Introducing the branding initiative

Introducing the branding initiative – Brand Talk

Chris Olson

Hello! Welcome to Brand Talk, the column devoted to association branding issues and activities. I’m Chris Olson, the lead strategist and coordinator of our association’s branding initiative. I bring to this project more than 19 years of marketing and communications experience, working exclusively with information professionals, their services, and their products. I’ve been an active member of our association since 1977 and have given numerous presentations and seminars on a variety of marketing topics and issues. The branding initiative is an endeavor I look forward to, and with your help. I believe we can successfully position ourselves to get the respect and visibility we deserve. Each month I’ll summarize our plans, objectives, and accomplishments as we work to establish a unique and strong brand image for our profession, association, and members.

The Brand Team

First, allow me to introduce the Brand Team, the core group of people responsible for bringing the brand to life. The team includes Valerie Cochran, an award-winning designer; Carmen Miller, an information professional with strong communications and web development skills; and talented and knowledgeable association staff members Lynn Smith, Doug Newcomb, Anthony Blue, Jeff Leach, and Natasha Jones. We will be working closely with the Public Relations Committee, chapter and division colleagues, vendors and partners, members and associates, educators and students–to name just a few. Our mission? To plan and implement branding and marketing activities designed to spotlight our professional endeavors, broadcast our messages, and establish our brand.

What’s the Plan?

Implementing a branding strategy will require enormous effort, time, and resources. We must create, coordinate, and deploy consistent messages that communicate our brand and image. We can’t settle for one-shot appearances or unclear statements. Today’s communication channels are jammed with messages. It’s a competitive world, and our brand has to stand out from the crowd. We have to stake out our position and never let our message waiver.

The Brand Team won’t be able to accomplish everything at once, and I ask for your patience. Our first year of activity will focus on laying the foundation–establishing our visual brand, fine-tuning our core messages, and empowering members to exemplify our new brand.

A New Image and Slogan

Linking messages to a strong, memorable visual image is a critical component of a branding strategy. The Brand Team is developing a fresh, new graphic image for the association–a logo that is unique, memorable, and easy to recognize. We have asked our designer to create a graphic that will symbolize a departure from traditional perceptions and will represent the cutting-edge knowledge and vitality of our profession. During the next few months, we will be creating the new logo and developing a graphic standards system. The standards will ensure that the logo is presented in a consistent way across all association materials, both print and electronic. We will create templates for different kinds of materials, giving divisions and chapters the option and the tools to include our new image in their publications and web sites.

While we work on the visual brand image, we will also be crafting possible slogans for our new brand. I expect our new logo and slogan to be ready when we launch our campaign six to nine months from now.

Brand Messages

Branding is more than a logo and slogan. It’s a memory. A perception. Branding strategies attempt to influence memories and perceptions at every point of contact a person has with a brand. That includes messages–what we say, our actions, and how we present ourselves. It means that every one of us is part of the branding initiative and a member of the team.

The comments and discussions surrounding the development of the slogan will yield valuable concepts for core brand messages–because before we can influence decision-maker perceptions, we’ll need words. Phrases, sound bites, “elevator speeches”–messages that clearly articulate what we want people outside our profession to know and understand about us. Our goal is to change public perceptions about us. It won’t happen overnight. It may take 12 or 18 months before plans and resources are aligned to successfully tackle this challenge.

On a Personal Note

The prospect of changing the perceptions of our profession is both exhilarating and daunting, and the endeavor will involve every one of us along the way. My vision? It starts with tenderly picking up our image, brushing off the dust, and repackaging it in ribbons and shiny new paper, topped with a greeting card that proclaims who we are, what we do, and that we have arrived!

Chris Olson currently coordinates association branding activities and is the principal consultant of Chris Olson & Associates. E-mail her at BrandTalk@chrisolson.com.

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