ProSpeak: Branding as a Living Organism
It happens ever so often. At a staff meeting a crisis of faith takes hold, and someone asks, “What makes us different from everyone else?” The response can range from the collective silence of a jury about to hand down a harsh sentence or the rise of the angry mob turning on the most senior staff member for the answer.
Depending on your mission and the organization’s life cycle, this question is a critical one. Inevitably, you ask: “What is our brand?” For some organizations, the answer is easy, and for others less so. Questioning and debating, on a regular basis, the meaning of an organization’s brand is healthy and necessary.
There are many elements that go into building a brand — name, symbols, packaging, product and reputation. Research published in the Journal of Marketing Communications (1998) by Leslie de Chernatony and Francesca Dall’Olmo Riley reports that there is little agreement on the definition of a brand. Part of the reason is that branding is a process that collectively conveys all the internal and external perceptions of an organization. It is the personification of the work that is undertaken. As such, any organization or individual is a brand. It speaks of your personality, outlook and vision of the world.
Since there are so many stakeholders in an organization, getting a personality profile requires the application of a number of tools that have to work in tandem. It starts with the logo, the catchy tagline, the color palette often meant to illicit an emotional response and the statement of your promise. Every product that we use has a brand, and every organization whose services we use and support is packaged to tell us more about what it is.
What then would cause any crisis of faith? Is it that the organization’s logo is not interesting enough? Is it that people are simply not sure about the services the nonprofit delivers? Maybe. But this question arises at both established and startup organizations.