Branding is the new flirting and those that do it best will be able to attract more new members through their doors, writes Eddie Bullock.
We are in an age where there has been an enormous shift in how we communicate our products, particularly with brand culture which dominates our daily life.
Branding creates such an identifiable image for a number of major golf clubs that it is surprising and difficult to understand why so many attach little importance to the concept. Some don’t even attempt to create any brand recognition within their local community, county or region – a missed business opportunity in terms of delivering the right message and growing the identity of their product, which is the club itself.
Aware that success in membership subscriptions and visitors fees relies on attracting traffic to their destinations, the more progressive clubs find a way to distinguish themselves from the competition. A brand culture affinity is powerful; it forms a bond, a trust and reliability. There is evidence that golf clubs that have merged their marketing talents with that of their golf professionals have created a strong brand awareness through communicating a confident message.
A powerful, identifiable brand is one of the most important assets a club can have. Beyond distinctive logos and clever tag lines, branding is the culmination of defining who the club is, how it is set apart from the competition and why a prospective buyer should do business with it, whether such prospects are societies, corporate days, or new members. Whether you’re an established club or not, branding has a tremendous impact. A brand instils confidence, creates loyalty and can enable the business to command a premium price. Critically, a great brand reduces a buyer’s perception of risk and makes the purchase decision easier.
Developing a brand is much more than just deciding on a name or picking some colours. The sum of all that a club is and does, it is derived from ‘moments of truth’; every single touch point with each individual golfer. Brand development requires a plan that consistently communicates what the club is and does, along with its distinct attributes, image and personality.
Branding is simply the implantation of an associative memory in combination with a recall cue. Now that we know what it is, the next question – the important one – is how to create one that impacts on the club’s business. Successful branding requires three essentials: the first is consistency. To establish the club brand with members, guest and visitors, it is imperative that everything happens in the best way possible, every single time.
The second key is frequency, day after day, week after week. Creatively repeating the message has become even more critical in the oversaturated digital communication environment. Members and guest are seduced or assaulted, depending on your perspective! With thousand of brand impressions each day, from national and local media exposure to brand logos on clothing, the challenge is to be seen and heard through the clutter. There are a host of other creative aspects that go into marketing a memorable message but, without frequency, there is little chance of establishing a brand.
The third essential is anchoring. It is the most difficult to achieve because each member and potential visitor sees or hears the message through their personal sensory filter. Perception is reality and, in many cases, clubs fall into denial. Business psychologists inform us that when an associative memory is being formed, the new and unknown part has to be associated with a memory that is already anchored in the mind. While consistency and frequency creates branding, it is the connection to an emotional anchor that effectively cements the attraction. The branding challenge is to find the emotional anchor, to create a picture with the member, prospective member and visitors mind-set and perception that will define the value of the brand, which will generate the positive feel and attachment to the club.
Typically, such anchors are either really positive or quite negative. Reactions are rarely, “didn’t notice” or “didn’t care”. Rather, they will be a nice or terrible experience. Each one of those affects how people think of the products, the brands and the things they live with everyday.
How do we implement brand recognition? A clear brand determines all future marketing activities and represents an important instrument to influence and control the market. Brand management can be practically defined as finding clear strategies to build and cultivate a brand to achieve competitive advantages. The main objective is to establish a strong position within the mind-set of the member, prospective member or visitor
The process has to be a part of the club’s strategic long-term planning:
Begin with an analysis of the club’s current assets. Where are its strengths and weaknesses compared to market competitors in terms of facilities, services, staff and so on?
Identify what the club wants to brand and how that should be positioned. Areas of consideration include the condition of courses and hospitality services provided, such as weddings, corporate entertainment and societies.
This will lead to the key question: what exactly is the club’s marketplace? Is it within a local, regional, national or even international market?
It is key to understand how the competitors are positioned within the identified sector of the market. How do their own members and prospects perceive them? Also, how do you own members prospects and visitors view the club’s position? These answers influence whether members will retain their association with their own club and whether potential members will be attracted to the club. They have the power of choice. The club’s opportunity is to influence that.
Generating brand awareness is the next objective. Knowing where and what the club and its competitors are, what members and prospect perceive and expect, the questions then focus on what to market, at what price it should be offered, where it should be pitched and what vehicles of communication should be used. Marketing initiatives should be clear and simple.
The key is to ensure all brand image and awareness objectives are achieved. This requires a consistent sense of the intended brand to be drawn up and embraced by those that deliver the service aspect of the club. Branding is a process and, with thoughtful diligence continuing from inception, can create and develop financial security.
For many adopting a brand is more important than can be imagined. Change can only happen when the raw materials of a brand are presented in a way that intrigues, woos and wins us over, compelling us to walk in.