Branding 101

Pride season is an excellent time to use the lessons of the swoosh and the golden arches

The swoosh. The round green symbol of coffee worldwide. The golden arches.

We instantly recognize and remember all of these branding icons. But branding is more than being remembered; it’s about customers who know what the brand stands for. When the customer is the LGBT community, is the approach to branding different?

Consider Maid To Clean, a locally owned and operated green cleaning service. The use of a pun for the company name, the logo (a riff on iconic Rosie the Riveter World War II poster), and the background image of a household sponge on the website all work together to build a distinctive brand. On the home page of the website you’ll see how branding is about more than the right image: credentials, media coverage and testimonials.

Sometimes putting your name out there can be done literally, which is the case with Fathom Creative. This branding, marketing and communications firm took valuable storefront space on 14th Street NW, typically reserved for restaurants and retail establishments, and transformed it into their office. The renovated building features white painted brick and lots of glass on the street level. It works just like a retail shop window. We look forward to seeing as the displays change through the year. Their displays are relevant, witty and sophisticated – very much in line with their work. Yes, they do outstanding work. There are other companies who are equally competent. But where Fathom has helped build its brand is by choosing a unique way to display their business.

In the financial services area, one LGBT-friendly business, EagleBank, has shown how branding is as much about fundamental marketing tactics as a well-known logo. EagleBank has been around awhile and survived the worst of the economic crisis. They have street presence and advertise, like other banks. To capture market share in the LGBT community, they went back to basics: They invited themselves to the table, got involved, and made personal connections. Sometimes a low-tech tactic like a handshake with the right prospect in the right setting (such as a CAGLCC event) can boost a brand in a big way.

EagleBank understands that when business is good, it comes to you, but when it’s not, you must leave the comfort of your office and start shaking hands – often with customers you’ve never approached. That’s why, as part of their LGBT initiative, the bank joined CAGLCC and their representatives consistently attend and sponsor Chamber events. In a short period of time they’ve connected with new customers and generated considerable new business. EagleBank understands that, although we may hire companies, we choose to work with individuals we know and trust.

Sometimes in branding, it starts with the name, especially in situations that can be awkward for LGBT individuals and couples. When we shop for wedding rings, check into a hotel or work with a real estate agent, how do we find the company or person right for us? MyGayAgent.com goes right to the point. Owners Evan Johnson and Tom Bauer have moved beyond the need to ”come out” to be able to start conducting business.

As these CAGLCC members know, any marketing tactic can produce results. Long-term success, however, requires commitment, adequate resources, and a willingness to adapt and change. We’ve seen this in our own organization, which is officially known as CAGLCC. This unpronounceable acronym has made it hard to develop our own distinct brand. That’s why we’ve recently rebranded ourselves as ”the Chamber.” And it’s working.

The Chamber’s brand represents 21 years of service to our members through programs, events and initiatives. You’ll see our brand, and those of our members, on display at many Pride events this month.

The Chamber means business. For more information, visit caglcc.org.

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