Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

Managing Your Brand: Appoint an Identity Czar

No, we’re not talking about a police state or identity theft.

An Identity Czar, also known as the Identity Police or the Branding Guru is the go-to person in your organization who can assess whether any communications material conforms to the brand standards. The Identity Czar is, essentially, the keeper of the brand.

Brands can deteriorate over time if they are not maintained. Just like a mission can drift, so can a brand. It may seem refreshing to send out a fundraising appeal that departs from the brand standards. But too many variations add up to a fractured identity, and a confusing client or donor experience. If nobody is keeping an eye on the message and tone of the materials you send out, it becomes difficult to be unified.

The role of the Identity Czar is to ensure that the brand is accurately represented across mediums. This is especially critical in situations where an outside design firm develops the brand and the organization employs freelancers for ongoing work. An Identity Guide is an excellent reference, but it can’t cover every possible branding circumstance. This is why it is so helpful to have a single person in charge of interpreting the Guide.

This person doesn’t have to be a designer. She also doesn’t need to be called the Identity Czar. (Branding Ninja, anyone?)  Often, the Director of Marketing, Communications or Development takes this role. Sometimes it is the Executive Director. Anyone who participated in the branding process and is familiar with the intimate details such as tone, message and persona can do this job. If you’re working with an outside design firm, they can teach you to learn what to look for.

Giving one person this responsibility makes it easier to keep an eye on the variety of materials being produced. It is important that the person is officially appointed so that their role is not questioned. The Czar is not creating the brand. The Czar’s role is simply to enforce what the entire communications team has already agreed upon.

After investing time and money into developing your organization’s brand, appointing a brand czar will help maintain the consistency (and therefore trust) that you’ve put so much work into developing.



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Affection, branding, and soap.

Affection, branding, and soap.

As much as we want our business to be the best in our field, sometimes the brutal truth is that we are one of many excellent companies. Small businesses can come to dread the idea of competition, and often the idea of having to compete can keep people from promoting their services. You can narrow down your client base, but usually, there are still a lot of people serving the same audience.

So, how do you build a brand around a business like this?
Let’s look at some big brands. Not the exciting ones, like Apple or Nike, but brands for an everyday product: soap.  Neutrogena, Dove, and Aveeno are all brands at a similar price point, aiming for the same general customer. There are some product differences, but essentially they all do the same thing.

The first level of differentiation is in how each brand frames the idea of skincare. Neutrogena emphasizes healthy skin. Dove emphasizes moisturizing cleansers. Aveeno emphasizes natural ingredients.

One of these brands takes differentiation to the next level by going beyond product differences.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty promotes the idea that all women are beautiful. This has nothing to do with the quality of Dove’s products, but it is persuasive in positioning the brand as pro-women and body positive. Women have talked about (and been internally tortured by) the unreasonable beauty standards set for women for decades, and Dove finally listened. Dove is the only skincare brand that shows up as shared content on my social media feed. It gets shared because the message is powerful. Dove has connected to a powerful “why” for their brand, and people pay attention.

So what does this mean for your business? Even in a crowded and competitive field where you can’t demonstrate that you are significantly better than other service providers, your brand can stand out.

You can stand out by:

the way you speak to your audience
the values you hold
the way you deliver your service
You can stand out by standing up for what you believe.

Dove is an excellent example of an ordinary brand that has hugely distinguished itself through brand messaging — they were clear on their purpose and chose a mission that would resonate with their audience, not a coincidence! Dove makes fine products. One aspect of their brand focuses on promoting features of their product, but they distinguish themselves by the way they talk to their audience.

Can you think of the “why” behind Neutrogena or Aveeno products? Maybe these companies have decided on this internally, but it’s not as clear or as compelling in their messaging as the Campaign for Real Beauty is for Dove.

Questions for reflection:

What aspects of your purpose will most resonate with your audience?
What can you do to align your messaging with that purpose further?

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Your Brand

Your Brand

Your brand is the total experience of your organization. Your brand is your personality, your reputation. It is what you are known for.

Your brand is your story.

Everything that your organization does and says should support and reinforce the brand. It is the way you speak and write. It is the way you use imagery and video. It is the choices that you make, such as supporting this event and not that one.

Branding is not a shallow endeavor.

It goes to the very deepest core purpose of your organization. Branding unifies and explains. Branding infuses your mission and your values into every experience and interaction you have with your audience.

Your brand is not your logo. Your brand is what your logo represents. It is the people you hire, the office culture you create, the unique quality that you bring to the work you do.

Your brand is how people feel when interacting with your business. Create an experience that aligns with your customer’s values, and you’ll insert yourself into their lives in a way that seems effortless, and keeps them coming back for more.

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