One of the most critical aspects of becoming known in your field and having an impact in the education space is branding. Understanding what branding is and why it’s important will give you an edge over other organizations and competitors. But, before we dive into the importance of branding, let’s first recap the highlights from my previous post.
Branding is made up of three parts: a logo, identity elements and the brand itself. Many people tend to think a logo and a brand are the same thing, however, they are not. A logo is a graphic representation of an organization. The logo and brand are linked together by a family of identity (visual) elements, such as business cards, collateral, website, etc. The brand itself refers to how your organization is perceived. Your brand is about the emotional connection your stakeholders have with the work that you do. Developing a plan to execute the three elements of branding is called a brand strategy. Over time, executing this strategic plan results in brand equity—which is imperative for your organization’s success.
Brand equity refers to widespread recognition and loyalty, which is earned through consistent messaging and your organization’s ability to deliver on your mission and achieve impact. Brand equity can be achieved through consumer-based branding and service-based branding. Ultimately, target audiences are what differentiates the two. Each aspect of branding is vital to the success of an organization or company, and each element requires extensive thought and planning—resulting in a comprehensive brand strategy.
Consumer-based branding refers to the branding of products. For example, a toy company called GoldieBlox, which is less than 5 years old, has managed to disrupt their industry, inspire the next generation of female engineers and seize the attention of people across the country with their brand message—encourage women to build structures and write code from an early age to level the playing field in a male-dominated industry. GoldieBlox believes that girls can wear pink skirts and a tool belt at the same time. This compound message flows through every facet of the company, including their products and branding. Due to GoldieBlox’s uniform messaging and aligned visuals, the company has gained brand equity and customer loyalty, both of which help drive their business forward.
Service-based branding follows the same rules as consumer-based branding: construct a logo, create identity elements and a build a brand. A recent example of branding a service-based organization can be found in the newly launched Education Forward DC. Collaborative Communications partnered to develop the new brand and identity package, which included the logo, website and print collateral. As the branding gains momentum, so will brand equity. People will begin to recognize the logo and soon after that, the organization’s message will start to permeate the field.
When creating a new brand, the tasks can be overwhelming and it’s difficult to know where to begin. Typically, the process starts off with a great deal of research and in-depth conversations with the client, which lays the foundation for both the content and visual direction. It’s at this point, when the core message is determined—the message should be short and concise. In the case of Education Forward DC, the core message was “closing the gaps to move forward.” Those thoughtful and precise words paved the way for the messaging and the visual implementation. Let’s take a look at how those words influenced the concept of the logo.
The logo includes words and a symbol which is called a combination mark. The words show movement with the forward leaning “WA,” emphasizing their desire to move the DC education community forward. The message is reinforced with an arrow (symbol) to the right of the words. The small dark blue triangle in the middle of the symbol represents “closing the gaps” which is the cornerstone of their messaging. Both of these visual elements come together to create their logo, which is the foundation for the identity package. Aligning the visuals and content to create a strong brand strategy is essential for creating brand equity.
To better understand these top notch strategies and the weight they carry, we have to understand the “why” first. Why is branding important? Here are the reasons why companies and organizations utilize branding.
- Promotes Recognition
Branding is a key differentiator. When done well, a brand mirrors an organization’s strategic plan.
- Creates Clarity
Strong branding will carry an organization through the ebb and flow of unavoidable challenges in the education space.
- Generates Referrals
Creating a memorable and impactful brand is important. If someone has an exceptional experience with an organization, chances are that they will tell others about that experience.
- Sets Expectations
A brand is the origin of a promise to an organization’s key stakeholders. A consistent brand creates brand equity and credibility.
- Provides Direction for Staff
Communicating the goals of the brand strategy to organizational staff will provide them with clarity and help ensure their success and the success of the work.
- Increases Value
The value of most businesses come from intangible assets. An organization’s brand is its most powerful intangible asset.
Branding transcends the art of the logo and graphic elements. When you think about branding, everything from the identity package to the impact you have on your stakeholders makes up the brand—a promise to your constituents. This promise tells your audiences about the character of your organization, what you believe and the value you are going to provide. How does your brand impact how others perceive the work that you do?
Now that we understand the importance of branding, in my next blog we’ll address the significance of brand protection from both an internal and external perspective. First, we’ll focus on the internal protection, diving into brand guidelines and how to implement them for your organization. Then we’ll address the importance of protecting brands externally. Stay tuned!
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Facebook are the top five most valuable brands in the world for 2016 according to Forbes. What’s their secret to success? In my opinion, top notch branding strategies!
We hope you enjoy my blog series and if you have any suggestions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Collaborative we dedicate our work to supporting education and learning by helping a wide variety of education nonprofits with their communications needs. Click to learn more about Collaborative and our services.