What we learned

Battered reputations lead to better brands
Sectors such as financial services are often served by better brands, presumably in a bid to help shape better perceptions of the organisations/ individuals they represent. The converse is often true of those representing more creative sectors, which often have poor brands.

Problem brands suggest problems operationally
From sub-brands that are dead but won’t lay down, to general lack of focus, a proportion of brand issues are suggestive of operational challenges that have not been properly closed down.

Purpose is poorly expressed
Often at least. Even if an organisation successfully expresses what it does, why it’s special is often elusive. Rich use of language is in short supply.

To crest or not to crest
Many organisations have historic crests that are often used poorly or not leveraged at all. Properly drawn they could provide a strong visual asset.

Acronyms are nearly always challenging
History and name length dictates that many organisations use acronyms. The visual treatment of these is often challenging and unless the acronym is memorable, the name has to be spelled out in full elsewhere. Getting this right is an art in itself.

Colour can go a long way to hold a brand together
But not if the colour is blue. A number of poorer brands retain some consistency with powerful use of colour. However blue is so ubiquitous that it frequently serves to weaken brands rather than strengthen them.

Photography is a mainstay and one that’s hard to get right
One of the costliest brand assets, photography is probably responsible for the greatest number of brand gaffes. From abstract imagery that makes little sense, to poor quality clip art and portraiture reminiscent of sugardaddy.com the membership landscape contains many examples of ‘how not to do it’.

Using moving image doesn’t demand Gone with the Wind film length
It’s great to see a growth in the use of moving image which provides a very immediate sense of what an organisation is like. There are some excellent examples as well as poorer ones, including a corporate homepage film that ran to over 30 minutes.

Don’t let a third party organisation dominate your website
Third party banner advertising should be very carefully managed. In a few alarming cases it is so significant in scale that at first glance it appears as if you’ve arrived at the wrong website.

Healthcare is generally behind the curve
Healthcare membership organisations are fulfilling an important role. For many of them how they communicate is therefore secondary. However, failure to focus on quality and clarity of communications is undermining credibility and accessibility of key messages.

What it means

1. You may think brand is superficial but in a world where we’re surrounded by sophisticated consumer
brands, if your membership brand is poor it will impact adversely on your audience’s impression of you.

2. Your other collateral may be great, but if your website isn’t it may be the only thing people see and judge you by.

3. Clarity of purpose is most important of all. Articulate it, make it simple, get it right, communicate it consistently and ensure you’ve also captured the more emotive messages around why you exist and why you’re different.

4. If you’ve got a great crest, don’t ditch but get it redrawn for the computer age.

5. Handle your acronym with care so people know and understand who you are.

6. It’s even more costly to get photography wrong than to get it right so DIY with care and preferably use a professional.

7. Have a discernible visual language and one that’s reliant on more than colour alone.

8. Getting your brand and communications right takes investment, but as some key players on the shortlist demonstrate, may not cost the earth.


What next?

However well or otherwise your brand is performing, changes should be informed and not undertaken lightly. Any brief should be shaped by an understanding of what you need to do to compete and ‘stand out’ in your landscape, and above all, meet the demands of your corporate plan. The first step towards this is carrying out a detailed audit of your existing brand and communications. If you’ve been included in this report, we can carry out a more detailed audit of your brand. If you haven’t then we’d be happy to do the same or include you in next year’s brand monitor.

We do much more than compile brand monitors. We’re a creative consultancy of communications specialists. We specialise in brand identity, brand and marketing communications, and internal engagement. We develop strategy, write copy, design creative and implement our recommendations. We focus on business-to-business, higher education, financial services, Government and public sector. We’re Frank, Bright & Abel. Not who we are but what we do and how we do it. Whatever you want us to be get in touch.