Why Association Branding and Marketing Cannot be an Afterthought
You know that feeling you get when you see a professional acting anything but? Perhaps it is at a staff New Year's party or someone just letting off steam on Friday night. It could be a doctor, a lawyer, or the volunteers who were helping out. In any case, that sinking feeling you have in the pit of your stomach is your keen awareness of what the blowback will be like for your association.
Whether they realize it or not, every member of the organization is acutely aware of the requirements for association branding and marketing. Though your association may only have a few members or hundreds, there is no less reason to ensure that the image you carry is professional and courteous. When someone in your organization fails to portray that professionalism, they do not just hurt their own image. Your association branding and marketing also becomes all the more difficult as you are forced to deal with the fallout. You end up wasting time and energy that should be spent achieving your mission.
Why do You Need to Worry About Branding Your Association?
Branding is a marketing technique of creating a name, symbol, or design that is easily identifiable to differentiate a product or business. Some may see it as a requirement for businesses but believe there is less of a need for carefully and appropriately branding your association.
You do not need to create an identity for an association of executives, right? What about doctors? Lawyers? Are your members any less valuable or professional?
Let's look at why association branding and marketing is critical.
1. Define who you are
If you do not give the market the story to talk about, they will define your brand’s story for you.
-- David Brier, Branding expert.
By branding your association, you establish what you stand for and then you can proceed onto the active part of association branding and marketing. Without a base to build your castle, it will fall down around you.
2. Being Recognizable and Memorable
This can be subtle by embedding certain characteristics in your logo or web design, or overt by taking out ads in various media platforms. Whether it is the general public or your association's members, establishing an image they can recognize will differentiate you from similar associations.
3. Communicate Your Promise and Mission
At the heart of every association is a mission. You may be trying to establish a professional association for a particular industry or trying to save the world one animal or river at a time. Your branding informs the general public about what you are hoping to achieve so that they will support you with funding or membership, or as volunteers.
4. Create a Consistent Voice Across Association Chapters
When you embark on your association branding and marketing exercise, you will be establishing a cohesive voice, so every chapter across the country will be able to play by the same rulebook. You want your members to be filled with pride when they say they belong to your organization.
5. Create a Conduct Benchmark for Members
Once you have established your rules for conduct, you can measure your members' performances. Those unprofessional hooligans on Friday night can be held accountable because you have an ideal member profile. Without it, you have an inconsistent message that most may not understand or may simply ignore.
6. Risk Management
Sometimes things do not go as planned. It could be rogue members or catastrophic events that mar your image. A comprehensive branding plan will help you navigate the rough seas, so every member of your association communicates the same message to the public.
A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
-- Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com
No truer is this than for an association. Though you are not trying to sell a product, you are selling a service or image. You want members in Vancouver to be perceived as the same as those in Halifax.
Branding is not a campaign. It is not something you dust off periodically to run a Facebook ad or television commercial. It is the base by which you establish your identity. If you do not define who you are as an organization, there is no way to show the world what you stand for. Your brand is more than a logo or name. It is the essence of what makes your association alive.
Association branding and marketing is not established in a vacuum, either. Once you develop a strategy, you will engage your audience, both internally and externally, and then you will adjust. That is because your brand identity is invariably tied to the interactions you have with the world at large. Be proactive about branding your association before someone else does it for you.
Have you started the conversation about branding your association yet?
Building on almost two decades of small business experience, John Kent is a former financial industry insider who offers business coaching to new entrepreneurs at Business Plans Profit. Check out his blueprint for new businesses there.
Association branding and marketing is an important part of growing one's organization. If you are planning to take your association globally, your brand must be prepared to face a new level of demands and challenges. Learn more in A Practical Guide to Globalization for Associations by Dick Blatt and Donna Hasslinger.