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January 13, 2011 
 
 
Breakthrough Branding

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Carol Cone is known as the "mother of cause marketing" for her work on campaigns such as the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women, Avon's Breast Cancer Crusade, and ConAgra Food's Feeding Children Better. We spoke to her yesterday about a book she co-authored with three other non-profit veterans, Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding.
 
Carol Cone
Branding is a dirty word to many organizations, says Carol, explaining that they think it's all about marketing and not mission. But an authentic brand appeals to the "head, heart, and hand." To achieve that, organizations need to determine what they do better than anyone else, create an emotional bond, and engage people into their cause. One of the first and most critical steps is determining the organization's focused, compelling identity. "Focus is your friend. It helps you pick what you're going to do and what you're not going to do."
Carol Cone
She points to a small organization in Austin, TX previously called Admission Control, which provides college access and support services to underserved young people. Its name was such an impediment that it would get calls for the space program. The non-profit did some focus groups to determine what it really stood for and realized it not only wanted to help young people get into college, but move forward in their lives. That led to a new name for the organization: College Forward. But the introspection also led the non-profit to an expansion in services for mentoring and support throughout college. College Forward has since grown from a budget of $200K to $1.8 million over four years. "More people came forward because they were clear about what they did. It became their rallying cry," Carol says.

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Branding—Not Just for Cattle
 
Bates Creative Group president Debra Bates-Schrott
For more on branding, we headed to Association Media & Publishing's event yesterday. Bates Creative Group president Debra Bates-Schrott spoke about the role of a name. She says it should represent what the organization is about and what the membership is looking for. But for many organizations, their initials represent something in the past or their terminology is no longer appropriate to the world today. Others rely solely on their tagline because their name means absolutely nothing. The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) recently decided to drop the word "association" from its name altogether and rebrand itself as LeadingAge to reflect its innovating and forward-thinking approach. Debra says organizations should also consider how the names of their events, publications, and websites relate to the organization's name. Land Trust Alliance, for example, changed the name of it's magazine from Exchange to Saving Land. "It gets to the core of what the organization is about," Debra says.
Mark O'Brien, president of web developer Newfangled
Mark O'Brien, president of web developer Newfangled took on the topic of web branding. Your homepage should not just be your homepage, he says, but every single page on your website. "Go to each page of your site and say, 'If this is the first page I ever saw on this website, would I have any idea what to do? Would I know what this company is? What this company does?'" Mark says every page should have different points of engagement geared toward people in different buying stages. That could range from donating or signing up for membership to attending an event or simply connecting through social media or subscribing to an e-newsletter. He compares it to a walk in the woods: When you know where you are and the trails are marked, you might take a 20-30 minute walk. The moment you don't know where you are anymore, the walk is over and your entire objective becomes to get out of the woods. "This also goes for your website. You want your users to feel comfortable and always have a sense of place."
American Institute of Physics marketing director of magazines Jeff Bebee
American Institute of Physics marketing director Jeff Bebee learned the importance of branding the hard way. When the AIP and the IEEE Computer Society decided to co-publish a magazine-like journal called Computing in Science & Engineering 11 years ago, they thought they had a winning publication. It had ten times the readers of other journals with a tenth the subscription price, plus an award-winning cover illustrator. "Who needed branding?" Jeff says. But it didn't work. In fact, it had double digit renewal declines. "The magazine had been out 5-6 years, and I'd go to a conference and everybody would go, 'Oh is this a new journal?'" At first, Jeff attempted direct mail promotions, but they weren't cost effective. Then, he went to the 10 science societies under AIP's umbrella and asked them to put an insert in their membership dues. The members would get a deal or discount and the societies would get a 15% commission. That helped grow the revenue until renewals started going online, so he looked for new promotions through conferences or sample giveaways. Over the past three years, one affiliate society went from 20 subscribers to 300. Even more satisfying: "People don't come up to me and say, 'Is this a new journal?'"
 
Send story ideas to reporter Jessica Sidman, jessica@bisnow.com.
 
 
 
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