Branding: It’s More Than Just a Logo
Understanding what a brand is, why it’s important and how to create, change or evaluate the success of it is vital for every organization. In his session, “How to Brand Your Organization,” at the Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C., last week, Joel Zimmerman, director of consulting services at CDR Fundraising Group, a provider of integrated fundraising services, walked attendees through the ins and outs of branding.
Zimmerman first looked at what a brand is, describing it as the stereotypical reaction people have to your organization. A brand evokes information (what do I know about them?), emotion (do I like them?) and expectations (should I bother?). An organization is branded after the first time a person encounters it.
But a brand is more than just a logo; it’s those special things that set an organization apart from all others. Zimmerman said there are two ways an organization can get its brand: actively and passively. You can actively give people information and engineer their reactions to it, or you can passively sit back and wait for people to brand you themselves.
In the session, Zimmerman recommended organizations follow his brand-development exercise to evaluate an existing brand or develop a new one, and walked us through these 11 steps:
1. Branding concept. List one to six core concepts for your stereotype. They should reiterate — and go beyond — your mission and vision statements. Think about the major, most immediate associations you are trying to build.
2. The audience. Your audience needs to see value in each of your branding concepts, and this will tell you how to target your messages.
3. The client. What needs do you fulfill that bring you clients? What needs do you fulfill that inspire donors and volunteers? This will help you see how to pitch the message to your audiences.
4. What do you do to deserve the brand you want to promote? Do the programs you operate track squarely with the concepts you are communicating?
5. Evidence. How do you prove it? What kind of information, statistics, facts and figures do you publicize to show how well you’ve done in meeting your mission? What stories and pictures in the news tell your story of success?
6. & 7. Primary and secondary message. How do you move your brand forward into the world? Take the core concepts developed in steps one through five and build your brand message.
8. Positioning statement. Place yourself in the public’s consciousness relative to the rest of the world. Answer these questions: Why should anyone give their time and money to us rather than other organizations? Why should anyone use our services rather than the services of another organization? Think about these questions in relation to your competition. The positioning statement should tell why you’re different; why no one else does what you do.
9. Collateral materials. How and where do you convey your message and information? Some forms of information conveyance Zimmerman noted were proposals, brochures, logo, byline, ads, banners, Web pages, stationery, etc. Branding is more than just an organization’s logo or slogan; It’s all of your collateral materials working together to convey your message.
10. Communications media. What channels will you use to relay your message? TV, radio, print ads, word-of-mouth, the Web, billboards, direct mail, etc. all are viable channels.
11. Strengthen. How will you create and sustain the brand? What will you communicate to whom? In what ways will you do so? When and how frequently? How will you legitimize the message? What do you expect the results to be?
Nonprofits can use the exercise to brand a new organization, do a brand audit and/or rebrand. According to Zimmerman, completing it can take anywhere from a half a day, to two days, to a few weeks or even months depending on the complexity of the organization and what it’s trying to accomplish.
Joel Zimmerman can be reached via www.cdrfg.com