Branding by Association(s)

Okay…we aren’t all marketers here, but we should respect the power of a good brand. Keep in mind that a brand, an identity, and a logo are all very different things. Simply put, your logo is an icon that identifies your company and ties to your identity. Your brand is your overall identity that is identified beyond marketing, to the point that it triggers a reaction from the consumer.

When you see a stylized, yellow letter “M” on a red background, we automatically think of McDonald’s. When we see a monochromatic outline of a piece of fruit with a bite missing, our mind immediately goes to Apple. In either case, this demonstrates the point that recognition of a brand can have an effect on us. Whether it makes you hungry, makes you a little nostalgic, or reminds you of an experience, symbols and logos are powerful pieces of artwork.

The same instance happens within the metal construction industry. We all have brands and logos that we readily associate with quality and service. By the same token, we also have those that we associate with a bad experience or reputation. There is no better example of this than leafing through your favorite industry publication when it comes in the mail. Advertisers, columnist, and articles that we recognize and that can spur a reaction from the reader.

With that being said, what does your brand do for your customers? More importantly, what does it do for potential customers? Your company’s record will readily come to the forefront of a potential customer’s mind before reaching out to you. With today’s technology, it has become easier than ever for them to form an opinion of you before their first direct communication. Social media and Google reviews are a significant tool for consumers, coupled with websites like Angie’s List and Yelp, it is easy to get an idea of what a service provider or vendor is about.

Building your brand and logo can be done in a number of ways. You can consult a professional marketing or PR firm, or you can hire personnel with training and knowledge to help you internally. There is an entire world revolving around shape and color combinations, and psychological evaluation and studies of their effect on consumers. However you decide to proceed, your logo can be a large part of your company’s success or failure.

Another approach to building your own brand is to join a trade association or professional organization. Their logo featured on your website or publications can lend credibility to your own company and help promote your involvement. This must be done with caution, though.

When you join an association, you take on ownership of that association’s identity. They have a brand that is affiliated with their reputation and work. Shirking your obligations of actually taking part in an organization shows apathy and a desperate grab at someone else’s hard-earned reputation to boost your own. When you decide to invest in an association’s membership, you add their identity, to a degree, to your own. You now have a decision to make: will you be an active part of the organization or just use their logo to make you and your company look better?

There are a few leading associations within the metal construction industry. Most notably, the Metal Construction Association (MCA), sponsors one of our industry’s largest trade-shows, METALCON; the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), comprised of leading building manufacturers and ancillary product representatives, and; the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA) that focuses on the installers and builders of the trade. Each of these, along with many others, have specific projects and initiatives that further the metal construction market. The hardest question to answer as a member is: Are you contributing to their mission or just reaping the benefits of other’s hard work?

It is possible to do both, but you have to be working toward a common goal; in this case, the interest of metal construction. A very wise man once advised me that you get out of an association, what you put into it. Over the years, this has been proven time and again as a fundamental truth. If you go down the road to organized membership, remember that you have an obligation to be an active member and help promote the goals of the group. Anything short implies that you are there to simply ride the coattails of those doing the actual work.

Sometimes you may see ”rebranding” or changes in a company’s identity. You should be cautioned if a company makes a change in their market presence. Companies that successfully do this often have a slow and methodical roll-out of a brand change. This is the preferred method as buy-outs and mergers occur in the natural evolution of a business. This type of activity will be accompanied by press releases and frequent communication to keep customers apprised of the changes and reasons for them. If a vendor or company that you deal with has had to suddenly change their company name or logo within the past several years, it may be an indication that they were looking for a “fresh start” to distance themselves from their poor reputation, quality, or association with their previous identity. This is a red flag that should never be ignored that usually signals the need for a strategy change, not a name change.

No matter what your brand currently does or doesn’t do for your company, we can all agree that it is a powerful tool. The LOGO Board Game, a popular game of recent years, is an interesting take on the impact advertising brands and logos have on our culture and society. A turn at the game would probably make you proud of the subliminal knowledge that has been imparted to you as a consumer, by easily recognizing the brands and logos presented without their tell-tale text to give you the company’s name. At the same time, it can be very frustrating to recognize a logo, but not readily recall the name it represents.

Consistency in the presentation is arguably the most powerful tools for creating and maintaining a recognizable brand. As you work toward building your brand and growing your market share, be very careful in the presentation of your logo. Consider trademarking or service marking your identity; this will create a platform that will serve you well for years to come. Whether you are handling your marketing efforts through a vendor or internally, take extra interest in your brand placement and consistency: color, shape, scale, and location all play a vital part to get your identity in front of your customer base.

“Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.” -Ashley Friedelin ~

 

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