The C.R.U.X. of Branding

20 Sep

From my presentation on September 19 in Tampa Bay at the 2nd Annual Not-For-Profit Workshop

Before we dive into tips and tactics around branding, let’s start by defining branding since there is a lot of debate about what it is and why it’s important. Here’s my definition of branding: Building an emotional attachment to a business service or product.

Why is it important to build an emotional attachment? Because emotion is like an elephant.

Here’s what I mean by that.

In their book Switch authors Chip and Dan Heath use a metaphor to describe your mind. They say your mind has an emotional side and a practical side. The emotional side is like an elephant. The practical side is like the rider on the elephant. The rider can direct the elephant, but as you know, the elephant is much stronger and if it gets its way, it will overrule the rider.

We had a question submitted in advance about the difference between branding and marketing and which is more important to your not-for-profit.

My answer is that marketing is the rider. Branding is the elephant. The marketer’s job is to motivate the elephant then to direct the rider with targeted messaging,

Now, branding, like elephants, is big and complex. So, to help you wrap your arms around it well use the acronym, CRUX.

That’s right: C.R.U.X.

Let’s start with C.

C – Clarity

Effective branding starts with a clear vision of who you are, the people you serve and the service you provide. How important is this? Well 60 years after its launch, dozens of competitors in the field, Tide laundry detergent is one of the top sellers. Why? Because Tide is still about helping moms make it easier to make whites whiter. 

Do any of you sense there’s lack of clarity around your not-for-profit’s mission? Gather a team of your key leaders and conduct a S.W.O.T. Analysis. This is where you determine your organizations strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

One way to help ensure you have clarity internally and externally is with a tag line also known as a slogan. Some people call it a positioning statement. I like to refer to it as the brand promise.

Now there are generally two types of brand promises:

The first type is the voice of the business – Such as Got Milk? Or the New York Times’: All the news that’s fit to print.

The second type is the voice of the consumer – Like “I’m lovin’ it” which of course belongs to McDonald’s.

Here’s a trick question: What’s Burger King’s tag line? Who knows?! Do they have clarity of vision? I saw on their Web site they now have Italian Basil Chicken Wraps.  Perhaps they lack clarity of vision?

When you think about your brand promise, try using those two different filters to see what works best for you. If you’re looking for a book to help guide you through that process try: P.O.P. by Sam Horn

R – Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Who can finish this line: “Morgan and Morgan — for….the people.” Of course everyone in TampaBay knows this line because John Morgan has said it a million times on TV and radio.

That’s good marketing. You’re saying, “But I don’t have John Morgan’s budget!”

Who does?! Don’t worry, there are still ways you can repeat, repeat, repeat on a shoestring. Here are a few ideas:

  • First, become the go-to source for media on your topic. Reporters are just like the rest of us. They’re busy and they want to get their story written so become their go-to source on your subject. Give the reporter a call who covers your beat or the editor of the local section. (Sorry, you can’t buy them lunch of coffee). Know the beat they’re on, when their column generally appears in the paper, do not send files with large photos, try a catchy subject line. Ernest Hooper of the Tampa Bay Times says he gets dozens of email that say “Press Release” that he may open, when he gets one that says: “Hey Ernest open this!”, or “I Love you Ernest”, he will open it. If you have an event that you want to get in the Times’ calendar email it to: calendar@tampabay.comat least two weeks prior to the date. Be sure you include these things:
    • A contact number
    • Time, date, location and cost if any
    • Web site and phone numbers for publication
    • A bit about the event and other specifics, like does the festival have a car show, kids activities, arts and crafts.
  • The second thing you can do to increase repetition and awareness is to make sure you’re doing all the easy and obvious things: wear a professional looking name tag when you’re at meetings with your company’s name on it, change your email to, provide t-shirts or window clings as gifts or prizes to people who interact with you online, these things have a shelf-life and continue to brand. Of course social media: Mention your donors on Facebook or Twitter when they do something newsworthy so you can share it and have it shared by others.
  • The third suggestion is to find partners: You have a brand that for-profits, who have a budget, want to partner with. Find out who has similar interests and leverage each other’s databases.

Here are two examples:

* The Dali museum approached the Tampa Bay Times with the idea to promote preservation of their masterworks. We came up with a contest for people to send in photos of things they would like preserved in TampaBay. It was called treasures of your town. We got nearly two-hundred people to submit photos and with online voting, in paper ads and signage, there’s no telling how many additional impressions the Dali received.

* For the past 3 years the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts holds a 3-day sidewalk chalk festival in Hyde Park known as Chalk Walk. Last year we partnered with Ferman Automotive. Ferman parked one of their cars right on the berm by the sidewalk out front. They got infront of our audience and in tern, we got their support.

U – Understand your target audience

Knowing your target audience, inside and out, is critical to marketing success. Here are a few easy ways to understand your target audience that don’t cost a dime.

First, take a look at the kinds of cars you see most often in your parking lot or at your events. If they’re Lexuses, that tells you one thing. If they’re Mini-Van’s, that tells you another. Find out how far they drove to see you. Ask them how their weekend was and what they did. What’s the age range of the people you’re talking to? Do they communicate digitally or by phone?

Once you know the answers to these questions try creating a persona to bring it to life.

For we have three personas we market to: Pete and Marie, the yuppies with two-kids between the ages of 10 and 14 mid-to high household income always on the go, interested in things to do. Tb-tina* – the 29 year old who’s in the service industry and is always on the look out for drink deals and girls night out options, and Nelson the sophisticated traditional print reader who’s is retired but still active and is starting to get active online and even has a Facebook page to keep up with the grandkids.

When we market we think about how we can reach these audiences. We have photos of them and cheat sheets that describe their traits.

X – The X factor

The X – factor in branding is the element that makes you stand out from the crowd. The emotion that is inherent in your brand, the elephant that will carry that rider down the path.

For the American Cancer Society it’s the support they provide to loved ones struggling with the terrible disease. For the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts it’s the joy you have watching a performance or supporting a talented artist who’s trying to make ends meet or go to college.

To determine your X-Factor, start with an online survey like survey monkey the free online tool. Survey your internal and external stakeholders as well as the people you serve. Find out what they say makes you unique, compile the results, bounce them off a small group of decision makers, set your plan and execute.

Once you’ve got the C.R.U.X. down, you’ll have the foundation you need to create a brand that will last for generations.

11 Free or Cheap Branding Action Items

11. Conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis — gather a core team of key leaders and determine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

10. Create your brand promise – use the free site survey monkey to start honing in on what makes you unique.

9. Bring your target audience to life – Create the persona that will give you a name and a face to market to.

8. Conduct a brand inventory – figure out all the ways and places your name is mentioned from your Web site to your building, to collateral. Spread them all out on a table and determine if they’re consistent and impactful.

7. Create a brand experience – Let people interact with your brand, hold an open house, tour your facility, host an event (live or online!).

6. Solicit help from a university, ad agency or freelancer to create a professional, consistent look for your branding.

5. Get to know the media – Get help writing a press release. They work! And for a helpful service that will give your news some Google Juice, check out

4. Find some partners – Are there Lexuses parked in the parking lot at your event? Try forming a partnership with the local Lexus dealership to have cars parked on site at your next event. Tell them they’ll reach more “look alikes”

3. Get digital – build a database of all the people you come in contact with and ask if you can send them your free monthly email. Email marketing is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to market.

2. Stick with it – Once your team has determined your brand promise and your look – stick with it for at least 3 years, then survey to see if it is working!

1. Find the elephant and ride it – If there’s one thing that can overcome a small budget, small staff, no research team, just about any challenge and that’s a memorable, emotional appeal.



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