Whether your organization or business is a staff of one or hundreds, branding is an important element that makes your organization stand out and gives it credibility, but often is one of the last things on your list. It’s considered or thought of as a “nice to have”, or if in place already, not refreshed or promoted often. Branding is vitally important because it “socializes” your organizations, it ensures people trust and are comfortable with what you do and also helps them remember you, keeping what you do and why you do it at the top of mind. Branding should represent your vision, mission and values clearly to your audience.
Here are some simple suggestions to make sure your organization stand outs with its branding using minimal time and money investments:
- If you don’t have a logo and some brand standards in place invest right away in them. The Greater Mankato area is not only home to some very talented agencies but is also home to five higher education institutes, utilize them! Contact the internship coordinators or department chairs in marketing/graphic design to find a student who is looking for experience. Or put a post on LinkedIn, LinkedIn is becoming more and more prominent in connecting professionals and people looking for experience.
- Evaluate: does your current brand portray what you want to portray? Does it communicate the message you want it to? If not, or if you are not sure contact those higher education institutes again, or if budget allows a local creative agency to help you work through a redesign plan.
- If you have a brand in place, use it and stick with it. Use your colors, fonts and logo on everything, from the paint colors in your office to letterhead, websites, fliers, social media … anything your organization does or touches. When the greatermankato.com website was designed we frustrated the designers by limiting their colors choices to gray and red with white and black as accents. Was this fun for our department to work with? No. But in order to be consistent with our brand promise we have developed it’s what we stick with to deliver the experience our audience has come to expect.
- Wearables, get them. They are a relatively inexpensive way to turn ourselves and fellow employees into walking billboards. Think outside the box, from the regular T-shirts to hats, buttons or even nametags. Think about the product or service you provide, does any certain kind of garment make more sense for your line of work?
- Have meetings in your office. In the nonprofit world we aren’t known for our high-rise, pent house offices, but that’s OK. The space is often limited in nonprofit offices and often time employees go out to meet with others at their office. Put some time into tidying up your space if necessary and branding your area, then invite people to see and experience the authentic organization you are. It allows them to meet other staff, see how you work and ask questions off of their experience.
- Free isn’t always the best option, it’s hard to control. Now in the first couple bullets I mentioned students. Students and volunteers are always a great idea but make sure they align with the work you need done closely. Make sure they match well and they are willing to make the changes and work toward your end vision. When you pay someone for a job you are paying for a license to get the exact product you would like in the end. Sometimes with students/volunteers their time and/or experience is limited, keep that in mind — you know what is the best fit for your organization. There is no one size-fits-all answer, but knowing your options is a great foundation to explore what meets your needs best.
Branding can be an overwhelming idea as it contains many pieces that work closely together. Don’t underestimate the value of consistency in branding. Set your guide and follow through with it in everything you do.
Amy Linde is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Greater Mankato Growth.