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Success with Branding - 2/1/2011 -

Branding is more than slapping your logo on everything in sight. Three experts share tips for branding names, publications, and websites.

By Emily Randisi

The act of branding dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who marked their livestock with hot iron stamps to identify ownership. Since then, time and technology have added new meanings to the term. Today "branding” also refers to a business’s personality or reputation, which generally takes form in its name, logo, color combination, slogan, products, or services.

During the January 12th Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn session, three experts discussed different aspects of what it means to brand associations, their publications, and their websites.

Debra Bates-Schrott of Bates Creative Group focused on brand strategy, the crucial work that is often overlooked during initial stages of a branding effort; in particular, she offered valuable tips on naming.

Before starting a brand campaign, Bates-Schrott advised, find out who you are, what you do and why it matters. Debra revealed that "branding is much more than just imprinting your logo on everything. It’s the sum total of your association’s identity—everything you say, write, market, design, share, tweet, and more.”

She added that a brand should be treated as an organic, living thing; it’s about relationships, storytelling, emotions, listening, and responding and, above all else, being consistent across all platforms.

Because a name is the first identifying characteristic one encounters when introduced to an association, the naming process is exceedingly important.

Here are Bates-Schrott’s key brand criteria for naming projects:

  • The name needs to resonate the tenor, spirit, ethos, and energy of the brand platform.
  • The name must be easy to pronounce.
  • Reduction to acronyms or abbreviations is strongly discouraged.
  • The name should sound and look credible.
  • The name needs to provide distinction in the industry.

A second speaker, Jeff Bebee of the American Institute of Physics, shared the challenge of marketing a struggling association publication that is not included as a member benefit. Bebee’s marketing tips include:

  • Partner with related society organizations to distribute and solicit membership dues instead of using direct mail.
  • Incorporate house ads if the publication’s readership is less than what standard advertisers require.
  • Give out free samples; show people what they are missing if they aren’t subscribers.
  • Attend industry conferences and have plenty of past issues available to show off and give away.

Finally, Mark O’Brien of Newfangled spoke about the impact of website branding. He pointed out that an organization’s website is the best opportunity to promote a brand. Every page should tell the viewer who the organization is and what it does, all while seamlessly guiding visitors to a call to action, blog, or whichever end result is intended.

O’Brien warned that only well-defined organizations can pull off website branding. If an association’s brand is not distinct and unambiguous, then its website is simply a brochure. O’Brien maintains that great websites have:

  • Redundant way-finding systems. The minute a user is lost on the site, she decides to leave it and find what she’s looking for elsewhere.
  • Content strategy. Unique, expert, indexable content can be used as an educational resource for visitors.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO involves three simple keyword placement rules: Place keywords (or the unique, expert, and indexable content) in the title, in the URL, and in heading one (H1).
  • Calls to action. Make them clear, concise and compelling. It helps if they are also uniquely placed throughout the website and hold synergy between the rest of the content.

When a branding effort is executed with a well-defined strategy and nurtured with perpetual maintenance, the organization as a whole begins to flourish as a credible source of information and a valuable resource to its members, O’Brien says.

So remember, in the same way that an ironclad stamp on a herd of livestock immediately identifies its owner, your association should strive for instantaneous and undeniable brand recognition on every piece of marketing material it produces.

Emily Randisi is a marketing associate at Bates Creative Group. Follow her on Twitter.


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