By Amy Toner
Wear a cute pastel cardigan with flouncy ruffles and you catch my eye. Give me a prize for providing a correct answer and you have my attention. Speak eloquently on delivering your brand across all association mediums and you have me on the edge of my seat scribbling down every word.
The ladies of the "United We Brand” session at the recent Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting in Washington, DC managed to do all three. In a town permeated with black business suits, the first feat may have been the most impressive, but the last was what brought together association professionals from across the country.
Rochelle Gray, president, TGB Communications, Inc.; Jennifer Cedoz, senior art director, TGD Communications, Inc.; and Maureen Petron, director of client services, Goddard Claussen Public Affairs presented the one-hour session on Thursday, June 2.
The trio did the seemingly impossible: explaining how to curate your brand in association-specific terms. Their tips on branding used concrete examples from the rebranding experience of the National Association of the Self-Employed.
Three key takeaways were:
1. Branding is not about creating logos to represent each product and service.
As association marketers, many of us are charged with promoting the same yearly conference. While certainly each year brings new speakers, a new venue, and new features, much of the recipe is the same. And thus, we often use the brand of the geographic location of the event to deliver the excitement of the year. As Gray explained, "Members don't get bored as quickly as you do.” In other words, by the time the meeting wraps, we have proofed five honeysuckle-colored attendee brochures, and we would like to move on to the pantone color of 2012. Conversely, our members have just barely begun to associate this look with the annual conference.
Instead, I left the session with a renewed vow to promote the brand of the conference rather than the destination.
2. Branding is not your logo. Branding is messaging through content, design, and theme.
Internally, my association has a clearly defined brand for the entire association. This tip reminded me of my responsibility to deliver the message of the brand for the whole association rather just for our individual programs and benefits. As Cedoz described, "Branding is not just a logo, it is a complete picture of your association.” It is easy to focus marketing efforts on new partnerships and member programs, but the brand of the entire association is critical.
The session energized me to promote the brand of my association, not just our sub-brands.
3. Branding is not an acronym that everyone is supposed to know.
As an association that is legally named by only our acronym, I wrote this one down and underlined it twice. It is easy to forget to reinforce who your organization is and what industry you represent. As Gray offered, "Members [and nonmembers] can easily become confused.”
The session was a good reminder to spell out who we are in every piece we produce.
Amy Toner is the senior director, marketing and design for NATSO, a national trade association representing travel plaza and truckstop owners and operators. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for blogging about this session for our members and readers who were unable to attend.