One of the first items to explore in my new client relationships is the business’ brand. It’s important to study both what the institution touts as their brand and what the average customer or member sees as the brand. You can imagine – those two perceptions are often at odds.

So, we often go back to basics and reinforce what branding is all about. Sometimes lessons like that are easier to learn when associated with a passion, and heaven knows, here in The South, we are passionate about college football!

1 Branding = Being Authentic

I see some businesses struggle with finding the right message and the right marketing channels, jumping from one trendy social media or marketing topic to the next without making sure these messages and channels match their culture. Take a look at Nick Saban, head coach for Alabama. He’s a straight-forward coach, with a stern, almost an old-school feel to him in the way he interacts with media. He keeps his communication style, his brand, the same way by staying away from Twitter and other social media – sticking with ‘old-school’ media. If your message, your marketing channels feel forced, it might be time to revisit what your message should be.

2 Branding Means Knowing Your Audience

The audience for most businesses is their customer, potential and current. A football coach has several audiences – players, recruits, fans, alumni, boosters, school administration, the list goes on. Butch Jones, head coach of Tennessee, reaches all of those audiences and has also made special efforts to include former players who made an impact while at Tennessee (does Peyton Manning sound familiar?). Coach Jones has laid out a solid message, based on the long history of UT, which resonates with all of those varied audiences. regardless of the differences in age, income and education level, gender and religion. I’m certain he’s living that authentic message behind the cameras as well. You can see those players, fans, former UT players and coaches now speaking those same messages, epitomized by the philosophy of building a stronger Tennessee football team “brick by brick.”

3 Make Your Message Memorable

The South is full of interesting characters, including our football coaches. Les Miles, head coach of LSU, is a great example of all these branding lessons, especially being memorable. He is known for being candid, funny and honest in his dealings with the press, which certainly makes for some memorable quotes. There’s no doubt his grass eating tradition is a big part of his memorable brand as a coach. Here’s an interview in which he teaches Erin Andrews, then an ESPN reporter, how to eat grass.

4 Be Consistent With Your Brand

Sometimes the brand of an SEC football coach transcends the university for which he coaches. Take Steve Spurrier as an example. He’s coached at two SEC schools, Florida and now at South Carolina. We see Coach Spurrier as a frank, brutally honest coach with high expectations for his team. At both schools, he’s been authentic, consistent and definitely memorable. He might not throw down his visor as much as he did in the early days at Florida, but one never knows when he just might do that.

Does your business stay consistent in its message through the many ups and downs of a normal business cycle? Stay consistent across media channels? This consistency builds trust with your audience – a very valuable asset indeed.

5 Connect Emotionally to Your Audience

A customer’s purchasing decision often comes down to emotions. The most memorable television commercials are those that tug on the heart strings or make us laugh. Solving a problem for your customers makes them feel better, creating an emotional connection. And you can see many football coaches doing the same thing. Mark Richt does so out of a genuine need to help his players throughout their lifetime, starting the Paul Oliver Network. This network seeks to assist former Georgia players find a career after football. Richt started the program after Paul Oliver, who played football under Richt, committed suicide at the end of his football career. Again, it is an authentic move, it connects emotionally, is consistent with his message and is definitely memorable.

Is your brand ready to score? Give us a call today and let’s get started!