Despite assumptions that branding is of little use to non-profit organizations, and of even less value for member associations, experts on the strategic management of these organizations recommend an occasional review to determine if a brand requires refreshing.
As academic librarians we know that branding plays an important role in helping our institutions to differentiate themselves in a crowded field, and to shape how potential and current students, parents, employees, alumni and external stakeholders identify the organization. Put simply, when individuals are asked to share what any business, college or association means to them their gut reaction and instinct in formulating a description is the essence of the brand. Strategic organizations are focused on developing a brand that effectively influences that description.
As a strategic association, ACRL determined that it would be wise to engage in a review of its brand. Our brand is just one piece of a broader marketing effort, but it encompasses the color choices, logos, taglines and designs that give our website and publications their unique look and feel. The brand is also captured in our messages to the members and the library and higher education community. At its 2012 strategic planning retreat (SPOS), the ACRL Board of Directors engaged in a day-long branding workshop.
As part of this exercise we reviewed responses from a branding activity conducted with our Communities of Practice where participants shared the words they believed best identified what ACRL is and does. There were discussions about favorite and least liked brands. Time was spent reviewing the existing publications and the messages delivered on them. The brands of organizations competing in the same space as ACRL were reviewed. Board members divided into groups and worked to generate ideas for new branding possibilities.
What emerged from that daylong workshop is a new brand that is being integrated into ACRL publications, webpages and messages. Our ACRL brand is more than just taglines or clever phrasing. It is a message that communicates a promise to our members that we will deliver on our brand. Our Board of Directors is committed to creating an association that lives up to this promise by acting in the best interest of our members in providing them with continuously improving value. Here are the four statements that constitute our brand promise:
ACRL is the higher education association for librarians.
ACRL members learn, grow, innovate, lead, and succeed as individuals and as part of the academic library community.
ACRL builds members capacity to contribute to the greater good and enhances professional pride and purpose.
ACRL connects members to a global community committed to transforming academia.
As part of the refreshing of our brand we also developed a new tagline for ACRL:
Advancing Learning, Transforming Scholarship.
This tagline, in as concise and powerful a way as possible, communicates the essence of our Plan for Excellence. I invite you to view the promotional video created for ACRL 2015 in Portland. Our ACRL staff has once again “hit it out of the park” with this catchy, visually dynamic teaser that will have you waiting anxiously for our next Conference. Watch for the brand messages smartly embedded in the video for a taste of how ACRL puts this new brand at the core of our communications.