Whether you like it or not, your club or association already has a brand. The brand is the way that people in your target market think and feel about your organisation as it stands today. These thoughts and feelings have been influenced by many things:
… and much, much more.
The strength of your brand, that is peoples thoughts and feelings toward it, will be influenced by all of these things and more. Your job is to ensure that this experience meets their expectations for the brand. This is important for a number of reasons:
1. A brand provides emotional engagement that influences choice
The human species is unique in many ways.
One of these is that we tend to make decisions based on emotion, then rationalise this with facts. Branding plays a big part in this decision. A strong and recognisable brand makes it easy for people to make a “short cut”, when they are thinking about a purchase decision. Instead of considering a number of options, the strong brand provides instant recognition and credibility and the other choices come off as second-best.
Think about a parents choice in buying a pair of running shoes for their child.
It is safe and easy for them to buy a brand like Nike or Adidas, rather than a generic brand from KMart, even though they are more expensive. This is particularly the case if the shoes will be seen as a status symbol for their child.
In reality, both pairs would probably last for the same amount of time and fit the same. The parent may have “felt” better about buying the branded product, a brand that has been around for a long time and to which this person has an emotional connection to, based on a whole number of factors. Its these ‘intangibles’ that make up the emotion of a brand. These might include the people at your venue, the person at the canteen, the location, the other people there, the way they are greeted and many other factors.
2. A brand gives confidence and re-assurance, leading to loyalty
Once people have experienced a brand and it has met their expectations (or exceeded them) they will have confidence in ‘buying’ another experience. They feel safe that the brand will perform to a certain level and they are happy to tell others about it. Provided you can deliver a consistent experience, people will start to become loyal to your brand. If you do this over an extended period of time, they will become raving fans, and can become your high level, unpaid sales team!
3. A brand allows you to charge more
The worst positioning to hold in the market is that of the cheapest provider. It means that you don’t have a real point of difference and anyone can come along tomorrow and charge less! People will pay more for a product or service that they trust and value, because they fear ‘taking a chance’ on buying something they are not really sure about. A strong brand conveys this and holds a position of strength as a result.
4. A brand differentiates you from the pack
Perhaps the single most difficult piece of thinking in business is this: “What makes me different from everyone else, and how do I prove it?”. Once you have decided this, a strong brand will communicate that difference and set you apart from your competitors. Its likely that you are offering similar tangible benefits to your competitors, which means your brand – the emotional connector to your product – does the work of giving them additional benefits – making them feel cool, clever or superior, and setting you apart.
Even better, the cost of marketing to your target market is reduced, because people know and understand who you are without having to tell them. This is one of the reasons referrals are CRITICAL for your basketball organisation to grow – its free and it means that you don’t have to communicate all the benefits of the brand to the new prospect.
5. A brand provides a platform for further growth
If you have a strong brand, expanding your club or association is easier. The recognition of your brand allows expansion into new markets and new services. If you already run a fantastic basketball competition, its a lot easier to start a holiday camp program, a ‘coach the coaches’ seminar or start selling branded t-shirts because people already trust you to do things in a particular way.
6. A Brand attracts a clear and specific target market
For your organisation to be successful you must be very clear about who you are targeting and develop a brand and message to match. You can’t be all things to all people. As well as writing down the kind of customers you want, you should be writing down who you don’t want. When you are clear about who you are looking for, you will find them more easily and they will be more engaged when you do.
7. A brand provides a foundation for communicating what you do
When your club or association is small, its a lot easier to control. As it grows, it will get pulled in a lot of directions, particularly from a visual point of view. People will ‘tweak’ the logo, a new brochure will look totally different to an existing one and the new set of uniforms will be a different shade of blue to the old ones (that still get worn).
A brand provides what I refer to as a ‘visual language’ – the look and feel of everything from business cards, to uniforms to signage. This is captured in a ‘Brand Styleguide’ – a document outlining exactly how the brand should be seen and heard in every situation.