Branding Your Project

Danielle Peterson - December 2011

We all know what product brands are. Who can forget with the constant advertisement reminders? When you think Volvo, you might think safety. When you think Nike, you might think of Tiger Woods or "Just Do It." When you think IBM, you might think "Big Blue." The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from the product or service. A brand is not just a logo, ad campaign, spokesperson or slogan. Rather a brand is a product of the millions of experiences a company creates with employees, vendors, reporters, communities, and customers—and the emotional feelings these groups develop as a result of their experiences.

Increasingly organizations are using projects to get work done, which means there are more projects than ever competing for the organization's attention and resources. The same concepts used to brand these well-known products may help set your project apart.

But what exactly does a project brand look like? Your project brand can be expressed in many ways: a project name, sign, logo, color combinations, or a tag line. Done right, your project brand communicates your values, principles, and emphasis on success. It helps people have positive associations and feelings about your project. Your brand is what you say about yourself but it is also about what others say about you based on their observations.

Reasons to Brand Your Project:

Explain Your Project's Purpose

Some projects are hard to explain because they create intangible and sometimes completely invisible results. A software development project striving to create a central repository for an organization's financial data is a great example. One such team branded themselves the C.I.A. Project and used the readily identifiable acronym as a trick to get the rest of the organization to remember what they were up to which was providing access to information stored in a central repository. The team even purchased black t-shirts with C.I.A. in white letters across the back.

Justify Project Resources

Some projects consume more resources (cash, capital, human) than people are comfortable with. "Why are we funding that project?" In these instances, a brand can explain why a particular project, or a group of projects warrant investment. An organization attempting to reduce water consumption in their manufacturing facilities took on many projects with that aim, and they labeled each one of them part of their "Water is Money" program. The program's logo was a faucet with coins pouring from the spout. Branding helps set your project apart from the others vying for the same resources.

Create Team Identity

In our world of more projects than time it's easy for our team members to get distracted. A project brand can give team members something to rally around especially if it strikes a positive note with others in the organization. If team members positively identify with the project (maybe are even proud of it), they are more likely to want to stay engaged. A project team within a healthcare organization was given the responsibility of bringing order to the chaos plaguing their 15 clinical labs. The team's slogan was "Chaos Busters." As they improved one lab at a time word got out and soon the team members were referred to simply as "Busters" and were celebrated in the organization. Even after the team achieved their goal, the members were proud to say they were one of the original "Busters." After the project team disbands, a good brand will be remembered.

How To Brand Your Project

Think about your project brand as the personality that identifies your project and how it relates to the stakeholders. You are giving your stakeholders a way to develop a relationship with your project. To find a meaningful brand consider the following:

  • The strategic purpose of your project and what it will accomplish for the organization.
  • The qualities or characteristics that make the project unique. (Team structure, mission, attitude, or approach for example.)
  • How you want the project and the team to be perceived by others and remembered after the project.

With ever greater numbers of projects demanding people's attention some creative branding can help your project get noticed. Using the same concepts as Nike, Volvo, and IBM, branding can help bring stakeholder attention and clarity of purpose to projects. Additionally, a project brand can foster a positive team identity to help teams stay engaged and help the organization celebrate their success long after the project is over.

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