Why Brand Identity Matters for Associations

What exactly is brand identity? (Spoiler alert: it’s more than just a logo.)

Is a Brand Identity important for associations? What exactly is a Brand Identity? Can a Brand Identity be explained? These questions are critical to ask yourself. If you can’t accurately define it, aren’t sure how to explain it, but are pretty sure it might be important, could you even come up with Brand Identity for your organization?

Yes. As a matter of fact, you’re probably further along in the process than you realize. It’s just a matter of analyzing what elements are already in place and what is needed to complement those items.

image of word brand with craneMaybe you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, we have a brand identity. We created a new logo last year.”

Good, you’re already on your way to making sure you have an established brand. The logo is a critical component. It is the foundation of a brand and gives a visual of your organization’s identity.

But what about the rest? What exactly is brand identity?

Branding Basics

Branding gives people a mental impression of your association. It makes your organization both recognizable and memorable. Consider the following quotes:

“Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be.” – Small Business Encyclopedia, entrepreneur.com


“Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice versa.” – Jay Bauer, author of the book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype

image of torn paper with monday motivation

Define Your Brand

Defining your association’s brand can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. The easiest way is to ask yourself the following questions:

-What are the benefits, features, and unique aspects of your association’s products or services?

-What do your members and prospective members already think of your association?

-What qualities do you want them to associate with your association?

Don’t be intimidated. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. Be honest with your answers. Authenticity is key in reaching your target market. Your members’ core values and goals should be at the forefront of your effort (for both this exercise and your overall mission, right?).

So, where do you go from here? You’ve successfully defined your brand, the next step is to capture that definition with a brand identity.

Establish Your Brand Identity

A brand identity should communicate your association’s promise, look, attributes, and personality. Yes, even personality. Business may be the name of the game, but don’t forget that businesses are made up of people and people inherently operate on an emotional level.

Your brand stands for what you are. It should represent the sum of all of your marketing efforts.

Creating a brand identity begins with a variety of elements:

Name: the word or words (e.g. Coca-Cola or Coke)

Logo: the visual trademark ( e.g. Quaker Oats Quaker man)

Tagline: a catchphrase or slogan (e.g. Snap, Crackle, Pop” – Rice Krispies)

Graphics: a clear and effective picture (e.g. Nike swoosh)

Colors: Owens-Corning is the only brand of fiberglass insulation that can be pink.

Sounds: a set of notes denoting a brand. (e.g. McDonald’s I’m Lovin’ It)

Remember, your association’s brand will be frequently communicated in multiple arenas. Consistency is key. Defining brand identity creates the foundation for the rest of your marketing and brand strategy.

There’s a challenge in defining your association’s identity. It’s easy to emulate what others have done, and that’s always a safe bet. It worked for them. But, that’s them. Remember, personality and authenticity are key. You may think your target market is very similar to theirs, and that could be true. But similar is still different. The differences may be subtle, but they are unique. Your association’s brand should be unique, too. Don’t be afraid to forge your own path.

SEE ALSO: Association Marketing Plan Basics »

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