by Matt Mattson
Absolutely nobody ever joined nothing, so you’ll never convince anyone what you’re not.
(That first sentence might take a couple read-throughs before it makes sense. But like some sort of Zen proverb, the more you read it, the more it will matter to you.)
Here’s the point. Great marketing doesn’t normally feature what you’re NOT. Nike didn’t get great by saying they were NOT REEBOK. They became something else. They created shoes, clothing, and a lifestyle for people. They were positive, not negative. People don’t buy Coke because it’s not Pepsi — it’s because they’re Coke people.
So what are you? What is your organization about? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you FOR?
[WATCH THIS VIDEO FOR A COOL EXAMPLE OF WHAT I MEAN]
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a lot of stuff on social media from fraternities and sororities about what they’re NOT. “We’re not [a stereotype, hazers, drunks, dumb, sexual assaulters, bitches, douches, buying our friends, racist, sexist, homophobic, hegemonic, etc.]!” we shout.
So, what are you?
I was at a campus a while ago — it was a branch campus, not the “flagship” school in the state, and they took pride in not being like those obnoxious Greeks at the big school down the road. But when I asked, “So if you’re not those ‘big school Greeks,’ what are you?” they were a little stumped.
It makes us feel better to do marketing that reinforces what we believe we’re not. But it doesn’t inspire or enchant anyone new to want to be a part of what we’re doing.
An undergraduate sorority leader said to me not long ago, “It’s almost like saying we’re not a stereotype has become our new stereotype.” That is very true, unfortunately.
You have to be about something. You have to be for something. You have to be doing something.
What’s your story? What’s the single, compelling, and consistently-reinforced story your members tell the world about your organization?
Is it interesting? Is it inspiring? Is it captivating, fascinating, or ensorceling?
Or is it predictable? (Hint: “Leadership, Scholarship, Service, Brotherhood/Sisterhood,” or some variation of that, couldn’t possibly be more predictable. Don’t get me started on “GO GREEK!”)
My favorite quote from the marketing world is, “Your brand is not the story you tell about yourself, it’s the story other people tell about you.”
So maybe I should be asking a different question, “What is the story you hope other people are telling about your organization as a result of your organization’s marketing, recruitment, and operational choices?”
Smart, discerning, “high quality” student leaders aren’t interested in groups that aren’t going anywhere. They want your organization to BE ABOUT SOMETHING!