Your association’s name is part of its brand but not all of it. The brand is your association’s promise to its members, customers and other stakeholders. It includes the name, tagline, programs and services that your association “delivers.”
Over the last couple of years Jim Schnurbusch (Founder + Chief StoryCrafter at OrgStory www.orgstory.org) and I have partnered in both renaming and rebranding projects for several associations.
So, I reached out to Jim and asked him his thoughts about the topic and what he would share with association executives. Here’s his response:
- Naming and branding are very different -- name is functional -- "what do we call it?"; a brand is experiential -- "how do we experience it/how does it make us feel when we're using it." Re-naming is giving something a new name; re-branding is giving something a new position that will elicit a new way for a target audience to think about whatever is getting re-branded. And I agree with you, these two terms get misused all the time. Most times, organizations will say, "let's rebrand" when they are really only talking about/willing to re-name.
- A re-branding effort goes to the core -- what's the organization stand for? How does it want to be positioned to those its serves/members -- in other words, what does it want to be known for by them? How does its products/services match up with the re-branding effort (organizations often are guilty of "re-branding" but do nothing to change culture, address/introduce products/services, change their visual and verbal communications, etc. -- and until you address EVERYTHING, you're really only just changing the name).
- As you said, the name is part of the brand -- but only part. Other aspects of the brand are far-ranging: how the receptionist answers the phone, product mix, pricing, location where meetings are held; colors; energy. Associations can address their brand even though they aren't a "place" -- what does the location for their meetings or conferences say about its brand? What about its recruiting materials and all of its communications; how about its leadership and their key messages? What about the types of programs they offer? The types of value-added membership benefits they offer?
- From my perspective, an association should focus more on rebranding (changing at the core) as opposed to renaming (changing at the surface) when its name reflects precisely the membership/industry it represents effectively and in a differentiated manner -- at this point, leave the name alone and work hard to re-energize the entire experience to make the association name become a brand (often we think our name is a brand -- often we're wrong!). However, if an association's name no longer accurately/appropriately reflects its membership/industry/focus or future, start by creating a name that does -- and build the brand around it.
Obviously, I agree with Jim.
And, I hope those of us working in the association management community will understand the distinctions between naming and branding and avoid using them interchangeably.