I had lunch with Chris Wolz a few weeks back. He's the chief tomato at Forum One - a well-respected consulting firm in DC. I've only chatted with him twice but I like his brain and this recent meeting didn't disappoint. He asked me a great question that I'm still mulling over.
I was chatting him up about my newest venture - www.emailforimpact.com - and telling him how exciting it is to build a brand from the ground up and he said,
"What is a successful brand? How will you know when you've arrived?
"Good questions," I replied. (Not feeling so brilliant after all.)
I have to fess up, I used to think branding was CRAP. To me it meant paying consultants 100s of 1000s of dollars to come up with a black and white and 4-color logo and a tag line like - "creating solutions for success" (What does that mean???!!!!) But thanks to the good thinking of Larry Checco and Qui Diaz, I'm now convinced that branding is the life blood of any organization and comprises much more than adding "sparkle" to your blog. (Thank you Taughnee!)
Branding is what you do and don't stand for. It's is about how you act in public and behind closed conference room doors. It's what you say to a donor when you F##$$% UP and how your turn a volunteer away. In short, it's your organizational identity.
If I'm right on this count, then it stands to reason that a good brand (you do want a good brand, don't you?) embodies good values like honesty, integrity, accessibility, fairness, authenticity, etc. Take your pick.
In his great book, Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz also reminds us that branding is key to success when he says - UR the UE (You Are the User Experience.) What he means is that in the end of the day, your organization is no more nor less than how "Mary" describes it to her friend.
So here goes Chris. (Drum roll please.)
Successful branding is about becoming a better organization every day. It's about being more honest, more smart (OK, smarter :) ), more helpful and more fun to interact with so that clients, customers, employees, volunteers, donors, bloggers, etc. will want come back for more!
Take branding seriously and enlarge the concept to encompass more than your logo, tag line and "elevator speech." And for goodness sake correct your course if you're screwing up or rock on if you're on the right path.