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Think about how many of today’s top performing companies have built their empires on stand out branding: Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola…just to name a few. Private clubs are a world away from corporations, but they both have one essential thing in common: They rely on distinctive branding for true success. In part one of our branding series, we discussed how to identify how your members and the community view your club through focus groups, surveys, consulting past club leaders, and more. Why is this vital for private clubs? Because in this industry, perception is brand.
Distilling perceptions into a marketable image is challenging, which is precisely the reason why many private clubs struggle with even the most essential marketing efforts. But now that you’ve put your finger on what makes your club shine, you can put those qualities front and center in everything you do.
“Brand creates a continuous experience for the membership – from print materials, to the website, to the interiors,” says Charlie Turner, Chambers’ Director of Interior Design. Implementing a consistent brand engages current members and reminds them why they chose your club – and why they should encourage their friends to join too. Though there are many ways to project club brand, here are five of the most effective methods.
Internal club communications is one of the leading ways to establish and reinforce club brand. From newsletters to informative pamphlets, internal communications can create a well-rounded, branded experience for members. Some clubs, such as the Duquesne Club, have even created an exclusive magazine crafted specifically for their members! Rather than producing each club communication separately, offer consistency by creating a style guide for all club materials. Style guides typically dictate the following:
Assembling a comprehensive style guide not only establishes continuity, but also translates your brand into something that members can physically see and touch. It reaches beyond abstract concepts and gives members a specific aesthetic and “personality” to identify with the club.
Even from a financial perspective, style guides are extremely useful. By having to work within a set of pre-determined parameters, marketing staff will spend significantly less time and effort creating new communication materials for the club. Rather than wasting time worrying over details font sizes and logo placements, marketing staff can jump straight into crafting useful materials that suit a specific purpose.
Many clubs shy away from using social media because they fear compromising the very exclusivity that makes clubs special. But if you manage your club’s social media presence wisely, you deepen your relationship with club members – even when they’re within the comfort of their own home! Charlotte Country Club and Wycliffe Golf & Country Club are two great examples of clubs that make extensive use of various social media outlets to portray different aspects of the club experience – including event highlights, menu special announcements, renovation “progress reports,” important milestones, etc. By carrying the principles used in your internal communications to the digital realm, you create consistency between members’ physical experience at the club and their digital club experience.
Don’t think social media is for your membership demographic? Despite common stereotypes, social media isn’t just for young people. In fact, Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is the 55+ crowd – meaning you can engage members across the age spectrum. Depending on your privacy settings, having an active digital presence can also allow clubs to project their image into the surrounding community. For example, promoting your upcoming charity event on a public social media account can influence community perceptions of your club.
Many of the nation’s premiere clubs utilize atmosphere and mood to create a cohesive experience for their members. “A well-defined brand can easily be extrapolated into interior design,” says Turner, who regularly highlights the correlation between interior design and branding in his work with private clubs.
Private clubs often have a reputation for their disjointed, piecemeal interiors. To create a distinctive experience, it makes sense both conceptually and financially to look at club interiors from a “big picture” perspective. To ensure continuity, Turner recommends revamping the club’s brand at the same time you plan or renovate interiors. Many private clubs with strong identities show their colors through their interior designs by pulling from regional influences and nodding to their illustrious histories.
However, intertwining brand and design does not mean taking the colors from the logo and plastering it across the walls or on furnishings – a common pitfall of over-branding. “The idea is to communicate a concept, an idea, a narrative, without looking like Disney World or McDonald’s. The design should be distinct and sophisticated without being in-your-face or trite,” says Turner. For example, many clubs with well-defined brands will update their interiors to suit contemporary memberships, but still acknowledge their histories with traditional design and artworks that are significant to the club.
Think the Food and Beverage department is an island onto itself? Think again. Every aspect of the club should reflect your brand and contribute to the member experience…and we’re not just talking about the menu design! Food selections can be a defining factor of the club experience — particularly for those with social memberships. “Incorporating regional dishes and local ingredients onto club menus is an easy way to reflect the club’s regional roots and history,” suggests Turner.
Of course, the person who will know how to reflect your club brand on the menu is your F&B staff. Discuss your brand with your Executive Chef and see how their menu can fit into the larger vision for the club. Once you and the Chef are on the same page, allow them to work their magic and develop a menu that members will identify specifically with your club!
While executing club brand is certainly achievable from within, there’s no doubt that the best implementation comes from marketing experts – particularly professionals who are immersed in the private club industry. A quality marketing professional crafts a comprehensive marketing plan that all club stakeholders can examine and discuss. Once you‘ve agreed upon a direction for the plan, decide how to delegate each task – or allow your marketing professional to take care of it!
The branding process isn’t the right time to skimp on time, effort, or money. Ultimately, brands remind members that they’re part of something larger than themselves – and after all, isn’t that the ultimate appeal of the private club experience?
Learn more about creating a distinct brand for your private club!