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4 Steps to Heal your Brand Breaks to Drive Membership and Non-Dues Revenues

Why you need a consistent brand story

Why you need a consistent brand story

Several years ago, in a brief fit of madness, I asked my barber to give me a different haircut and change my hair color while he was at it. I wanted to try something daring and edgy. The result was laughable. I looked like an Elvis Presley impersonator. It was unnatural. People I knew didn’t recognize me. My wife thought I was having a midlife crisis.

Your brand is a little bit like a tried-and-true haircut. Sure, you need an updated look every once in a while, but a major departure from your established style confuses people, turns them off, and makes them question your judgement.


How to Find and Fix Brand Breaks

Ideally, every aspect of your brand—your messaging and visuals as well as your mission and culture—fit seamlessly into the bigger picture of your organization. In reality, however, a brand often has breaks. Brand breaks are areas where misalignment happens. Some are minor inconsistencies in font or color choice. Others are more significant, for example if your sales team makes a promise that your organization can’t deliver on.

Eliminating brand breaks and maintaining a consist brand story helps people recognize you, trust you, pay your dues, attend your events, purchase your products, and rally behind your causes. Follow these four steps to solidify and articulate your brand, fix any brand breaks, and maintain a unified presence that engages your base.


1. Investigate your brand.

Establish a baseline so you can recognize any deviations from the norm. Examine your marketing collateral, event branding, product offerings, sales tactics, and any other unique aspects of your organization. Consider your internal culture, procedures, and communication practices. Look at your marketing channels and platforms—your event, social media, ads, direct mail, website, and more.

Also consider these questions:
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What value do you offer your base?
  • How do you solve their challenges?
  • What is your mission, vision, position, and brand promise?

2. Articulate your brand.

The easiest way to ensure consistency over time and across channels is to create a brand guide. This is a way to document every aspect of your brand, from your mission and vision to your fonts and colors. A typical brand guide might include the following:

  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Brand positioning statement
  • Brand promise
  • Fonts and colors
  • Voice and sample messaging
  • Sample graphics and images
  • Proper use of your logo
  • Product descriptions

3. Close gaps.

As you create your brand guide, look for anything that doesn’t quite fit with the big picture or any item that’s missing altogether. Check for outdated images, messaging, or offers. Is your logo clear and simple? Are your fonts and colors consistent? Has your mission or positioning changed since you were established? Can you fulfill your brand promise?

At this stage you can eliminate anomalies, revamp your look and feel, tweak or overhaul your messaging, add or subtract product offerings, or launch initiatives to bolster your internal culture.


4. Get your team on board.

Brand consistency includes rallying your team behind your purpose and aligning your internal culture with your outward-facing materials. Once your brand guide is complete, distribute it to your entire team and make sure everyone understands how to use it and why it’s important.

Make a plan to revisit your brand guide periodically and make updates as necessary. Being consistent doesn’t mean being stagnant. It’s a good idea to entice people with fresh messaging, visuals, offers and products as long as you stay true to your core brand.

Why all this matters
Establishing a strong, consistent brand is worth your time and effort because it’s worth money. A study from McKinsey & Company suggests that companies with a strong brand are 20 percent more profitable than companies with a weak or inconsistent brand.

If you can’t clearly and consistently articulate your mission, for example, chances are your sales team won’t be able to convey your value to members and prospects. When people don’t see your value, they don’t pay your dues, attend your events, purchase products, or tell others about your organization. If people don’t recognize your organization, they won’t engage. If your brand is different every place people encounter you, they can’t trust you. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to turn prospects into attendees, members, and long-term brand ambassadors.

The good news is a bad haircut or dye job isn’t permanent. With a little time, effort, and your trusty style guide, you’ll be looking fabulous in no time.

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It's big, it's powerful, and it's part of every buying cycle

Writer Jack London said,

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Rottman Creative goes after inspiration with a club.

We feel a level of intensity around inspiration that’s as wild and untamed as Jack London’s Yukon Territory. Everything we have always done has been about chasing inspiration. We said from the very beginning, people need to be inspired to act. It’s who we are and what we do for our clients.

Something interesting happened though. The more we worked to infuse inspiration into event marketing campaigns, the more we found ourselves talking about connection. Our clients needed to inspire their members. But equally important was their members’ need to connect. Connection, we saw, was the twin desire of inspiration. People inspire to connect, and they connect to be inspired.


This Inspiration-Connection Duality™: it’s big, it’s powerful, and it’s part of every buying cycle.

We have been living it and sharing it. We know that this duality is what helps associations grow, thrive, and change their members’ lives. When new clients would come to us, as part of the discovery phase, we’d audit their past marketing, and we could plainly see the campaigns that worked and the campaigns that didn’t. They would talk to us about their struggles to attract millennials (and their fear of being unsustainable without them), about being perpetually stuck on the membership acquisition and retention roller coaster, and about their inability to get out of “reaction” mode when the latest marketing tool or social media platform came along. We could plainly see that their problems were failures of inspiration and failures of connection.

Surely though, there was more to this than a gut feeling? Could there be a science behind it? Data? A meaningful and agreed-upon way to define this seemingly unknowable Mobius strip linking inspiration and connection? We took a step back, and realized that we needed a deeper understanding of this Inspiration-Connection Duality™. We set out to understand it—not just at the level of the heart, but scientifically.

First, we dove into inspiration, a concept that floats around in space, finds its way into lines of poetry, buddies around with muses and supernatural beings, and is plastered all over Pinterest. But what does it truly mean to inspire, or to be inspired? What do associations need to do to inspire people? Then, we turned our brains to connection, the domain of quantum physicists, biologists, and psychologists alike. How do people connect? What are the elements of connection? Why is there so much disconnection? And what do inspired and connected members do that non-inspired and non-connected members don’t do?

We took on these questions with purpose and focus. And we found answers.

Inspiration is not unknowable. It is quite knowable. It’s replicable. It’s scalable. And it is science. The same is true of connection. We are, in fact, wired to connect. Yet so often, we belie our own DNA, our own atomic structure, and find ourselves disconnected.

In our findings, we discovered that there are certain things that MUST be in place for inspiration to occur, and there are certain ways that inspiration actually moves people toward things. (1)

We also found that elusive bridge between inspiration and connection. We knew the connection piece was central, but we struggled to articulate its relationship to inspiration—knowing only it was part of this duality. We now understand not only the role of connection, but also what creates the high-quality connections that make events thrive—and the low-quality connections that detract, leaving damage in their wake.(2) We understand why those millennials aren’t interested, why associations can’t get themselves off the rollercoaster, and why they spin their wheels with their marketing efforts.

We realize these things, and this is the crux of what you need to understand:
  • Your event marketing has a big job to do. It must harness the specific things research shows are needed for inspiration to happen. Do this, and you’ve enabled people to create the all-important high-quality connections. And THAT is? the formula for greater impact and sustainability. THAT is how you get off the roller coaster. THAT is how you bring in the next generation and continue to change lives.

If we were fierce in stalking inspiration and connection before, now we are positively howling. Our own call of the wild is, “Hell Yeah!” We will bring what we have learned to every association that is brave enough to hear it and join us in our howl! And, as always, we will bring this knowledge to bear on every piece of marketing we do for our clients. That’s not a promise we make lightly. Get your club and let’s go! We have some inspiration to chase, and some connections to make.

Hell Yeah!


(1) Thrash, T.M., & Elliot, A.J. (2003). Inspiration as a psychological construct. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 871-889. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.871

(2) Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.


This is the first of several pieces we will write about inspiration and connection. Our goal is to help you digest it in pieces, in nuggets that you can relate to with your own brand and event. What’s ahead in the coming months? Here are just a few of the topics we’ll be diving into.

  • The three key ingredients you absolutely need to inspire members.
  • Understanding the role of trigger objects and target objects in inspiration.
  • What’s The Inspirational Scale and why should your association care about it?
  • The bridge from inspiration to connection that all associations need to cross.
  • What are high-quality connections, and how do you harness them for your marketing?
  • The true cause of low-quality connections (and the damage they do to your members and your event).

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The New Rottman Creative Website

We’re pleased to unveil a brand new rottmancreative.com! Here’s what prompted our change and how we went about crafting a more inspiring site:

Rottman Creative exists to connect the unconnected, to inspire people to act. We accomplish this by reaching people on an emotional level with dynamic visuals and relevant compelling content. We create event brands that attract people, light them up, and connect them to the event, the organization, and each other.

The “old” rottamncreative.com wasn’t actually old—just over a year. But when we took a step back and asked ourselves if we were “walking the walk” when it came to connecting and inspiring people with our own brand, we realized we fell short. We had plenty of content, but not much connectivity. And there wasn’t enough visual appeal to engage visitors and encourage them to click through and stay a while.


Visual Storytelling

The next version of our site had to include a strong visual component. We engaged a photographer to shoot our portfolio pieces in interesting settings with complementary colors and textures. As opposed to including a slider of digital pieces, this approach added depth to our work by providing real-world context and thought-provoking settings. The photographs hint that each piece has a story.

Large environment images greet you when you visit the home page. These big simple visuals represent our passion, inspiration, and thought process—images include everything from worker bees collaborating in a hive to a perfect surf wave beckoning me catch it.


Simple Structure

When it came to the site’s structure, our approach was to simplify the interface to make all parts of the site easy to access and navigate. Our blog, newsletter, and portfolio are the three core areas of our site; we wanted visitors to seamlessly navigate each and realize at a glance that all three are connected.

We used a combination of the large environment images and smaller tiles throughout the site to complete the bigger picture of our capabilities. This visually interesting format is an emerging trend in web design—and we think it will be around for a while because it’s so compelling.

There is still plenty of content on our site, but the new format connects it more coherently. The next phase of our rollout will include “Front Row” content streams that link our work to the big ideas behind it. This feature will really show you how our work demonstrates our core beliefs in connectivity, inspiration, vulnerability, and storytelling.

Please have a look at the new rottmancreative.com. Click. Read. Stay a while. Be inspired.

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