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Building Your Club’s Brand: A Direction Home

Bruce Springsteen said “[it] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind” when he first heard Bob Dylan’s 1965 anthem “Like a Rolling Stone.” With that song Dylan dramatically influenced the creative sphere of making music—even more so than its commercial impact. Change is afoot in clubs today because private club branding has been ignored. Few clubs manage their brand consistently and lose brand authority in so doing.  

Al and Laura Reis, the father/daughter team who authored The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding,describe a brand as “a small piece of real estate that one owns in the mind of the customer.” Private clubs, which rely upon the promise of exclusivity and superior services and experiences, are brands unto themselves, when managed properly.

Brand authority is the truthfulness of your brand. Is your club what it claims to be? Does it deliver on its brand promise? Does your brand have equity in its market? Is it worth something special?

“The power in a brand name lies in its ability to positively influence purchasing behavior. In an increasingly cluttered information society, a powerful brand image can act as a guidepost for the consumer in making a purchase decision,” according to The 22 Laws.

Here are a handful of steps that you can take to fortify your brand and its authority in your market.

1. Define your club’s brand. Does your brand represent and create market differentiation? Or, is your club another private club that is the same as its many competitors?

Your brand should describe the core values, mission and vision of your club. What does your club stand for? Among the concepts that resonate in today’s private club market are the concepts of family-friendly, diverse, earth-first, safe haven, fun and full of friends

2. Let others speak for you. Provide tools that your members can use to showcase your club in a great way. Digital brochures that can be sent to acquaintances, photographic images that can be posted on social media, and third-party endorsements—such as awards and recognitions—can highlight your club’s strengths.

To seize on this opportunity, prepare the tools in advance of need. Keep a library of photographic images, invite members to share their own photos and stories, develop and sustain an ongoing communications (not advertising) with your community. Examples of private club outreach into communities are energetic and engaging junior programs for sports, social and cultural learning activities, and environmental programs for Boy and Girl Scouts—private clubs are laboratories for earning Scouts’ badges in conservationism, commerce, cooking, lifesaving and citizenship.

3. Use sophisticated design to show that your club is innovative. Update the club website if it is outdated. It is your virtual front door. Become a curator of stories and images that show the people and lifestyle of your club.

Change impacts the people of your club. It influences their anxieties, expectations and needs concerning the club. The brand of your club represents both stability and quality in their minds … or not.

4. Create an aspirational club. Make your club one that everyone wishes she or he could join. To accomplish this objective, execute a SOAR Analysis—strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results. Be deliberate in establishing what the club wants to do and be and promise.

Demonstrate how your club is leaning forward and creating a world that people want in their futures. Answer the question, “What will the next generation of members want at our club?”

Your club is either leaning forward or backward.

5. Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate. See that your club stands out from the pack in favorable ways. Align your intentions with what members and prospects want and the values of your club.

Peter Drucker, the unparalleled management thinker taught, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Points of differentiation that resonate today are wellness programs, special dining experiences, and activities that build on lifelong learning, travel and an experiential economy.

By the way, Dylan had no plan for the song. At more than six and a half minutes it was too long, would not fit on one side of a 45 RPM record and the studio big-shots didn’t like it. It was the fourth of eleven takes and was surreptitiously shared in a performance before several of New York’s biggest disc jockeys of the time. The DJs demanded “Dylan’s new song” and, thus, the doors to change and many minds opened.

“How does it feel, ah how does it feel? To be on your own, with no direction home. Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”

Brand your club to sustain its values and to reach its future goals.

Henry DeLozier is a Principal of Global Golf Advisors, an NCA Legacy Alliance Partner. He can be reached at [email protected].