Discovering Your Brand Identity
The word branding can be scary for many associations. Personally, I think Seth Godin’s definition hits the nail on the head.
Godin expresses that “A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter, or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection, or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
The Purpose of Brand Identity
Brand identity gives your target audience (and your team) a visual and conceptual glimpse of your association’s mission. It establishes what your association offers and why it offers it, and defines your goal with clarity and consistency.
For example, when you see the golden arches, you automatically know it’s McDonald’s. It’s unlikely that you say, “that looks like a new restaurant,” or “I wonder if they have pizza.” McDonald’s established their brand well before they introduced branded menu names like Big Mac®, or had a goofy clown show up for a kid’s party. You know McDonald’s because they’ve identified their mission through their brand. When Ray Kroc came up with the branding and marketing concept for McDonald’s, he knew what he was doing. He kept his vision consistent and ensured the world knew what the golden arches represented.
The Six Steps to Brand Identity
Since you probably have a pretty good handle on what a brand identity looks like, I’ll dive into its six crucial elements. Whether you’re starting to think about an update to your association’s annual event or are considering a complete rebrand of your organization, consider depositing these gold coins in your knowledge bank.
- Invest in Brand Management
Money can be a sensitive subject to talk about—but you really do have to spend it to make it. Brand management is an opportunity to collaborate with a professional and map out the contextual elements of your association. If you don’t have in-house expertise, a fresh pair of eyes can help you better identify the direction of your brand and how to attain your goals.
- Define Your Association’s Purpose
People have great ideas every day. However, it’s likely that if the world doesn’t have a purpose for them (or knows they need them), it falls flat. This is the step where you have to decide your association’s purpose. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why is it better?
- What makes it better?
- How can it be better?
Having an answer to these questions shapes your association’s mission and solidifies your position in your target market. This is also the place where you can develop your brand’s personality and identify how you’re different from your competitors.
- Extensive Market Research
You’ve established why your association is important, but does it serve your members’ needs? Market research is where the rubber meets the road.
The best way to approach this step is talking to people. Conduct phone interviews, live social media chats, surveys, and use online search engine tools. You can always add components to your brand that your target audience is seeking and develop creative ways to reach that market.
The key to this process is embracing constructive feedback. We all have an opinion and a voice, it’s important that we’re heard. That’s why it’s crucial that we listen to constructive criticism before reacting. It’s surprising when you learn that someone’s suggestion or a small change can make a big difference.
- Study Other Associations
How did Kellogg’s come up with Tony the Tiger? Why does Adidas have three stripes? They may seem like insignificant reasons; however, these memorable aspects of their identities are what solidify their brands. Studying other successful companies in your market allows you to better shape your ideas and become a competitive adversary.
Take a second to learn about how they got started, why they’re popular in their target niche, what they do right and what they do wrong. Learning from others helps us create something better than our counterparts. It’s also a good idea to get advice from similar associations. How did they handle certain things? Be sure to take notes so you can add your own spin to their solution.
- Develop Your Personality
Nike’s slogan “Just Do It”, has been flashing across screens and shoe boxes for over a decade. When I see one of their commercials, sometimes my reaction reads like a question. You want me to do what, Nike? Exercise, be active, buy a new pair of sneakers? It’s a fluid statement, it works for the company, and it’s personable.
The bottom line is nobody likes boring. Finding your brand identity means developing an unforgettable personality. This step is a great place to craft a clever tagline and memorable mission statement that speaks to your association’s brand.
- Establish Your Look
The look of your brand is crucial to your survival. Your audience should be able to look at your logo and recognize your association. It should be attracted to it. You know when you see the twin-tailed mermaid, that it’s a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
It’s okay to be creative. Use innovative color palettes, typography, and shapes to make a recognizable logo. Consider the visual components of your website, social media pages and print material that correlates with your association’s overall theme.
How Are You Approaching Brand Identity?
Have you been approaching branding wrong this whole time? Maybe. As trends change and digital media progresses, so will how you develop your branding strategy.
Branding identity is more than a visual element and a name, it is a definitive carving of who we are and what your association is about. It’s what moves you from the unknown to the known, launching your ideas in an entirely new direction.