Branding 101: Lessons from a marketing graduate program


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Branding 101: Lessons from a marketing graduate program

What is a brand? The professor who teaches my “Branding Concept” class put it really well: If your organization is a pyramid, your brand is the top piece of that pyramid. As your organization expands its operations, it should continue to follow the guidelines set by the triangle at the top of the pyramid.

Scale your brand choices and keep them consistent.

That lesson can help when making small marketing decisions about brand interpretation, like what swag to give away at an event. For USGBC, it makes more sense to promote our organization on a sustainable tote bag or reusable water bottle, instead of a koozie or pair of sunglasses. That’s an example of how this global brand manifests itself in individual marketing choices. Referencing that top pyramid guide can help you make decisions as detailed as what emoji to use in an email subject line.

Create a positioning statement to clarify your brand.

Need help finding who you are as a brand? Try writing your positioning statement. A positioning statement is an internal document that helps clarify what problem you are solving for customers. What “job” does your brand do for people?

  • For [a target audience, based on needs]
  • Our brand is [frame of reference—category in the consumer’s mind]
  • That provides [3 key benefits]
  • Because [reason to believe]

For USGBC, that might look something like:

  • For professionals in the built environment who need to quantify their environmental impact
  • Our brand is the independent green building certification organization
  • that provides education, verification and guidelines of environmental standards
  • Because we wrote the definition of what is environmentally friendly in buildings and sites

Ultimately, anything your business does can be replicated by some other organization. Your brand is the only thing that cannot be taken or copied. Your reputation is specific to you, and the brand is what people identify you as. Your brand is your identity.

See more on branding from USGBC Studio

How to enforce brand guidelines


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How to enforce brand guidelines

A logo is the fabric of any company’s identity. It not only tells the public where a product comes from, but also represents a brand’s message, values and leadership in the market. Now, have you ever wondered how an organization protects its logos?

At USGBC, we have several brand assets, but the most frequently requested is our LEED certification logo—a globally recognized symbol of leadership and excellence in green, high-performance buildings. Attaining LEED certification demonstrates leadership in implementing environmentally responsible building practices.

In addition, the certification logo is widely used to acknowledge a project’s achievement and symbolize a building’s commitment to cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments for the places in which we live, work and play. It’s important that we protect the logo, so that only eligible projects are using it to represent their projects.

The importance of brand consistency

Inconsistent branding can have many negative side effects. Maintaining brand consistency directly translates to how dependable people consider your organization, product or service to be. A product or service marketed with the wrong logo might cause a customer to lose trust in it. A website with the wrong logo may make visitors question the authenticity of the product or service being offered on the site.

The correct usage of brand assets is critical for upholding the credibility of a brand. But how do you do this?

At USGBC, we recognize that our LEED project teams are a part of a select group of leaders, and it’s important that they’re recognized as such for their hard work applying integrative design processes to better the future of our built environment. To help uphold our branding in the market, our marketing team created USGBC’s Trademark and Branding Guidelines, which includes the dos and don’ts on how to use our brand assets in your marketing materials.

While we follow these rules internally, we also rely on our members and the larger community to follow these guidelines to maintain the consistent look and feel of USGBC brand assets in their own materials. If branding guidelines are not enforced, they lose their meaning.

Here a few tips on how to diplomatically answer customer questions about your brand usage:

1. Be understanding.

I’ve become very familiar with USGBC’s Trademark and Branding Guidelines. In fact, I look at them every day. It’s important for me to remember that not everyone is looking at these guidelines as frequently as I am, though, so I often spell out the rules in an email, instead of pointing our customers to the long document.

2. Provide helpful resources.

That said, I always provide our customers with the full USGBC Trademark and Branding Guidelines document. It is a helpful resource whenever I have to enforce our policies. In a customer service-centric role, you’re typically trained to tell your customer “yes,” but that can’t always be the case when enforcing branding rules. Fall back on your guidelines, and always point out the page where the rule you’re enforcing can be found, so customers can view it easily.

Whenever it makes sense to do so, you can also point to helpful resources on your website. For example, when a user asks for a logo for their presentation, I always make sure to point them in the direction of our Why LEED for Your Clients? deck and encourage them to use any slides from the presentation. This not only helps ensure our brand is used consistently, but also helps make our customers’ job easier—that’s a win in my book.

3. Answer the question or find a resolution.

All questions have an answer or resolution, even if it’s not the one the customer was hoping for. I make sure I am either communicating the rules in a simple way or helping to provide the requested resource (or an alternate one).

Enforcing your brand guidelines can only help build your brand’s visibility and reputation in the industry. While it can sometimes feel like you’re having to play “good cop, bad cop,” it’s always important to remember that you’re protecting the value of the brand for all of its users.

Learn more about LEED branding with our design team

Brand recognition with LEED digital badges


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Brand recognition with LEED digital badges

As with our LEED wordmark, USGBC is always looking for ways to help companies promote their LEED-certified and registered projects while still preserving the integrity of the LEED program logo and certification mark.

LEED digital badges

Although projects are able to use the LEED program logo once they have registered their project, and the LEED certification logo once their project has been certified, there hasn’t been a way to display their achievements on websites and other digital locations. We created these badges with an eye towards addressing that need.

LEED digital badges

Now, both registered and certified projects have several options for displaying LEED certifications and registrations on their websites, blogs, social channels and any other relevant digital areas, simultaneously allowing us to increase LEED brand recognition.

Learn more about our LEED branding

Creating cohesive branding for local events


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Creating cohesive branding for local events

Our local USGBC communities host events all over the country, but we know that we have three very large events each year. GreenerBuilder, Impact and Rocky Mountain Green are our highest-profile USGBC community events. Our marketing team decided that creating short style guides for these three events could help direct the development of assets such as the website, signage, on-site materials and other collateral. We wanted these events to have some cohesiveness across the board, to give them their own look and feel apart from our other national and international USGBC events.

For example, we included color swatches to direct the look and feel, as well as guidance about which logo lockups are appropriate for web and print use. There is a section that suggests photography—this is meant to be general support, so community staff know what to look for from their photo banks or stock resources.

USGBC community event branding guides

Another element we like to focus on is social media graphics. Since these events are high-profile for our communities, we want them to be able to promote the events on social media, when appropriate. We usually generate a handful of graphics and guidance about which platforms to share on. We also provide some presentation slide templates and examples. Given that each event will always have presentations, we want to equip the community with all the tools they will need to create a cohesive event.

While each community event has its own style guide, we designed these as a cohesive trio of suggestions to ensure these events felt connected.

Learn more about how we brand USGBC events

Branded tote bags as a fun holiday party giveaway


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Branded tote bags as a fun holiday party giveaway

For the USGBC office holiday party in 2017, we booked a screen printer to be live on-site printing tote bags for staff. To go along with that, the events team needed the design team to create the designs for printing.

We wanted to keep these playful and fun, and brainstormed some cute phrases related to our green building mission to use in our designs. We went with “totes sustainable” and “we’ve got green building in the bag” on two of our designs. Our entire creative team played a part in this project, and all three of our designers contributed final designs.

Branded tote bags for the USGBC holiday party

We were able to select the ink color used for printing, and then the screen printers took it from there! They were on-site all afternoon and able to print the totes right there for staff at the party. This was a really fun project to see come to life—a different take on branding and a nice way to take our mission in a playful direction.

Screen-printed tote bags for the holiday party at USGBC

If you have a party, fundraiser, or team-building event coming up, think about doing a custom project like this to give attendees something cool to take home. Also, the bonus: reusable tote bags for everyone! View the entire project.

See more USGBC design projects

TRUE Branding


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TRUE Branding

TRUE Zero Waste is a program for businesses to define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals, thereby reducing their impact on the natural environment and our collective health. With that in mind, the goal was to create a logo and brand that was innately simple and minimal, while at the same time flexible and adaptable. The final logo embodies a non-traditional, continuous cycle using bold, clean lines. Learn more about TRUE. This branding system won a 2018 AIGA 50 Design award.

True Zero Waste branding poster

Greenbuild International Rebrand


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Greenbuild International Rebrand

A rebrand for our upcoming International Greenbuild shows that focused on digital resources, onsite displays, and printed collateral. As part of our event strategy, we aim to evolve the look of the show branding to touch on different topics and trends while maintaining the core Greenbuild aesthetic as a thread.

USGBC Community Events branding


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USGBC Community Events branding

Short brand style guides to help direct the overall look and feel of our three largest USGBC Community events.

USGBC Community Event Branding