Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13


Branding and Brand Slaughter

I’ve never been a cowboy, but I know what branding is. Branding is taking a hot post and leaving a strong impression in the hide of a cow. Branding is leaving your impression at a soul-deep level. A business card or a slogan or a logo is part of it. But what impression are you branding into the pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system of those you want to influence? You’re either doing it toward your brand, or you’re moving away from it. You’re either in brand integrity or brand slaughter in the first, second, or third degree. Let me quote the famous philosopher Murphy. One of Murphy’s laws is that before you do something, you’ve got to do something else first. Before you create a culture, you need to visualize what that culture is.What is the reputation you want to earn? What do you want people to yell over the fence to their neighbor about you, about your synagogue, about your church, about who you are? What do you want people to be saying about you in a bathroom while you’re sitting in a stall with a closed door? That is the first thing before the first thing.Then, from there you say, how am I going to make that happen in their hearts and minds? How am I going to recruit, attract, engage, support, reprimand, and course correct? Everything comes from that. Until people get that, what does that look like in real life, in this petri dish called the church, the synagogue, the corporation, the family? It isn’t going to happen if you haven’t thought this out.

You may have to change a preexisting culture. The Lynchburg (Virginia) Symphony Orchestra had small audiences of gray-haired people listening to classics. For its Christmas concert in December 2018, it enlisted a children’s choir, a black gospel choir, an adult choir, narrators, and soloists. There was a whole culture of the area on stage and in the audience. The Symphony showed up and represented the new image of who it is. Now it is going backwards to figure out how to put that on paper and create a program of future work. Once a year, Tiffany & Co. invites 100 of their favorite customers to a big shindig. The year they included my wife and me, most of the people there were gray- haired white folks. They put us up at the Ritz Carlton at Central Park, and they took us out to dinners with limos and this fancy schmancy stuff. The centerpiece was at the Four Seasons Hotel to celebrate their extremely expensive Four Seasons culture. Tiffany & Co. are the best branders I’ve ever seen. But here is where they made a little mistake. They brought in Mary J. Blige, a rapper, to come in and entertain these primarily older white folks. Not thinking about your audience means big mistakes. Don’t get me wrong. It was pretty cool when you sit down to dinner and your initials are sewn into the napkin in the Tiffany color. That is brand integrity. But work backwards from your goals. Know what you want these 100 people coming in to say to their friends about how Tiffany treated them. Organizations must consider the feeling that they’re putting into people. Churches used to do that. Synagogues used to do that. I went to Catholic mass for

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