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Burning Brand: A Lesson In Branding Your Chapter

[This piece was written by Guest Writer, Alexzandria Chill]

Often times, when we think of Greek Life, we immediately associate it with the social scene. You can slide philanthropy in the picture too. However, we rarely affiliate our respective organizations with business. At the end of the day, all of our organizations are literally non-profit businesses. Therefore, we need to treat them as such. We, the members, are brand ambassadors. As brand ambassadors, our duty is to put our best foot forward at all times to ensure that the integrity of our sorority’s and fraternity’s brand are still in tact.

This was my mentality when I came into Zeta as a budding business woman. As with many Zeta chapters, and other organizations – you know who you are, we are sometimes considered the underdogs within our council. With that in mind, I knew that I had to do something different to help my chapter stand out. For my Neo year, and last year on campus, I made it my personal mission to apply marketing knowledge, branding know-how, and social media expertise to really elevate the visibility of my chapter members & Zeta as a whole.

Purpose of Branding ( in the Greek World)

If you have ever seen or been a part of a branding ceremony, you know it’s sort of a big deal. Kinda scary. Kinda foolish. Kinda brave. All kinds of emotions are mixed up in one. Fraternity and sorority members emphatically rally around the courageous individuals who have decided to display the highest level of loyalty to their organization by placing a piercing hot symbol on their bare skin. Just like with physical branding, the business branding process is very meticulous and intentional. Here, I will use the physical branding process as my metaphoric outline as a means to provide useful tips that can help take our chapter to the next level.

Step 1: Pre- Branding Prep Time 

A) Getting Materials: Before any branding ceremony, you need to make sure you have all the proper materials. This is the same with branding your chapter (or yourself). Make sure you have the necessary people, mind sets, skill sets, knowledge, and know-how to create the best picture of your organization (or yourself) that you possibly can. Be strategic in your intake processes. Establish the strengths of your current members and decide where they’re most useful within the chapter. Utilize everyone to their utmost potential and identify the areas where you need help. This will give you a good idea of where you stand now and how you can move forward in creating a dynamic chapter brand.

B) Creating the Shape of The Brand: When molding a symbol before a branding ceremony, it is imperative that you know EXACTLY what the brand should look like. Or else, you’re going to have this flickted, kindergarten looking, scribble on your body that no one will be able to identify. You don’t want that. Neither do you want that ambiguity in your personal/business branding. Decide EXACTLY what you want your personal brand or chapter brand to represent. What do you want to be associated with? What characteristics do you want to be known for? What are the first words that pop in to your head that you HOPE other people think of when they hear your name or your organization’s name? Be clear with how you want you and/or your chapter to be perceived and jot down the necessary steps to make it a reality. Keep it the forefront of your every day actions as a reference and reminder of why you’re making this commitment and what your ideal organization (or ideal you) is supposed to look like.

C) Sterilizing: Before anything goes on anyone’s skin, you MUST make sure that you clean and sterilize everything; materials and the skin being affected. Or else, you will end up with an infected, bubbly, and….you know what? I’ll spare the details. Point is, it won’t be pretty. Same goes for your brand. If the message gets too muddy, or you’re trying to be too many things to too many people, simplify it. When people look at you, they should know who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and how you execute your mission. Make it plain. Keep it clean.

Step 2: Gather Your Support System

A) Hype Men: A branding party is NOTHING without your necessary hype men/women. I mean…c’mon. Would you just get a symbol burned to your skin all willy nilly by yourself? If you say yes, I’m convinced you’re lying. Your crew is an essential ingredient to the branding process. They encourage you. Get you live.  They assure you that you’re doing the right thing. You need these same kind of people in your corner when you’re trying to establish your personal/chapter brand. These folks will stand by you. Let you know that it’s awesome you’re going in such a positive direction. They support your vision and what it represents.

B) Old Heads: Old Heads are also key elements to the branding processes. They know the proper precautions to take when applying a brand. They know precisely how the symbol is supposed to look. They don’t allow foolishness when it’s time to get down to business. The same is necessary for your personal/chapter branding. These mentors provide wisdom and insight about life (Greek & general) that you probably wouldn’t have considered before. They add a sense of rational to all that is going on. If something doesn’t look right, they’ll let you know. Perceptive Old Heads will be able to  steer you in the direction that best fits with your brand without intruding on your execution plan. They can be Greek advisers, family members, community leaders, peers or even public figures you admire. Seek knowledge. Apply it to your brand.

Step 3: The Brand Itself 

A) Initial Sting: When you start the physical branding processes and that iron touches your skin, it’s gon hurt. The sting is just the first stage. You’ll start re-thinking your whole decision. Why am I doing this again? Am I doing this right? Is it supposed to look like this? When you’re trying to implement a more definitive brand on campus (or in your personal life), the same questions will arise. Acknowledge the questions, neglect the doubt, affirm the mission and keep going.

B) Momentary Pain: The initial sting with be the least of your worries. Because the brand will not set in the first time, you’ll have to do multiple slow and steady applications in order for the brand to take shape. It will hurt a little more because you’re reapplying hot iron to an already open wound. Personal/Chapter branding can sometimes seem like this. Think of it like growing pains. In order to make your brand what you really want it to be, it takes consistent implementation of good branding practices & keeping those ideal perceptions in the forefront. With each step you take, you’re gradually solidifying what you’re ideal brand will look like. Once you get a good rhythm down, no one will be able to deny your distinctive presence.

C) The Smell of Commitment- Skin in the Game: One thing you cannot miss during this process is the smell of skin bacon. Yes, I made that term up, but that’s what it smells like. Skin bacon. It is a very recognizable smell that indicates that you are actually making a commitment to branding process. It essentially works the same way with your personal/chapter branding. You’re giving up a piece of you for the organization, or as they say in business, putting skin in the game. It’s time, it’s effort, it’s creativity, it’s intellect, it’s energy; you’re sacrificing for the greater good. Once people sense that you are making progressive moves towards a positive brand, they’ll take notice and want to invest in you.

4) Step 4: Nurturing a Healing Brand 

A) Protect: After the brand has set, now you must protect it. Clean it, wrap it so the scab can heal without ruining the shape, etc. Don’t let anything in that could probably infect the scar. The same thing applies for your personal or chapter brand. Rid things that don’t align with your vision. Whatever negative influences that are preventing you from achieving your ideal brand, approach and handle them accordingly.

B) Nurture: Whether it’s destructive people, situations, mindsets, habits or even outdated & inefficient practices you or your chapter have adopted, evaluate how you can make a correction. Do this on a regular basis so you can make sure your ideal version of yourself and your chapter will be visible, clear and fresh. This can be done by holding chapter retreats, conducting chapter character evaluations, holding members accountable on & off campus and monitoring social media activities that contradict your branding efforts. Be honest, be proactive and be diligent in your protecting and nurturing your brand.

I hope this guest article was useful for you. I will follow up with a branding practices blog soon to give you more concrete ideas on how to establish & maintain your personal & chapter brand. Thanks for reading!

This piece was written by Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Adamant Knowledge Seeker. Lady of ZPHIB [Pearl Clu5]. Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe