Companies, institutions, and even professional associations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to create a brand image. All of us have witnessed what Nike has done with a swoosh, what Coca-Cola has done with a bottle, and (as you just read) what Starbucks has done with coffee. All of these companies were successful in taking their brand image further by tying messaging to their corporate logo. These efforts strengthen the relationship of their audience to their company or product to the point where even I will wear my Nike golf hat, with the big swoosh, proudly telling others that I align myself with this company and their values.
In today’s marketplace, your brand image is what enables students, members, employees, and others to immediately identify with your organization or institution. With long-term work, a brand will come to represent that critical sense of belonging, or affinity, that an individual feels for your organization both consciously and subconsciously. Just as importantly, it will invoke similar or related feelings in individuals with indirect connections: prospective students, non-members, emerging professionals, and others you’ve targeted for engagement.
A positive brand image is difficult to create and sustain, but it is also very rewarding. Conversely, a negative brand image is easy to create and difficult to recover or rebuild. A carefully managed brand is the most important asset that an organization owns.
So what is the NACAS brand?
I recently returned from the annual NACAS Leadership Team Meeting (LTM) this past February, and I’d like to share some of the comments I heard throughout the meeting about who we are and what we represent.
- Focused on student outcomes
- A place for career enhancement
- The auxiliary service professional development experts
- A place where business solutions meet business opportunities
- Efficient and economical
- A place for campus problem-solvers
- The best professional network
- The best educational annual conference with a great variety of topics
- Supportive of volunteer leadership
- Strong because of the activity of its four regions
- The Education Foundation
At the end of the meeting, a terrific discussion was held that resulted in our leaders recognizing that NACAS’ ultimate goal for its brand is to be perceived as the premier association for auxiliary services professionals.
The question for NACAS is: How do we make sure that all of the above pieces (plus many more) combine to create and protect the brand we strive for?
In 2007 the NACAS Board of Directors decided to adopt the tagline, “The Connections That Count.” They believed that this summarized the primary benefit of our Association, and that these connections were the key to belonging to a premier association.
NACAS has an established brand name, logo, tagline, color scheme, and visual identity. NACAS has brand standards, guidelines, processes, and controls. We strive to consistently communicate, to promote NACAS, and to be persistent in making sure our image is in front of as many people as possible.
But in the end, our brand is you: our leaders, volunteers, and members. And no matter how many times people see the NACAS logo, if our connections do not count, then our brand will not matter.
We are not a hollow marketing company that spends its resources promoting rather than creating. All of us must be focused on student outcomes, on career advancement, on solving problems, on mentoring, and on creating “The Connections That Count.” This is why new institutions will become members, why CASP matters, why the Education Foundation receives support, why individuals attend our conferences. This is our brand, and the future of NACAS depends on all of us working together, cohesively, to communicate that message.
Going forward, as I have done in the past, I will be representing NACAS at various conferences, events, and on college and university campuses. I will carry the NACAS brand, wear the NACAS logo (and my CASP pin), and consistently communicate the message that we are a premier association. I challenge everyone to do the same!
Together we will model “The Connections That Count.”