Most people we work with at the our Centre do not understand branding. First it is important to understand that a brand is everything associated with an organization, product, service, cause or person — all of the attributes, both tangible and intangible. It’s your logo, your promise, the product or service you deliver, your name — all of that and more. It’s what you stand for, what you do, what you say and what you look like. It’s everything. It is the beacon that will incite people to join forces with you and make your cause their own.
How Does Branding Work?
According to Rob Frankel, a branding expert and author, branding is the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing. He states that branding is not advertising, marketing, or PR; branding happens before all of those, first you create the brand then you raise awareness.
Brand is built on two levels:
Mass level: Through tactics like social media and on-line marketing, public relations, community involvement and other communication tactics.
Personal level: Through individual interactions with clients and stakeholders created through the unique experiences audiences have in dealing with your organization every day across multiple touch points.
Developing effective graphics and visual representations of the brand are insufficient in themselves for creating, representing, and managing a brand. The reality of the organization and the attitudes and behaviours of people who work in the organization have to be commensurate with the brand values that the organization is projecting with its audiences.
For example; service organizations should use internal marketing to communicate brand values within their organization. In this way they encourage their internal team to better understand the corporate brand and identity and improve commitment enthusiasm and consistent behaviour in delivering the organization’s values
Therefore, it is important to note that branding starts on the inside and moves outward. Making brand promises and creating brand images and expectations are ultimately of no value without the internal practices and attitudes to deliver the promise.
Relationships must be the priority of branding and that approach must permeate an organization and its culture. The commitment of every member of the organization is critical for delivering consistently on the brand promise. This shared passion ultimately creates a powerful tool for building long term relationships, trust, and loyalty.
Is it a difficult process?
The branding process does not have to be difficult; however, it does take time and commitment from internal stakeholders. Note the key word: process. Building a strong brand takes time.
Understanding the needs, expectations, and experiences of target audiences is the most important part of this process; this requires researching and getting to know your target audience, it also involves getting to know your organization.
Now you may be thinking that initiating the branding process could mean major changes to your organization, this is not the case; remember, branding does not really change what your organization does on a daily basis, it changes how you do it.
Branding is connecting projects and what you do to an overall brand vision and creating experiences for your clients that reflect the brand values.
Is It Expensive?
There is a popular misconception that brand building is synonymous with large budgets and major marketing efforts. While a successful branding effort certainly does require “communicating” the brand to your audience, it does not always require a significant marketing investment.
Branding budget requirements are primarily related to the development of strategy and implementation within the organization. Specifically, most brand strategies involve some level of client, stakeholder and staff interviews, development of planning documents, and internal brand orientation, training and communications. Organizations can integrate brand strategies with on-going service delivery and customer communications by using existing marketing communication materials. However, these materials will need to be adjusted to reflect the brand proposition and to ensure consistency of messaging. Building a brand is not about how much is spent, but the consistency of effort over time.
Are brands more appropriate for commercial products than for public sector organizations?
The idea that a public sector or non-profit organization should not view other agencies or organizations as competition and therefore should not treat them as such is a common mistake that leaders make.
In the opinion of Kurt Aschermann, Senior VP for Marketing and Communications of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, branding is an exercise designed to help the sector serve its constituents better by establishing its uniqueness in a much cluttered public and non-profit world.
One of the major challenges for any organization involved in communications is “clutter.” Branding is used to cut through the noise, establish a consistent presence and convey credibility. Many public sector and non-profit organizations now use brand strategies as a discipline for coordinating messages to create a consistent presence for relationships. Regardless of what sector your agency or organization is a member of branding is a useful tool in helping further your organization’s objectives.
Benefits And Positive Impacts Of Adopting A Branding Approach
Branding is seen as a strategic investment in the organization. It can lead to an improved ability to communicate and internalize organizational vision and mission; a well-conceived and communicated brand provides clear and easy to understand sets of principles that help guide management decisions and operations.
The internalization and integration of a brand leads to the brand promise being lived by employees and being upheld at all points of contact; “living of the brand” means more efficiency, good service, and more return on investment. If used strategically a brand can be a very profitable asset and have a major impact on how the organization is seen by key clients and stakeholders, this can also lead to your agency acquiring new clients.
Not only is branding a great strategic investment for your organization, it also provides greater leverage of marketing resources. Since branding strategies are not restricted to promotion, a strong brand can ultimately spend less on marketing and communications efforts and make budgets go further.
In the public and not-for-profit sectors it is not uncommon for the product offering to be an idea, a cause, or a service. Promoting these intangible offerings can often be difficult; by having to break through all the clutter to reach target audiences. Branding helps make your intangible product or service more tangible, which ultimately makes it easier to differentiate from competition and communicate with your target audiences.
Branding can also help organizations move into new product lines. Using the existing brand as a platform for new products or services brings an already existing expectation and value to the new products because of the equity established and the positive association between the established brand and new initiatives.
Any product or service can ultimately be copied, but a brand cannot. This inability to recreate a brand increases your organization’s long-term sustainability. An effective brand builds brand equity. Brand equity is the built up value an organization gains from its communications and activities; therefore, effective brand building leads to high brand loyalty, name awareness, strong brand associations, etc. This value that is held by clients and stakeholders is what competitors will have a hard time trying to duplicate.
Brand is a promise to deliver value. For all key audiences it has to stand for something that is credible, compelling, engaging and differentiating in order to drive the desired perceptions, behaviours and attitudes. A brand strategy helps your organization bring focus on value delivery to your key audiences. For example, your brand could be creating value for your audience’s tax dollars, their individual needs, or their corporate needs.
Branding facilitates consensus building within your agency or organization. Focusing on “them, not us” will lead to great collaboration among organization members. Communication silos are often a challenge that members of public sector agencies face; branding will help break down the silos within and between departments, ministries, government, industry, etc.
By engaging all members of your organization there will be an increased level of involvement and buy-in to the entire branding process which ultimately leads to the increased ability of your organization to deliver on its brand promise.
How To Build Your Brand
Most successful branding efforts start with the development of a sound strategy and plan that takes into account the organization’s mandate, employee input, and client and stakeholders perceptions.
The branding process usually features an action plan that includes internal and external research, the development of potential branding models/platforms, validation of proposed direction with clients and employees, and finally a 1 to 2 year implementation plan for communicating and supporting the brand both externally and internally. In addition, like any strategy, the impact of the brand strategy needs to be monitored and adjusted as required.
Need help with your branding check out our Introduction to Branding for Non-Profits and Public Sector Organizations Workbook or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .