By Jim Schnurbusch, OrgStory Founder/Brand Strategist
A strong Association brand must be more than just a name.
In today’s association environment, especially membership-based associations, many are struggling with member value that recruits and retains membership. If your association is wrestling with this, make sure your association is a brand rather than simply a name.
What’s the difference, you ask? The difference may be a vibrant, growth-oriented association compared to one that is trying to remain sustainable because it doesn’t have much to offer its members.
In today’s marketing-savvy world, most will describe their association as a “brand.” This is how most people describe most things. Unfortunately, the “laziness” that allows the brand label to be tagged on virtually every association, organization, program, etc. is not accurate.
Names are what your association is called. Brands are how your association is defined by the experience it offers for its members. Names, by themselves, don’t instill an emotional connection that brands create. Brands are the experience your stakeholders get when they engage with your association at every touchpoint a member has. And the experience is “aligned,” meaning membership will have an interaction with your association that is consistent regardless of where and how they come in contact with your association.
That call into your office is a brand touch point. Your annual conference is a brand touch point. Your association’s advocacy efforts are a brand touch point.
These touch points, plus many others, create a brand connection that goes well beyond a name connection or a logo impression. If your brand is effective, your stakeholders will know they’re experiencing your brand without ever seeing your association’s name.
Brands have a personality. Strong brands have both an external recognition (name, logo) and an internal “soul” that’s grounded in your brand’s story. Think of a person you know by name only or a best friend with whom you have a deeper relationship. Without story, there’s little, if any, opportunity to make an emotional connection that defines brands.
As your association considers how it must provide member value, perhaps the first step is to work harder at providing members a stronger association brand rather than just a name.
For some examples of brands we’ve helped develop for clients, visit our Work page.