Is branding for associations?

This was exactly the question that Chris Dingcong, HongKong-based Filipino brand consultant, founder and creative director of Springtime Design, asked around 200 association members who attended his plenary session at the Fifth Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) Associations Summit (AS5) held recently at the Philippine International
Convention Center.

At a follow-up small group session entitled, “Why your logo is not a brand?” during the Quarterly Quorum event of the PCAAE  on January 11, Chris reemphasized what branding is and is not.

He started by saying that branding, among other things, is about “stories to tell.” It is not entirely just about the graphic representation of an association in the form of a logo. The visual representation of a logo as a brand becomes more meaningful and valuable if it encapsulates and communicates effectively the association’s core identity: its brand voice, mission, vision, values, goals and brand story.

Surrounding and supporting this core identity are the brand components and applications that capture the identity of the association’s brand in the form of a brand identity system. Brand components, such as the logo, tagline, imagery, colors, shapes, tone of voice, layout, style and font type are ingredients in creating the unique identity system of an association’s brand communication. They include corporate stationery, web site, videos, office environment, brochure, social media, etc. All these, Chris mentioned, are relevant in designing and building a brand.

“Branding is a process” and brands should be nurtured, he continued. The design process from research, brand strategy formation to the creative expression of the logo are part of the big idea of a brand. Chris added that creating a brand entails incorporating five essential components into one coherent communication,
as follows:

  • People—the association’s main asset. Whether a volunteer or an employee, they provide time, expertise and contacts.
  • Belief—reflects the association’s core values, which drive its people to achieve positive and progressive outcomes.
  • Cause—describes the organization’s mission and is a fundamental part of the brand story.
  • Stories—represent the many “voices” of the association and its members. Woven together, they are powerful ingredients of the brand.
  • Advocacy—is about the association’s purpose, which is the core and reason for being.

Finally, there’s brand management which is a critical part in nurturning brands and requires the commitment of the organization’s leadership, involvement of the staff and identification of those who will champion
the brand.

How does an association start to brand itself? He suggests the following tips:

  • Discover who you really are.
  • What is the essence of who you are?
  • Focus on relationships.
  • Tell your story.
  • Be consistent.

So, is branding for associations? For me, the answer is rather obvious. If countries do branding (for tourism, etc.), companies do it, too (to sell their products) and people, as well (for personal equity), so why not associations? “Associations touch lives,” Chris said. It is at best imperative for
them to do so!


The column contributor, Octavio Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific and the CEO of the PCAAE. PCAAE enjoys the support of Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board and the Philippine International
Convention Center.




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