Last fall, our team spent a lot of time, energy and money becoming the first Brand Academy Certified team in Canada. We believe branding is a big deal (and it’s a whole lot larger in scope than a logo).
Over the past eight years, some of our most rewarding work has been coming alongside organizations to help them stop wasting money on marketing that was ineffective simply because they don’t have brand clarity. When a new client comes to us asking for help creating a new brochure, often they don’t have a brochure problem, but a brand problem. They’re not crystal-clear on how to talk about their organization, what is unique about them, how their competitors are positioned, and who they’re best positioned to serve. It’s a branding problem. Once we work through these brand pieces, their marketing efforts – like a well-crafted brochure – can really hit the mark. For our non-profit and ministry clients, we know that donor dollars are hard won, and good stewardship is critical in changing times for non-profit organizations.
What is “Brand”?
The most fascinating thing about developing your brand is that you aren’t really in charge. Brand has, for decades, been defined as “a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer” which implies that in reality, your brand is entirely in their hands. Essentially, we boil it down to this: what experience does our core customer have when experiencing our organization?
There have been countless definitions of brand over the years (look here for 30 of them), but the majority of them agree that brand isn’t up to the business or ministry; it’s up to their customers. They will, without prodding, develop their own opinions of your organization (or even you, yourself!) and respond in a way that aligns with their personal preferences, communication styles, and impulses.
If your brand is out of your hands, why is it worth talking about?
In short, just because it’s out of your hands, doesn’t mean it’s out of your reach; the lifespan and success of your brand is heavily dependent on you and your ability to influence the perceptions in the minds of your consumer(s). Bryan Eisenberg has argued that your brand is a reflection of “all the experiences your customers have with your business”, and in that he is entirely correct…but the story deserves more depth; it is also a reflection of the experiences your customers hear about with regards to your business…and we all know how much easier to broadcast stories now than ever before. This emphasizes the importance of presenting not only a positive image, but a consistent one that is easily re-shared.
The benefits of branding…
If you put the work into clarifying your brand, what key benefits and takeaways can you expect? After all, most organizations don’t have budget to spend “just for the sake of it”; we need reasons and results! Here are 5 reasons to get started…
Investing in brand strategy allows you to hone in on the high-value uniquenesses of your organization and what you do; it strengthens your ability to hire, train, and reward your staff in an effective and relevant way; and it gives everyone your organization connects with something to resonate with. People should know with clarity how you’re different – and why it matters.
Being able to effectively communicate and act on your brand gives stakeholders of all types the opportunity to feel that they truly “know” you and what to expect from you. When brands are constantly reinventing themselves, it can be jarring. Brands we come back to are those that we have trustworthy knowledge of.
This is the primary reason most of our clients come to us for branding. It’s a crowded marketplace, and it can be hard to stand out. Often we get asked to do PR – and we love great PR – but it’s received best when branding has produced meaningful awareness before we even show up to talk to a media outlet about our outstanding clients.
Once people know how to recognize your organization’s brand (remember – it’s not just your logo!) and what it stands for, reinforcing that in an engaging way can help you align with those who are the best fit for you. Those who value you and what you do.
This is what every organization and brand manager strive for: to secure dedicated brand advocates. Finding those who just love you for who you are, because they know who you really are. Brand advocates will act as cheerleaders, spreading the (positive) word about your brand simply because it resonates with them (even without a tangible reward). Seem far-fetched? Check out this list of some of the most successful examples of brand advocacy campaigns and how to design them.
There are countless benefits to putting some serious thought into your brand. If you want to know more about how you can develop an authentic brand plan that your staff, partners, suppliers, clients, and community love, talk to us. Brand is the responsibility of every member of your organization and, as such, should be an integral component of all you do. Train yourself to see your brand not as simply your logo, jingle, or hashtag…it is the sum total of all the perceptions someone has of you…make it easy to believe in.