This is something Oxfam's 48-year-old fundraising and supporter marketing director is determined to fix. The international development charity commissioned a brand tracking study, which confirmed that consumers had an old-fashioned view of Oxfam.
'Everyone knew Oxfam, but the perception was that we were very reliable, very credible, very salient, but very much a slightly sluggish British institution,' Ferrier explains.
This evidently required change. 'We needed to educate people about the development and campaigning work we do, and reflect more of the passion, drive, innovation and dynamism that we think is present in the organisation, but wasn't being perceived,' she adds. It seems no coincidence that these characteristics closely mirror Ferrier's own.
The solution to the branding conundrum was an overhaul of the charity's image, handled by RKCR/Y&R, resulting in the 'Be Humankind' work, which debuted last year. The brand awareness activity featured an 'injustice monster' and was designed to promote a sense of popular involvement against the evils of poverty. It included TV as well as outdoor and online activity and, despite some criticism that it lacked a call to action, it has been generally well received.
'People got the idea that if they came together they could make a difference and change something,' enthuses Ferrier. The campaign took Oxfam to a position of most recognised charity in terms of spontaneous awareness, according to research by companies including Hall & Partners and Brain Juicer.
Ferrier will undoubtedly want to capitalise on this in what could be tricky times ahead. Amid reports of charities losing confidence in their ability to weather the financial storm, and gloomy forecasts that charity incomes will fall by £2.3bn in 2009, she remains sanguine.
'Charities have lost the growth that they were expecting, but we should be pleased about this because it means that people are not walking away,' she says. Oxfam is lucky to be able to count on a large and loyal supporter base, and Ferrier sees the key as keeping them close during this tough period. 'We also hold reserves for difficult times, so we have a reasonably strong financial position, which should help us ride it out,' she adds.
Make no mistake, though; behind the cheery smile and breezy exterior, Ferrier, who has 25 years' retail experience, and joined Oxfam from the post of commercial director at booksellers Borders, is an astute businesswoman with a strong commercial steer. 'We will need to be very careful about cost, and fiercely protect money that goes to programmes, and that is what we are focusing on,' she says.
This is likely to have a knock-on effect on Oxfam's marketing plans this year. 'We need to look at how we're spending money in order to attract money to the organisation and shift spend from attracting new donors to focusing on current supporters,' she adds. 'It is really important to keep the brand out there, but a lot of it is down to cost - we just need to be very prudent about how we spend money.' This emphasis on prudence explains the charity's decision to steer clear of TV activity around its 'Be Humankind' work in 2009.
As part of her strong commitment to the cause, a characteristic noted by former colleague Philip Downer, chief executive at Borders, Ferrier is determined that funds should be allocated primarily where they are needed - on the ground, dealing with humanitarian crises, such as the aftermath of the recent conflict in Gaza, or Zimbabwe, where more than 300,000 people remain in grave danger from cholera.
The financial crisis will, inevitably, have a negative effect on funding for the charity at both ends of its operations. While less money is being donated, the recession and volatility of the stock market has also driven up the cost of food. In developing countries, prices have risen by as much as 200%, leaving people who were already spending a significant proportion of their income on food in dire straits.
Ferrier's response to this challenge is pragmatic. 'This means we need to scale up programmes that respond to how people produce food, such as livelihood and agriculture, or by way of humanitarian response to the crisis,' she says.
Further aggravating the food crisis and global poverty is climate change, which will be the focus of the charity's fundraising and 'Be Humankind' activity, with the latter including a stronger call to action. 'This year, the campaign will deal with the effects of climate change on poor people,' says Ferrier. 'It will use the same tone of voice, look and feel as last year's "Be Humankind" work, but the message will be that climate change affects poor people first and worst, and that more and more people are vulnerable to the results of climate change, such as flooding.'
The activity is intended to strengthen the public's focus on the UN conference in Copenhagen this December, where governments will meet to finalise a huge climate deal. Oxfam is determined to put pressure on politicians to ensure this agreement provides justice for the poorest, and the charity says that the campaign will be bigger than Make Poverty History, organised around 2005's G8 summit.
Other planned activity for the year includes a joint campaign with Marks & Spencer to continue to raise awareness of the £5 M&S voucher Oxfam offers to those donating clothes to its charity shops.
Ferrier wants to boost Oxfam's digital activity, which is handled by Avenue A | Razorfish, through its ecommerce website and social networks. The charity plans to continue its community fundraising initiatives, too, including the 'Oxjam' music festival and sponsored treks in the Sussex Downs and Yorkshire Dales.
Oxfam faces some tough challenges in 2009, but Ferrier, who says it was her dream for many years to work for the charity, is unlikely to be deterred.
With passion, boundless energy and, according to Downer, the ability to be 'feisty when she needs to be', she should be the perfect antidote to Oxfam's image issues.
If Ferrier can succeed in getting across the charity's reputation for well-run activities on the ground, Oxfam will emerge from the recession with a revitalised brand, if not necessarily a healthy balance sheet.