Focus Or Die The New Branding Imperative For Associations

Today’s association model, created more than 100 years ago, is dying. The days of homogenous markets are long gone. Industry consolidation and globalization have rendered many trade association’s traditional member markets virtually unserviceable. Increased competition and higher member expectations have combined with market changes to create an environment that is hostile to the broad-based association trying to serve a complex and diverse member market.

These macro and irreversible trends have resulted in an unprecedented quandary for most associations: Do we continue attempting to serve an increasingly diverse member market? Or do we refocus to serve a member market that has changed significantly from the one that the association was designed for?

In the past, the typical association’s approach was to focus on members’ considerable common interests and needs. They have a predisposition to the member market as it has been. “We serve CPAs.” “Automobile dealers are our members.” “We serve physicians.” “Manufacturers are our members.” And so on. They act as if nothing has changed, when the reality is that fundamental and irreversible changes have taken place in their member markets.

Now common interests and needs are scarce. As a matter of fact, the interests of one member are sometimes diametrically opposed to those of another member.

What is an association to do?

When you boil it all down, there are only three options:
* Continue to struggle with divergent interests and needs OR
* Organize and structure to meet diverse needs OR
* Focus solely on the needs of a definable segment

The first option is not defensible. For an association’s governance and management to acknowledge the situation and its consequences, but do nothing, would represent a major failure in their obligations. This would be like a newspaper seeing the impact of digital information alternatives and saying they’re not going to do anything differently.

The second option has been tried but with marginal success in most cases. Ask any association with sections, special interest groups or divisions, “How are they working?” and the answer will be “It varies. A few work well, some do OK, and others do poorly.”

The last option, focusing on the needs of a definable segment, is the radical solution to relevance.

Does focusing solely on the needs of a definable segment mean yours will be a smaller association? It might. If it looks that way, ask yourself: “Would our members want to belong to a large association or an association that helps them perform and succeed?” For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) and its constituent state and local societies have been unable to serve a population of doctors who are increasingly diverse in practices and interests. Hand surgeons don’t need the same information as family practitioners. Hospital-based physicians require different advocacy than rural, solo practitioners. And plastic surgeons have little, if anything, in common with pediatricians.

While the American Medical Association’s membership and market share have plummeted, the number of specialty and subspecialty medical societies has grown. The American Board of Medical Specialties certifies physicians in more than 145 specialties and subspecialties. With an average estimated membership of 5,300 in a specialty organization, more than 768,500 physicians could be members of these groups compared to the AMA’s membership, which estimated only represents 135,300 ‘real, practicing physicians’.

The growth of associations over the last 50 years shows almost all of them with a narrower focus than their predecessors, indicating that those associations with a precisely defined member market are in demand and succeeding. Their mission is clearer with a well-defined market. Their value proposition is stronger because their programs and services are more focused. Their organizations are more efficient because their resources are more concentrated. Their communications improve with more targeted messaging. Their competitiveness is enhanced with efforts dedicated to a more distinct market. The key to success is brand relevance: focus energy and resources on meeting well-defined member needs and problems rather than trying to be all things to all people in hopes of maximizing membership and dues income.

Vital Points In Coming Up With The Right Branding

Although branding is known to be quite advantageous for businesses, there are still entrepreneurs who are not serious with their efforts on this. Despite the tons of jargons as well as do’s and don’ts on the matter, there is still a lack of logical standpoints on how branding can benefit businesses and how it can be done.
Experience the advantages of branding by implementing these four vital points in your own methodology:
Perform some research.
Consumers generally buy products or services if they believe the worth is far more than their price. They lean towards availing of items that carry renowned names in the market that they belong in. To make sure that your business will share the same success, you should perform some research on how this kind of value can be gained from your offer, so your prospects will buy from you.
You should not concentrate your efforts on the tangible benefits though. You should also consider what intangible significance you can add on your offerings. The experience that comes along with your services or products is believed to be of the same value as that of its price or quality.
Develop your strong suit.
You will catch your target market’s attention if you will give them what they need and want from your items. Learning and developing your strong suit in branding will enable you to do this. It lets you determine what to concentrate on your methodology. For a foolproof branding formula, make sure you start with setting up the foundations for your business’ value before proceeding to focus on the emotional aspects of your target market. This is very efficient in converting doubt into trust among consumers who don’t go for market newcomers. You can accomplish this by placing additional value on your offerings that will put you one step ahead of your competitors.
Position yourself strongly.
You should position your brand as being focused more on your target market and what you can offer them and vice versa. Do not claim that you are best, but instead say that you are so because of your customers. Dig into your prospects’ psychographic patterns and learn what will catch and hold their attention to your brand. Many people will appreciate you more if you have branding that is more focused on the consumers than one centred on you.
Bring your personality into your brand.
It is best to regard your branding as something of a preliminary meeting with an extremely distinguished firm. Think about how you wish for your prospects to consider your branding and your business during the course of this dialogue. Friendliness and warmth may be appreciated by some, but there are others that go for the more aloof stance that delivers the quality service or product.
It would also be very beneficial to look into the demographics of your target market. This is critical for your branding strategy because this where the foundation of your brand identity and its technicalities will be based. This will not only have an effect on your business’ position towards your prospects and clients. This will also affect your colour usage, your offer’s ambiance and the entire experience your target market will have with your brand.
For more information on branding, be sure to click on the link provided in the resource box below.

Keys To Choosing A Business Name For A Business Start-up

Business names are like noses. Everyone has one but not all of them are that pretty. LOL The fact is this… the way you present yourself with your business name will make the difference in how successful you are, with all other things being equal.

The Search For A Business Name

You may ask yourself, what is in a name anyway? Well, truthfully, in reality, there isn’t a lot. If you think about it, a business is a still backed by the same people off the same services if they are called Xeriphylic or “Lawn Moisture.” But the fact is this, there is a big difference perceptionally. The first one is actually very hard to remember and spell. The second is easy to remember, spell, and actually gives the potential client an idea of what your company does!

The business name that you choose should not exist in isolation, but as part of an overall strategy. Naming a business is not only where you start as the business’s founder, but also where the consumer starts. Choose the wrong name and your business will falter.

How to Name Your Business With A Brand In Mind

The first thing you need to do is to decide what you want your new business name to communicate. I happen to think that a business name should accurately describe what you do without someone having to ask. To me, having a good business name is the purest form of advertising. Every time you say the name of the business it gives an opportunity to make an impression.

Not Very Creative? Get Help Choosing Your Business Name

Brainstorming can be an excellent way to generate good ideas. I like to use the branch method of brainstorming for 10 minutes. Then I go over my ideas and group them. I then take combinations and even partial word combos and see what I can find. Important also to me is whether or not the domain name is available for the business, because I want it to be unique and to be able to have the .com address for my business name.

I would not recommend making your first or last name a part of the business name. Like Joe’s Plumbing. What if you sell the business? Think about “Roto Rooter?” That name says it all and is franchisable. For a website design business does “Chandler Web Design” sound better or does “Website Interactive?” It is so easy to see that the later business name is much better. Also don’t make the name hard to spell or remember. Think about it. You will have to use this name all the time. Make your business name an asset. Choose wisely and you will not regret it!

The 7 Secrets Of Successful Corporate Rebranding

Here are seven rules of the road to avoid the naming wheel of pain and ensure a successful outcome:

1.Get Serious

Corporate renaming is not a game for the inexperienced. Getting a group of students in a room with beer and pizza, as one General Counsel of a major corporation suggested, is guaranteed to fail. Find a professional branding company that has done it before. Make sure they have resources in-house. Check references, talk to the team members about their experience and their philosophy of naming. And above all, make sure they understand your business and how it works.

2.Look two steps ahead

Names should be created for tomorrow and not just for today. Enough time should be spent analyzing the market, identifying opportunities for differentiation and setting the appropriate strategic naming objectives to be used for the name evaluation process. In today’s highly competitive environment, the strongest brands are the ones that transcend the physical attributes of a product or service to form an emotional connection with the customer. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, deliberately picked a general, non-product specific name because he knew he’d eventually be selling more than books.

3.Get uncomfortable

Step outside the comfort zone of your industry and the competition. Look for inspiration outside your category and learn from completely unrelated brands. Names created in this way have the advantage of being more readily available from a trademark perspective since they go beyond the common category descriptors into fresher territory. AirTouch Cellular launched as a spin-off from Pacific Telesis completely broke the mold of the “com, cell, tel” names and was a resounding success in the marketplace, but it was a difficult choice for senior management because it was so unfamiliar. They were ecstatic about the name however when AirTouch was acquired for $68 billion.

The lesson: names that make you feel uncomfortable at first should not be dismissed. Usually these are the ones with impact and differentiation in the marketplace. Winning names don’t always rise to the top immediately; they need time to sink in.

4.Avoid the “CEO’s wife” syndrome

When it comes to final name selection, avoid the informal focus groups with your nearest and dearest. It is not a popularity contest. A small team of the key decision makers who have a good understanding of the business and strategic objectives should select the final name. Senior management needs to be involved throughout the process.Do not evaluate the names based on a like/ dislike basis, but more on a “fit-to-concept” scale. Every new name will look strange at first. Remember the strategic objectives you set up at the beginning of your process? Now is the time to use them. Check each name against these criteria.

5.Be prepared to fight for your name

A major difficulty of corporate naming today is legal availability. It is often said that every word in the dictionary is legally encumbered. That’s why you’ll rarely find a new corporate name based on a word that can be found in the dictionary.A more usual route is a hybrid name made up of two word parts, such as Agilent, Entergy and Verizon. They sound familiar, but they are clearly manufactured words, thereby being all the more ownable and unique.

Build in enough time for full legal investigation. There’s a chance that the name will be in use by a company somewhere for a product or service, however marginal. Be prepared to negotiate.

6.Listen to your target audience

If appropriate, test the old name alongside new alternatives. Again, the criteria is not like/dislike but “fit” can this name carry the meaning of the company in the future? The key in naming research is to listen carefully for things that can be overcome (e.g., neutral to negative associations, etc.) and for things that need to be addressed, such as inappropriate translations. Even if you are solely US-based business, we live in a very diverse country and cannot ignore key languages such as Spanish and French.

7.Let everybody know the smart, strategic vision behind the new name

Have a well-planned and well-executed communications campaign to support the new name. People need to understand how they should think of a new name. Your internal audiences are the most critical for the success of the new name. Employees are the ones who have strong emotional attachments to the old name; they are also the ones who will “live” the new brand on an everyday basis and they should feel good about it. The goal is to use internal communications to raise employee morale and excitement about the name by building awareness, generating acceptance and sustaining commitment. In this way, you enable them to better understand the transition, the new brand promise and create a “rally call” for success.

And remember – a name’s ultimate meaning is always the result of ongoing communications and people’s experiences with an organization and its products and services. Just think of Google, Amazon and eBay, or Shell and Kodak for that matter.

Learning More About Corporate Branding Strategy

The principal goal of corporate branding is to ensure that both a company and the products and services that it offers stand out above the competition. Corporate branding strategies are developed with this goal in mind. Competition in the business world is fierce and both achieving and maintaining reputation, presence, production, and capabilities requires a substantial amount of revenue.

A corporate branding strategy seeks to create a unique identity, presence, and position for products, services, and companies. Most importantly, a strong brand both builds and maintains brand and product recognition in the minds of consumers. A corporate brand is also the strategy of a business, what the corporation is currently doing, and what it hops to achieve, which incorporates the personality, values, vision, and other aspects of the business.

Disney, for example, has a very different brand feel than Nike does. We know that Disney stands for family entertainment, classic animation, Walt Disney World, Mickey Mouse, etc. Nike, on the other hand, stands for high performance athletic shoes. Both Disney and Nike use product placement to reinforce their brand image and bolster their corporate branding strategies.

When you purchase pudding cups for your children’s lunches that feature Disney characters on the package, you subconsciously associate Disney with products intended for children. If you are participating in a walkathon and someone hands you a water bottle with the Nike Swoosh logo on it, you subconsciously associate Nike with athleticism. By simply including the name of a company in a product, brand recognition can be achieved. That pudding in the Disney example was Disney chocolate pudding, and the water bottle in the Nike example, is now a Nike water bottle by virtue of the addition of the logo.

As a company grows and expands its product base, brand synchronization also becomes necessary. A clothing company, for example, may have clothing lines for men, women, and children, and may employ slightly different marketing and corporate branding strategies to target these different demographics. A basic, underlying branding strategy is needed to tie these three separate types of products together. The Gap, for example, has an underlying brand of casual, stylish, comfortable clothing. Retailers like Target and Wal-Mart have branded themselves as purveyors of affordable clothing for the entire family.

Developing a corporate brand strategy takes time and research, but the result is a tightly focused dynamic brand, are well worth it. No business can expect to succeed in today’s competitive market without first defining what both themselves and their products stand for and how they differentiate from the competition.