Branding Misperceptions

Far too many organizations think that a brand is just a graphic image. When they contemplate a “re-brand” they often focus on a new logo, color palette, and home page. These would be part of what is called a “re-fresh,” but they are not actually a re-brand. The brand is much bigger.

A brand is a promise that an organization makes to the world. It is the sum total of the name, imagery, values, messages, and – perhaps most importantly – the behaviors of the organizations. All of these elements should add up to form a durable impression of the organization: its lasting value.

What are the attributes of the brand that people should remember? For non-profit organizations, I think, first and foremost, it should be its service in the community. What good does it do? How is it changing the lives of people it touches? What new knowledge does it create and promulgate, and how does that knowledge and information influence thinking and behavior? Organizations should be intentional about their brands and should protect them.

Sometimes the promise doesn’t align with other important elements. Consider the damage done to the Roman Catholic Church, which is supposed to stand for love and justice, through its hierarchy’s coverup of sexual abuse cases. Also, police departments promise to protect the community; yet, some tolerate and even coddle officers who kill African-American citizens. You get the point. These acts are horrible in and of themselves. But, from a branding perspective, a by-product of the fallout is that trust is destroyed along with brand loyalty.

Once you know your brand, you should try to live it every day and insure that is reflected in everything you do. If your brand no longer “works” for you, it may be time for a change. But, it is something to be approached with care and deliberation.

In addition to re-branding, one should add the organization’s name itself into this mix. Many groups have gone through name changes, which – when done correctly – can have a huge positive impact on perception and performance.

Have a great holiday season.