also builds credibility into the Marsh Home brand by informing them about the active roles of community and corporate donors, giving news about current fund-raising campaigns and our success stories about children who have “graduated” from the Marsh Home, continuing their education at local Universities. Additionally, the "News" section also builds an online community and increases our website traffic, which in turn provides the Marsh Children’s Home Website with higher rankings in the major Search Engines, which will simultaneously increase our brand equity, donor base and our financial sustainability.

Mindcandy Studios created subtle yet highly effective illustrative background for the Marsh Home Website. The soccer balls and stuffed animals (Winnie the Pooh) support the playfulness, youthfulness, innocence and purity aspects of the brand character. Similarly, the illustrations of the sun, palm trees, flowers and fish reinforce the brand’s tropical characteristic. The tropical characteristic of the Marsh brand’s character is a very important one; the Marsh Children’s Home is located directly on the beach (in the Municipality of Playa Bonfíl, a short drive from Acapulco), they are very successful in attracting volunteers and visitors. The Marsh Home has three private rooms that are available for a minimal cost to our visitors. Volunteers such as college students and teachers on their summer breaks are permitted to use these rooms for free provided they are willing help the staff with maintenance (painting, landscaping, etc.) or to teach English or give Bible classes to the children. By actively promoting the Marsh Ambassador Program and our Volunteer/ Visitor Program, we hope to attract even more visitors and volunteers in the future.

Finally, since the primary objective of the non-profit Marsh Children’s Home Acapulco, Inc. is to ensure financial sustainability for the Marsh Home for years to come, we added to the functionality of the Website the ability to accept monies via credit card, direct deposit, checks and through Paypal®. Our goal was to make it as easy as possible for people to make donations to the Marsh Home by developing an e-commerce solution with the maximum amount of flexibility.

CONCLUSION: In summary, Mindcandy Studios leveraged the Marsh Children’s Home rich history and their existing brand equity to create a highly unique, complete and overall powerful brand image, from its brand identity to its identity system, from its branded marketing collateral to its online identity. We provided invaluable strategic brand consultations to create an online identity that supports all of the vital brand characteristics. We also created a Website that will assist the administrators and the Board of Directors of the Marsh Home to achieve greater efficiency, transparency and credibility with the ability to exponentially increase its donation monies through a direct marketing campaign and their commerce-enabled Website.

We provided the Marsh Children’s Home with both strategic marketing consultations and the design of an incredibly beautiful brochure that will enable them to build an ever-expanding community of charitable donors, sponsors and volunteers. Finally, we offered our consulting, brand development, creative design, copy writing and web development services pro-bono, in the hopes of helping to enrich the lives of the 80+ children currently residing at the Marsh Children’s Home. We encourage you to visit their Website by typing the following URL into your Web browser: http://www.marshchildrenshome.org.mx!


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