Branding… the most important component of a Marketing or Communications Strategy

As markets become more competitive, and clients become more demanding, organizations must work harder to secure their fundamental relationships. Building distinctive relationships with their clients and stakeholders is what branding is about, whatever the market, whoever the client. The brand is the marketer’s most advanced emotional tool. It combines and reinforces the functional and emotional benefits of the offering, adding value, encouraging consumption and loyalty.  A good brand facilitates recognition, makes a promise, and, provided the full marketing and communications back-up is in place, delivers satisfaction.

Branding in the commercial sector is pervasive and fairly easy to understand and recognize. However, branding in non-profit and government is not as common but is becoming more popular because of its ability to create visibility effectively and ensure memorability. Many people who work in the public and not-for-profit sectors are hesitant to  recognize that they face stiff competition and fail to see the need to put an emphasis on branding. However, this view is slowly changing as more leaders in these sectors are recognizing that they are in a competitive market with limited funding. This realization highlights the fact that strategic identity and branding can significantly help organizations achieve increased program awareness, utilization and satisfaction, and most important improved funding.

Branding facilitates consensus building within your 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 and non-profit organizations face; branding will help break down the silos within your organization.

The main driver for this growing acceptance of branding in government and the non-profit sector is the overall communications environment today. More groups compete for people’s attention. Today marketers and communicators are faced with as many as 4,000 marketing messages per day; 15 to 20 years ago it was less than half that amount. The competition is for attention and retention of your message.

Branding gets attention, cuts through the clutter and allows you to develop relationships with audiences. But while much emphasis has been placed on branding, all but a few projects fall flat. For governments and the non-profit sector it is a more complex and difficult issue to brand than the private sector.  In government, branding is made harder because of complex reporting structures, bureaucracy and decision-making.  In the non-profit sector there is less bureaucracy but boards of  directors and stakeholders have been known to get in the way of good branding practice.

What makes the difference between an average brand and a great one?  An average brand becomes a great brand by living  its values; that is the key ingredient. For a brand to come to life with target audiences, the organization must be internally aligned to deliver the brand promise through the organization’s culture, reward systems, activities and structure.

Best Practices 

Commonalities among organizations that have implemented successful branding strategies include:

  • Effective use of internal communications e.g. intranet to raise staff morale and commitment through the shared beliefs and vision.
  • Providing management and staff with a deeper understanding of the brand promise and the behaviours and values the promise demands – and educate them to adapt their behaviour.
  • Enabling all staff, to understand how their own activities and responsibilities contribute to delivering the brand promise to the target audience(s).
  • Changing organizational policies, e.g., recruitment, training, rewards & incentives so that the organization is also behaving in line with its brand promise.
  • When staff understand and accept that the values are genuine, they align their attitudes and behavior to the brand values. The result is greater satisfaction for both the people interacting with the organization and staff who work in the organization.

Making Branding Work       

Branding programs only works if the priorities of the relationships permeate an organization and its culture. Brands are about people and everyone who works for the organization are part of the marketing and branding team. Brands are carriers of trust, so what an organization wants its target audiences to believe is realized by how well its words and deeds match audience needs and expectations. Making brand promises and creating brand images and expectations are ultimately of no value without the internal practices and attitudes to deliver the promise.

Brand is much more than a visual identity or a tagline: it’s a core business tool, a strategic platform for both communicating and building value for the organization among its audiences.  A brand contains within it the complete value that the organization delivers, a relevant promise that matters to its audiences and aligns with the organizations strategic and operational goals.

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. If used strategically a brand can be a very key asset for the organization and have a major impact on how the organization is seen by both the key target audiences and stakeholders.

A brand is the raison d’être of an organization. It is  as a combination of both tangible benefits and the intangible values, associations and expectations attached to the organization– it is the “meaning” or “promise” triggered by seeing or hearing the organization’s name.

branding

There is a very 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 target audiences and key stakeholders, it necessitates much more than a significant advertising or communications investment.  It’s not necessarily how much is spent on communications, but the consistency of effort over time. Having different messages and designs from various parts of the organizations as well as lack of consistency in its online communications is antithetical to good branding practices.

Most successful branding efforts start with the development of a sound strategy and plan that takes into account the organizations mandate, staff input, and target audience perceptions. The branding process action plan includes internal and external research, the development of potential branding models/platforms, validation of proposed direction with target audiences and staff, and finally a short and long term 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.

To find out how branding works and how to build a brand in government and nonprofit sectors; Check out:

  • Guide to Branding in the Public and Non Profit Sectors
  •  Or you can purchase our Introduction to Branding for Non-Profits and Public      Sector Organizations Workbook.
  • All of these resources can be found on   CEPSM.ca
  •  We also give customized internal workshops on branding ( contact: JimMintz@cepsm.ca  or ClaireMills @cepsm.ca)

 

 

 

 

 

About jimmintz

Managing Partner, CEPSM Jim Mintz is a veteran marketing professional with many years of experience as a practioner and academic. He is presently Managing Partner at CEPSM and Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” at Sprott School ... Specialty Areas: Social Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Sector and Non Profit Marketing
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