Monday, December 10, 2007

Your brand is not cosmetic

This week's Non-Profit Times Newsletter includes an insightful article about the power of branding. I've found in my experience with non-profits that many discount the value of branding - or worse, many non-profits actually believe that bad branding makes them look more "authentic" or somehow more "grassroots" than more slickly branded counterparts.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2002, a national survey asked 2,600 people to rate 18 factors that make a web site credible. 46.1% percentage of respondents said the site's "design look" influenced their belief in how credible the site was and, of the 18 factors cited in the survey (including site functionality, information clarity, customer service, et. al.) "design look" ranked 1st in overall importance.

These results come from the report, "How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility," by B.J. Fogg, Ph.D., Cathy Soohoo, David Danielson, et. al., (2002). Here's an excerpt from the authors' analysis of these results:
"Our result about the prominence of design look was not what we had hoped to find; we had hoped to see that people used more rigorous evaluation strategies. However, our result is consonant with findings of other research (Cockburn and McKenzie, 2001) that describes typical Web-navigation behavior as "rapidly interactive," meaning that Web users typically spend small amounts of time at any given page, moving from page to page quickly. If such rapid navigation is indeed the norm for most types of Web use, then it makes sense that Web users have developed efficient strategies, such as focusing on the design look, for evaluating whether a Web site is worthwhile."
This focus on design speaks to the value of branding - while web-design and branding are not interchangeable concepts, a well-designed web-site is a key element in an organization's brand strategy. A well-branded site is a key output of a good brand strategy. A poorly-branded organization will, by definition, have a poorly designed site.

It's always worth the effort to invest time, energy, and sometimes money, into an organization's brand. Without it, an organization risks missing countless opportunities to connect with its donors, constituents and volunteers.

I've copied the article from the NPT Newsletter below in its entirety since I can't find an online version to link to:
Branding ...
It's not marketing. It's everything.

Some might claim marketing and branding are one and the same. That isn't the case, according to branding consultant Larry Checco, who called the statement a myth.

"Branding is a reflection of everything associated with your organization," said Checco, president of Washington, D.C.-based Checco Communications. Good branding, he added, is far less about marketing, advertising and public relations, and far more about the quality of leadership and staff, accountable and ethical behavior, and a willingness, ability and commitment to fulfill whatever brand expectations your organization creates.

"In short, good branding is nothing less than your organization's DNA," said Checco.

According to Checco, it's common for organizations to fall victim to the idea that once the organization has an attractive logo and a catchy tagline, it has its brand. Again, that's not the case. "Your logo and tagline are the banners for your brand," said Checco. "Your brand drills much deeper into your organization's core values."

Checco advised not to succumb to the argument that your organization has no branding budget. "Your brand is not cosmetic," said Checco, reiterating that branding is "truly who you are and what you do." He suggested, "If you effectively leverage your current resources, you may not need much of a budget to better brand your organization."

The most devilish of myths, added Checco, is the idea that branding is the responsibility of your organization's communications and/or marketing folks. "Branding is the responsibility of everyone," said Checco, "everyone: from your board members down to your support staff, everyone."

Checco offered the following three keys to good branding:
  • Clearly define your brand. Use the right language, broaden your message, and include benefits to the entire community.
  • Actively promote your brand. Start with your board, staff and members, and make them educated ambassadors for your brand. Create a hero's journey for those you seek to lead, and make branding a part of your organization's performance review.
  • Diligently protect your brand. Hire or recruit well -- affluence and influence are worthless without integrity and wisdom. Know what's at risk, and educate others. Speak truthfully to authority, be transparent with your finances, and know that whether it's legal or not is not the litmus test of what's acceptable. Finally, expectations, expectations, expectations.