This article, authored by Kathy Kassera Mrozek, was originally published in the October 2016 issue of EON, a publication of the International Society of Managing & Technical Editors (ISMTE) , and is reprinted here with their full permission.
We all judge books by their covers, despite the popular adage to the contrary. Have you ever chosen a product for its packaging or slogan? Or assumed something about a person by the way they dressed or the words they chose? In a world where books are, in fact, picked up based on their covers, it’s important that your organization’s book cover—your brand—is intentionally created to encourage those who would find the story irresistible to look inside.
More complex and multidimensional than a book cover, your brand is the culmination of how your organization looks, talks, feels, and communicates with the outside world—from the wording of your social media posts to the visual concept of your logo, to the user experience that people have when they visit your website. When branding is done well, it creates a cohesive, consistent personality and message. People feel like they really know and understand you as a company or organization: what you stand for, what you do, and why it’s important.
Whether You’ve Thought About it or Not, Your Organization Already has a Brand
If you haven’t created your brand strategically, your organization may be sending mixed messages or presenting a personality to the world that’s inconsistent with how you want to be seen. There’s also a chance your brand may be stuck in its own past—many a logo has been hastily created in the early days of founding a company. If you’ve grown, it’s likely time for your brand to also grow up and evolve strategically to reflect not just where you came from, but who you’ve become and where you’re going.
How to Know if it’s Time for an Update
- Do you have a clear, consistent way of talking about what’s unique and important about your organization?
- Do your marketing and communication materials match? (Think website, brochures, stationery, etc.) Are they clearly distinguishable as yours?
- Do your visuals and language cause the right clients, members, and prospects to gravitate toward you without confusion?
- Are you making a strong and positive first impression as a polished, professional organization that inspires trust?
If the answer is no, maybe, or I’m not sure, your existing brand may be holding you back.
Branding is not One-Size-Fits-All
The branding process can be a large or small effort, depending on the current state of your brand and how far it is from where it needs to be. The key questions an organization needs to ask are, “Who are we?” and, “Why do we matter to our customers?” Some organizations need to start at the very beginning and first identify the answers to those questions. Others already know the answers but need help communicating them more clearly. Some may have a solid brand that simply needs updates, like a brightened color palette or more authentic language. Working with a professional agency will bring perspective and put your brand on the best path to where it needs to go.
A branding initiative starts with a lot of learning, talking, thinking, and planning. One of the most thrilling parts of an agency’s job is learning the ins-and-outs of clients’ organizations—what makes them unique and compelling, and what best attracts their clients and prospects.
The process results in tools that define and guide your brand and marketing efforts, such as a brand value proposition, brand promise, brand story, and brand tagline. These are accompanied by the logo and visual identity, which build the overall brand look-and-feel.
Brand Value Proposition
Your brand value proposition represents the core of your business model and is carefully crafted as a simple statement to address three main points:
- Who are your target customers and what do they need?
- Why should the customer use your brand?
- What are you delivering?
Look at ISMTE’s brand value proposition, as an example:
For managing and technical editors at scholarly journals around the world
…who need support they can trust to further their professional development
…ISMTE provides the only community dedicated solely to managing and technical editors that combines networking, training, and industry-proven best practices
…allowing them to engage with other professionals, broaden their day-to-day skills, and be proud of the journals they produce.
Brand Promise and Brand Story
Your brand promise is the promise you make to your customers, employees, partners, vendors, the media, and other key stakeholders. This statement becomes the cornerstone for the marketing language. For example:
ISMTE is a unique community for managing and technical editors at scholarly publications worldwide, that combines networking, training, and industry-proven best practices—allowing them to engage with other professionals, broaden their day-to-day skills, and be proud of the journals they produce.
A brand story is an emotionally infused story of how your brand delivers unique value in a crowded marketplace. It is your brand’s personality brought to life, and it sets the tone for visuals and overall voice. Another example:
Between you and your next publication date, there’s an endless list of to-dos. Deadlines to meet. Manuscripts to process. Authors and editors who need responses. But you find a way to make it work no matter how hectic things get or how many obstacles emerge. Because you won’t settle for a product that’s anything less than your absolute best. That’s why you need to engage with ISMTE.
ISMTE is the world’s only professional organization dedicated to managing and technical editors. Whether you’re just starting out in your career or a veteran of many years—whether you’re part of an editorial team at a large journal in London, or working alone in Sydney—ISMTE is the place for you.
We’re a community of managing and technical editors around the world. Our society helps you make the most out of your job and professional life, with clear, trusted information and fewer problems along the way.
Need an answer to a seemingly unanswerable question? We can help. Need advice from people who have been in the trenches, seen your troubles firsthand? We can help. Need a connection to a global network of like-minded, ambitious professionals? We can help with that too.
We all need a little guidance sometimes. Our deep-rooted culture means you’ll have one-on-one support wherever and whenever you need it. Because the issues you face don’t always keep conventional hours, you can access ISMTE support anytime, anywhere.
No matter what this job might throw at you, ISMTE keeps you ready, productive, and engaged.
A tagline is often created to provide deeper meaning and add context around the brand name. While the name and tagline may not be able to say it all, the combination can give people a very good idea of what you do and entice them to learn more. The tagline should reflect your brand value proposition, and resonate with your key target audience. ISMTE’s new tagline is “Empowering editorial offices around the world.”
Logo and Visual Identity
The logo and visual identity are an extension of strategic messaging. These visuals, in combination with the language used, instill passion and confidence in your brand and make it stand out from comparable organizations.
To get there, an agency may start with a series of mood boards showing related, but distinct, visual personalities. This can include typography, color palettes, and styles for photos, illustrations or charts. There’s a subjective aspect to this portion of the process—strategy comes first, but the logo and visual identity also need to feel right culturally to internal decision-makers and become a flag that employees rally around. Multiple concepts are presented for collaborative feedback and are ultimately refined to a singular, iconic brand logo that works well large or small, in color or black and white, on everything from pens to billboards to social media.
If an existing logo is well-recognized, the agency might recommend only minor changes to maintain brand recognition while updating typography, spacing, color, or styling to be more current and polished. Refreshing an existing logo, while keeping the basic concept, is very common—think about how logos for Fortune 500 companies like UPS and Starbucks have evolved over the years. However, when an organization is making a shift in direction or audience priority, or has an existing logo that is largely unrecognized, a new logo is often the best option.
This is where the brand comes to life in print and digital materials, further defining graphic elements, language styles, and typography treatments. After the general look-and-feel is established, the brand is extended across all channels, from major items like the website, social media, and printed materials, down to small details like envelope mailing labels and email signatures. This creates a revitalized and cohesive brand in which all of the pieces your organization uses to communicate speak the same language.
The Power of a Brand
Your brand is the book cover for your organization. It creates a loyal connection with your audience, turning them into brand advocates and loyal customers. Your brand can differentiate and position you in the marketplace, helping you to command a premium price or position among your peers. Branding affects the success of your organization in a way that’s beyond subjective—effective branding even contributes to the valuation of any business that is changing hands or seeking investment capital.
Branding, done well, parallels infrastructure and talent as one of the most important investments you can make in your organization, and it can help you become the next best-seller.