Until very recently brand was nearly synonymous with logo in the same way marketing was nearly synonymous with advertising. In both cases, brand and marketing, mean so much more. Your association’s brand is defined as your most important stakeholders perception’s about your organization. Your most important stakeholders may be your members or even a sub-segment of your membership. How you define who your most important stakeholders are is critical to your ability to positively influence the brand.
Because your brand is made up of other people’s perceptions you don’t actually own the brand. You can however offer great member experiences which will positively influence their perceptions. On the other hand if you are struggling with a weak brand here’s where you may find the problem:
Your organization makes promises but doesn’t keep them. Like the boss that says he has an open door policy but clearly doesn’t, your association may be making brand promises that can’t be fulfilled. Are you promising exclusive access to benefits while deep-pocketed for-profit competition is beating you at your own game? Is personalized service promised while staff doesn’t answer the phones? Uncover all your brands promises and unfulfilled member expectations and work to either communicate more clearly what the organization offers or fill the gaps to fulfill those promises.
Visually the brand identity doesn’t the reflect new brand reality. If you have amazing quality, cutting edge technology or the happiest, most loyal membership but you are still running a web 1.0 looking-site potential members will never know. Almost all of us believe what we see but we don’t necessarily believe what we hear. If an association’s logo, web design and collateral materials look outdated and behind the times members will feel the association is too. As painful as it is, if you invest in a re-branding project don’t try to run out all your old materials. Get the new brand image out in front of members as soon as you can.
Staff doesn’t strive for excellence in every interaction. Just one bad experience with an association can wreck the feeling from many positive interactions. When members interact with staff and the members walk away from those interactions feeling like they were not trusted, not treated respectfully or their concern was not appropriately handled there goes another chink in the armor of the brand. Sometimes we feel only marketing is in charge of the brand or only member services is in charge of member service. In reality every job that interfaces in some way with members is in charge of both the brand and member service. Some companies only hire folks that already exemplify the service oriented qualities they are looking and some train for this. Either way caring more about members may be ultimately more important than any one conference to an association’s long-term health.
If your association’s brand is weak or weakening over time there’s likely a mismatch between what the brand promises and what you currently deliver. The more you thoughtfully deliver every great member experience the stronger your association’s brand and your association will be.
- Not just a member benefit but an experience
- A grumpy hello
- Attract members and take them on an adventure