Friday, August 25, 2006

Follow Microsoft and Mickey’s lead when it comes to program branding

Entry By Stacey Oelrich, Marshfield Area United Way, Community Relations Development Coordinator,

Quick—think about what ABC’s (the television broadcast company) logo looks like. Can you picture it? What about Disney? Or Starbucks? Chances are you can see these logos pretty clearly in your mind if you actually think about them. And there are probably hundreds of other symbols, words or graphics that you see in your day-to-day life that make you think of their corresponding company without giving it a second thought or much effort.

And that’s exactly what they want: to be instantly identifiable. Each of these companies have an entire staff working and researching on the best way to present their company.

They call it Branding, think of it as how you present your program in the community. Microsoft’s brand is worth 65 billion dollars. While a brand doesn’t directly generate revenue, it can influence if people remember your program.

Just like the supermarket, consumers pay more or go out of their way for name brand items. They do this because they recognize the name, trust or believe in the product and think it has benefits or a higher quality than its generic counterpart.

You can use these brand concepts to work for you. By choosing a logo, graphic or brandmark that represents your program and consistently using it, you are developing your brand. If you are a local office of a state or national organization (ex: our local United Way is under the parent organization of United Way of America) utilize the national logos, and find out what rules or regulations they require you to follow—this may already be a benefit of your membership dues. This takes a lot of the leg work away from your workload. Chances are, just like Microsoft, Disney and ABC, they used their resources to research, design and evaluate the most effective look and consistent message to present.

Your goal is to have an instantly recognizable logo that brings value to your organization. As people are “shopping” for programs, you’ll only benefit if they know your logo and trust your program. That’s why we ask you to include the United Way logo on your materials. We’re working towards a consistent, valuable brand—that you can benefit from.

If you don’t have a national affiliate you can brand your organization as well. Chose a logo, colors (around three, perhaps those in or that compliment your logo). Develop a logo that can be converted to black and white and grayscale for different printing projects.

Distinguish where you will place your logo: left, right, top, bottom? Once you decide, don’t change it! Don’t switch to green because you are sick of blue—this lessens the chance that people will immediately recognize your logo—which is working against your brand value.

It takes five different experiences to recognize and remember a logo or brand, and after this, people start developing a trust and relationship with your program’s branding. So as you’re getting sick of your logo or how you phrase your message, remember many people are hearing it for the first time.