Wednesday, January 26, 2011
When I was in my 20s I worked for The Ritz Carlton. I spent my first two weeks on the job learning how to check-in guests and provide "world class customer service." I was also being indoctrinated into the Ritz Carlton culture.
It turns out the Ritz Carlton doesn't sell hotel rooms. It sells elegance. That's why rather than point to the Women's Room, all employees are urged to escort guests to the loo. That's also why my voicemail used to say, "Thank you for your call. Please leave your name and number and it will be my pleasure to serve you."
Ensuring that guests EXPERIENCE the Ritz Carlton as the most elegant place to sleep, eat and dream is key to its' brand promise. It's also what enables the hotel chain to charge a ridiculous $500 per night.
I was musing on my experience as an employee at The Ritz while attending, Breakthrough Branding for Nonprofits yesterday with Carol Cone and Jocelyne Daw. Specifically, I was reminded that a brand is SO much more than a logo or tagline. According to Cone and Daw (and I agree) "a brand is the set of expectation and beliefs that the marketplace has about you."
Think about that for a minute. It's deep.
What DO people think of your organization? Are you considered a leader in your field? Do you have a powerful rep that stands for something? Or, are you a unremarkable player? How do you know?
I know you are not the Ritz Carlton. Nevertheless, you have a brand. And, here's the really important part - a strong brand should help you to attract more funding, great employees and media attention. This isn't rocket science. It just makes sense. People want to affiliate with GREAT organizations!
What do you stand for?
The first step in getting a hold on your brand is to do a brand evaluation. This is a fancy way of saying that you should spend some time TALKING to your donors, members and volunteers to determine what they think about you. Engaging in a process like this can be eye-opening. At the very least, it will help you to stop navel gazing and see your organization from the inside out. Use the feedback to bring more FOCUS to your programmatic work.
Next, do some internal soul searching. What do you stand for? What do you do better than anyone else? What should you STOP doing tomorrow?
If you're interested in learning more about what it takes to build a "breakthrough brand," I encourage you to read the book. And, remember. Like it or not your brand is alive and well. Make sure the brand you have is the one you want.