Here’s part II of yesterday’s post . . .
Brand Effectiveness Key to Membership Growth – Part 2
In Part One, we discussed using in-depth member survey work to boost the visibility, awareness and effectiveness of your organization’s brand, and how it can directly impact your ability to recruit and retain members. If your organization isn’t the first thing member prospects think of when they turn to industry issues, there’s work to be done.
Your survey may provide mixed results that don’t show a clear direction. Often this is an indication that there is a disconnect between the brand you put out to the external world, and the one you use to craft the questions! That alone tells you something, and a series of follow-up interviews with the same basic set of queries to the external and internal groups should help clear up the discrepancy.
Other sources of data can help you check your brand effectiveness as well. Interviews with those alternate stake holders should be couched slightly differently, and can use more “insider jargon” in the questions, as their awareness starts off at a higher level. They can give you a median read, between the internal and the external, and this can often help you reconcile the disparate results mentioned above.
An inventory can be helpful in analyzing your brand’s effectiveness. Simply create a list of all the places where your brand appears, in what context, what medium, attached to what product, message or outreach vehicle, and see if they seem to have an obvious pattern, if they are aligned. Often pulling samples from the archives and lining them all up together can be very enlightening. You may be unaware of a brand shift that may have occurred over time, small miscues that send a less the consolidated message to the recipient. One example of this is when an outsource vendor or contractor uses your brand in their program, and it doesn’t match your normal set of brand characteristics. If you are seen as a very sophisticated, august and professionally ethical branded organization, and an outsider puts your logo as a sponsor on a ticket giveaway coupon for a concert, that would be a brand slip or miscue. If several of these items have crept into your inventory, it may be time to put some tighter controls on the use of your brand, and provide some increased education within the organization about the importance of protecting the brand and how to use it properly.
Top of Mind
Keeping memorability high is another positive effect of a well –aligned and effective brand. If your brand is consistent with individual experience, that experience will be more memorable. L.L. Bean shows a great example of this. Their “Return any time, no questions asked” return policy has been with them since virtually the beginning of the company. They were so confident in the quality of their products, they couldn’t dream of anyone sending them back, and thus the perceived risk of such a policy was low. That policy became part of their brand, and is now a deeply embedded positive characteristic, so much so that there was near revolt when a senior staffer proposed eliminating it to help save money. As it turns out, their return rate is notably lower than their competitors, and the savings realized would have been more than offset by the damage to their brand as a trusted, honorable retailer of fine outdoor merchandise. As a result, when you get an L. L. Bean catalog in the mail, you instantly put in the back of your mind that the purchase from there is of lower risk, and therefore a greater possibility, as a result of that policy. That gives them a competitive advantage, and keeps their customer retention high and their loyalty even higher, due to the memorability of that policy.
Brands Aren’t Built In A Day
If you’ve launched a new product, are a new organization or subgroup within a larger organization, you know the difficulty of setting the stage for a lasting brand. It takes many, many customer touches to build a brand effectively, and with non-profit, member driven organizations, the rate of touch is often affected by budgetary constraints. That puts the building process on the slow track, as the mailings, e-mails, directories, guides, meetings and other activities slowly mount up in the member’s mind. Each piece of the building process must be consistent, and have relevance and meaning for the recipient, or you undo much of the positive work up until then. Be patient. It can take years for an organization to reach a highly memorable, effective state with its brand, and many a good program has been discontinued by impatient senior staffers with a more cautious eye on the bottom line than knowledge of the branding process and its benefits.
If your brand message aligns with expectations, your touch rate is predictable and rising, and your organization has shown relevance for the audience it wishes to serve, you’re on your way to a highly effective brand.
If you’re concerned about your brand’s health, effectiveness or strength, and would like to take advantage of our expertise on these topics, be sure and subscribe to this blog, and pick up a copy of “The Marketing Doctor’s Survival Notes”