Did you know about the Brand Right program?

The Brand Right program is the brainchild of Andrew Tsuro, District 74 PR Manager and his PR team. The objective of the program is to help Toastmasters clubs to align with the Toastmasters brand. We have some very enthusiastic VPPR’s out there, and some amazing graphic design skills, unfortunately in many cases the understanding of how to apply our brand is lacking.

So, let’s start with the basics – what is a brand?

Toastmasters International explains that “a brand is an exclusive and desirable idea embodied in products, places, services, people and experiences.”

The simple definition that has always resonated with me is that a brand is a “promise of value”. This means that when we engage with “brands” we have a preconceived expectation of the value we will derive from that brand – In the words of the famous advertising copywriter and ad agency founder David Ogilvy, that expectation stems from: “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”

Successful brands always portray a clear and consistent message, through the imagery that they use how they apply their logo and in the actual user experience. Examples of successful South African brands include Nandos, Woolworths, Discovery, to name a few.

What they all have in common is consistency. They are consistent in their communication, their imagery and their quality. This enhances their reputation and builds trust and brand loyalty.

At Toastmasters we are in a very unique position. We don’t have the benefit of working with a large advertising agency who can ensure the consistency of our brand, what we do have is hundreds of empowered and enthusiastic mini ad agencies (VPPR’s) spread across the District and across the world.

The challenge that we have is to harness all of that enthusiasm and channel it into delivering a consistent brand message…. and then to get the Clubs to close the loop by delivering a consistent brand experience – we call it the Toastmasters Club Experience.

How many other organisations do you know of that place so much trust in their members?

Therein lies the beauty of this wonderful organisation of ours – it gives each individual member an unprecedented learning and growing opportunity. Most global organisations place severe restrictions on the use of brand and marketing collateral – Toastmasters empowers us and gives us free and open access to all brand assets as part of the learning experience. And all that the organisation asks for is that we follow the brand guidelines.

As Brand Management Team Leader in the District PR team, I’ve been studying much of the material that Clubs have been producing. One point keeps coming up (and his has also been my personal experience as a VPPR) and that is the issue of “individuality”.

Many clubs want to showcase their “je ne sais quoi” – the indefinable quality that makes something distinctive or attractive – and they express this individuality through their club invites, notices and announcements. While this demonstrates individuality, it also inadvertently dilutes the brand. When we don’t subscribe to our brand standards, we lessen its identity and therefore its brand value to prospective members.

Toastmasters International provides some very clear guidelines on branding standards and offers this advice:

“When you use the Toastmasters branding standards, the Toastmasters International brand becomes stronger. By communicating one consistent Toastmasters identity, the brand is more recognizable and accurately symbolizes the benefits of this great organization we are all proud to be part of.

Clubs and districts that communicate a consistent look help increase understanding and global awareness of Toastmasters International and can be beneficial in attracting and retaining members by clearly showing a connection with an international organization.

All clubs have a responsibility to reinforce the brand through consistent application of club messaging and visual communications.”

Which brings us back to the Brand Right initiative – our objective is to help clubs come to terms with the correct application of the Toastmasters brand standards so that as a District we honour our responsibility of reinforcing the Toastmasters brand throughout Southern Africa, and beyond.

Finally, on the subject of club individuality my message to clubs is to remember that the Toastmasters brand will bring them in, the Club experience will bring them back.

Gary Tintinger

District 74 Brand Right Coordinator