Thursday, February 19, 2009

What to do when people think they know your brand but are WRONG

Lets play a short game. I will show a brand logo, you tell me what they do.

My Answer - Fast food, good, cheap but very bad for you.

Great cars but very expensive and many people think for only older people.

Ok, I could go on forever with the little game, but I wont.  My point is that a brand not only reminds you of who they are but carries every stereotype with it.  And as a brand that is very hard to change.

McDonalds has tried for years to change its image that it offers healthy choices and actually they do.  But I still order the biggest, fat filled cheeseburger bacon usually.  Cadillac tried for a little while to offer some more lower priced models and tried to appeal to new audiences, but I dont think that worked out to well for them.


In the midst of many strategic conversations lately I keep coming up against one thought, people think they know who and what the YMCA is, but they are wrong. No I dont mean to imply they are dumb or that the small peice they know is incorrect, rather they never know the whole picture. They jump to gym/swim or pictures of old facilities or a place for kids.

I will admit that most of this is our own fault as an organization, we dont tell people who we are and what we do enough.  Plus to make it worse, when you have seen one YMCA, you have only seen one YMCA. None of us are completely the same.  To add complication to complication, we do so many different things that I dont even know all of them.

It almost seems easier to spread the word about a new cause that is very focused and new, than it is to get people to change their impression of an existing organization like the YMCA.

That is my challenge in a one sentence format.

So I think I may have to spend a couple Blog posts later on this topic as I move through our web presence strategy, but for now here are some of my thoughts.

  1. First we will be spending time making our own staff aware of the image that is out there and make sure they have a better understanding of how we want to be seen, what we do and how to share that with members. Many of staff (including me) dont know about all of the services we offer.
  2. We are working to completely change the content and structure of our website and online resources to make it easier for people to learn about us.
  3. Eventually we will find those members, participants, communities and staff that are already our word of mouth champions and give them the tools, content and ability to tell our story for us.
  4. User generated content - need I say more?
  5. Craft messages for the specific audiences, we always try to appeal to everyone, just stop it.  Get the right words to the right people who are ready to hear it.
  6. Leverage our volunteers (board and program) lets get them more involved and aware.
Anyway there are more thoughts in my head, but I cant get them out right now.  What are your thoughts on this?

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