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Top Branding Tips from ASAE’s 2018 Great Ideas Conference

Marketing Audra Hopkins

Just yesterday, ASAE wrapped up its annual Great Ideas Conference for this year. The event was full of innovation, collaboration, and a ton of… well, great ideas.

Those who attended the event had a variety of presentations to enjoy. However, the one that seemed to spark the most excitement out of attendees were the Ignite session main speakers.

Yes, the main stage speakers had a lot of sage advice to give attendees looking for new ideas and solutions to their problems. There was talk about leadership, building up your community, thought diversity, and many other pertinent association-related topics.

However, one of the most-well received discussions that peaked our interest was the idea of branding. Specifically, how to strengthen both your brand and its credibility in order to drive success for your association.

William Espey, brand voice lead for Chipotle Mexican Grill, lead an insightful discussion on how associations can strengthen their brand from the inside out.

Yes, while it seems like Chipotle and associations don’t mix (besides for a great lunch), Espey had a lot to offer attendees about their own branding. So much advice that his discussion was included in Association Now’s article about the conference.

Feel like you missed out on a great conversation? So do we. But not to worry, we’ll recap some of the highlights and talk about what it really takes to strengthen your association’s brand.

 

The run-down

This past Monday, William Espey took to the main stage at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs to talk about his own brand journey with Chipotle.

He discussed “how focusing on green and sustainable marketing helped propel the brand and grow the restaurant from 15 stores to more than 1,500 worldwide.”  

He then took this discussion and put it through a lens that would allow associations to use the same type of strategy to grow their own brand. He focused on things like brand expression, the importance of values in an association, and creating connections with a brand audience.

Overall, the discussion went over well with the audience. Attendees took to Twitter to share their favorite moments, quotes, and ideas with their peers using the hashtag #ideas18.

However, in order to make sure this excitement transfers over to ideas long after the Great Ideas Conference has ended, associations need to apply Espey’s points into their brand strategy. But how is this done?

Let’s dissect Espey’s speech and see how your association can start acting on strengthening your brand today.

 

Branding is in everything

“Everything is branding for a company- any company, any association.”

Espey speaks to the point that branding is all around us. It’s in almost every decision we make- from where to eat, to what to wear, and even how we react to things. And that means branding  is in everything your association puts out to its current and potential new members.

“Every single point of contact your customers are having with your brand is creating the brand experience in their mind,” Espey states.

With that in mind, implementing a strong brand in every aspect of your association is essential. Whether it’s events, a membership application, or even a social media post-you need to make sure your branding is on point.

So, how can your association start to brand smarter for its members? One way is personalized branding.

Personalization has become quite a popular strategy with associations, not just for branding, but for any facet of marketing. Associations are finding success with personalization in emails, content, newsletters, and many other marketing tactics.

Allow your members to have a personalized experience with your association. Invite them into a members-only forum and allow them to make a profile. Create emails tailored specifically to their interests.

You also need to focus and pay attention to detail when it comes to your association’s brand.

This tip is especially important at annual events and conferences. Are your packets and handouts branded? What about your banners? Did you take the opportunity to hand out branded swag? These are all tiny details that can make a big impact on members.

 

Showcase your values

“Brands are simply the expression of values.”

Espey continues on to discuss the importance of showcasing value within a brand. For your association, this means putting your beliefs and mission into everything you do, including branding.

“[Brands] are a value structure, a value network, that manifests itself through action and communication. That’s what makes a brand a brand,” Espey claims.

Connecting with your association’s membership through shared values is essential for getting a positive brand experience to happen with your members. Think about it, your members wouldn’t have joined your association if they didn’t believe in your mission statement.

Not only that, but you need to demonstrate value within your brand. This means helping members get the most out of your association and its member benefits.

Making an active effort to demonstrate your value allows your association to match its efforts with its statements. It shows members and potential buyers that you have what it takes to make your brand match your mission.

“And that’s what important with values,” Espey continued on with his discussion. “It’s creating connections that are more profound and subtle than simple transactions. It’s through shared values that we create the idea of community.”

Promoting shared values within your associations brand will help connect to your members, hopefully creating a long-term bond that will last through years of membership.

 

Loyalty will follow

With a good brand comes loyal members.

Espey knows this. He helped build Chipotle’s customer base up enough to reach over 1,500 stores worldwide. There needs to be an incentive to come back and work with a company.

Espey speaks on the importance of a long-term relationship with a customer and how it relates to associations with their members.

“This is the Holy Grail of business. This is where the relationship between a member and an association grows… and why members will come back to you again and again and again.”

Once your association works its branding up and creates a strong, credible brand, your members will take notice. It’s up to you to interact with interested members in order to build up member loyalty over time.

Brand loyalty and member loyalty go hand in hand. It’s a cyclical pattern: You produce a brand, you gain brand recognition from your members, which then turns into brand loyalty for your association. It’s a pattern that can ultimately lead to success for any association.

Incorporating things like a loyalty program or a loyalty incentives will encourage members to come back to your association time and time again. It’s also another great service that will add to your association’s brand.

Producing an environment for brand recognition and loyalty to occur will help your brand stay fresh and innovative for years to come.

 

So, there you have it. One amazing guest speech broken down into helpful tips that can strengthen your association’s brand. William Espey may not run his own association, but he sure does have insight for those who do.

If you’d like to read more of what other speakers at the 2018 Great Ideas Convention had to say, you can take a look here.

You can also check out the Great Ideas Conference Twitter for highlights from this year’s event as well as updates on next year.

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