Whether you manage an association, a for-profit business, or a nonprofit, you know how difficult it can be to balance short-term activities with long-term objectives. Consider your organization’s brand, for example. Better said, consider your organization’s brand building. The difference is slight but the impact is significant.
That’s because your brand is not static. Rather, it is constantly changing and adapting. The hope is that your organization has an active hand in its evolution.
Suspended In Time
Brands suspended in time can happen for a variety of reasons. An association executive assumes that high rates of member retention equal a strong brand. A product marketing team mistakes social media “likes” for long-term brand loyalty. A nonprofit board of directors focuses exclusively on fundraising.
It’s easy to put brand building activities on the back burner and to assume that your brand is immutable—that it doesn’t need to be reevaluated or refreshed. But the question is not, “What are we?” but rather “How much more can we achieve?”
Brand Refresh: 5 Signs That It’s Time to Wake Up Your Brand
1. Your organization has trouble telling its brand story.
A brand with no story is forgettable. Consider the case of a 20-year old organization that is governed by a rotating board of directors. Their intentions are good, but they struggle to describe a collective reason for being. There is no cohesive or compelling story that holds them together. In contrast, a company established in 1894 teaches all its employees about the company’s history and instills in them the values of its founders. As a bridge to the future, the company’s story becomes an essential element of its brand. The lesson is that if you can’t tell your own brand story, you leave it up to others to tell it for you.
2. You aren’t keeping close tabs on your competition.
Strong brands stand apart from their competitors (“differentiate or die,” as the saying goes). To distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, you need a clear understanding of what they are doing to distinguish themselves. Who is their audience? What is their value proposition? How exactly are you different? Your brand message is only as strong as the context that it provides. Don’t limit yourself to analyzing your most direct and obvious competitors, either. Learn everything you can about the companies and the technologies that are competing for your audience’s attention.
3. Your brand has outgrown its name and/or its look and feel.
It’s not easy to give up on an established name or a logo. In fact, nothing can bring out stronger emotional reactions than an executive decision to change a company’s name or redesign its logo. (I speak from experience when I say that no matter how inappropriate a name or logo, there is always someone who really loves things just the way they are!) But a name that no longer reflects a company’s mission or leads to marketplace confusion is a liability, as is an outdated look and feel. In our highly visual mobile society, consumers are quick to form first impressions based on what they see. There’s simply no excuse for not modernizing these elements of your brand.
4. You receive brand feedback—and it takes you by surprise.
Only a very small fraction of what is being said about brands comes from brands themselves. The rest comes via word of mouth from customers, prospects and the world at large. If you haven’t conducted an analysis of all your brand’s touch points, do so now. Your touch points are all the ways that your brand interacts with the outside world. Each one of these interactions, or touch points, is a chance to reinforce your brand promise—or take away from it. We suggest that organizations create a brand touch point “wheel,” a simple visual tool that helps identify and prioritize opportunities to make an impression at every stage of the relationship cycle.
5. Your brand content puts you to sleep.
If the thought of writing another newsletter, blog post or marketing brochure incites anxiety and causes writer’s block, you have brand fatigue. Imagine how your audience feels. Unfortunately, too many organizations develop content from their point of view. The result is uninspiring at best. To recapture your audience’s interest, involve them in the revitalization of your brand. Ask them to tell you what your brand means to them. How can it be improved to impact their lives? Touch their hearts? Inspire them to act? A brand represents an emotional connection that is formed over time. Engage your advocates and reignite your own passion for your brand in the process.
Your brand is your most valuable asset. Nurture it. Nudge it. Make it work for you.