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Joe Johnson
09-21-2011, 09:22 PM
This is part of a series of posts called Drinking From The Firehose (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=97430) on getting Dr Joe back up to speed on All Things FIRST.

I just posted Things a Rookie Team Should Do in the Fall... (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=97484)

I occurs to me that I am not just starting a FIRST Robotics Team, but building a brand.

To my mind, the best FIRST teams are the ones that have, by accident or by design, built the best and strongest brands. Think of the teams in the FIRST Hall of Fame. Think of the storied competitors over the years. Think of the most memorable FIRST teams. What comes to mind?

Like the best schools. Like the best products. Like the best service providers. Like the best leaders. FIRST teams are brands.

I want the brand of the team that I help lead to be one of the best brands of FIRST. It is a long journey to be sure but every journey has to start somewhere.

So... ...I would like this thread to be a discussion about what a rookie team (or any team) needs to do to establish their brand.

Cheers,
Joe J.

P.S. I also curious as to other's thoughts on the subject. I am all wet with this brand banter?

If you agree with me or not, the tell me why.

If you think brands are worth the bother, what do they provide? If their bunk, then why do some teams waste the effort?

Alan Anderson
09-21-2011, 11:54 PM
Don't worry about brand until you identify your team's strengths. You can get started on imagery and possible core themes, but hold off on getting too focused on marketing before you know just what it is you can market.

Taylor
09-22-2011, 06:20 AM
Don't worry about brand until you identify your team's strengths. You can get started on imagery and possible core themes, but hold off on getting too focused on marketing before you know just what it is you can market.

I respectfully disagree. By creating a name, logo, motto, and theme for your team early on, you create an identifiable identity. Team strengths change with personnel, from season to season, event to event, match to match. Team identity can be forever.

jwfoss
09-22-2011, 06:54 AM
In my opinion building your team brand is one of the most important things a team can do. A brand allows your team to unite under a common name, number, theme, and most importantly a set of goals. Establishing a set of goals is huge.

When going after sponsors; attractive, professional logos and documents will greatly inhance your chances of recieving money.

In terms of the FIRST community, well known teams really do have a total branding, take for example 254, 111, 148, 1114... everyone who has been in FIRST for more than a year will likely know those numbers.

Over the past year 2168 has begun to establish themselves within the FIRST community after a few years of simply existing. I can see the growth in the team and the energy behind it as the students are proud of what the team is becoming.

Good luck, have fun, and as always, don't be afraid to ask for help

Al Skierkiewicz
09-22-2011, 07:04 AM
Building a brand helps your team to be recognized in your school, in your community and at competition. When seeking sponsor money or fundraising you need to have people scratch their head and say "Oh! I know you. You are the kids with that robot thing. Sure I will buy a box of candy." You want students in the school to see the T-shirt and think "maybe I should join those guys. It looks like fun."

Tom Bottiglieri
09-22-2011, 07:06 AM
The best way to build a brand is to win. I think the brand association is a side effect of increased exposure.

Tom Bottiglieri
09-22-2011, 07:25 AM
The best way to build a brand is to win. I think the brand association is a side effect of increased exposure.

That being said, a few things I can think of:

The easy teams to find at competitions are the ones with unique uniforms, like Wildstang or the Killer Bees
Unique names are better. Killer Bees vs. "Insert school name here robotics".
Short form logo and long form logo. Basically the difference between what you see on a ball cap/shirt breast vs. the bigger logo which has the name in it.
Consistent coloring. This is just a part of good design in general. Pick 2 offsetting colors and run with them.

Brandon Holley
09-22-2011, 07:44 AM
Branding is huge, especially for rookie teams. As team numbers become larger and larger, it becomes much harder to identify teams simply by team number.

The older teams are obviously at an advantage because:
A. They've had years to build their brand and
B. They have a nice low team number which is also easily identifiable.

As Tom said, I definitely think theres a bit of a chicken and an egg type conundrum when looking at the "big brand" teams of FIRST. All of them are successful on the field in some fashion, so did the winning come after the branding, or was the branding easily done after winning?

I think it's important as a rookie team going in to come up with your identity now, and try to stick with it. I see many young teams who change their identity on a yearly basis. While this may be fun in the short term for the team, it is very difficult to track for other FRC teams.

When creating your brand try to stick into the minds of fellow FIRSTers by any means necessary. Coming up with a creative team name, cool looking uniforms, an interesting color scheme or nice team giveaways are all ways to help stick out.

Good luck!

-Brando

1986titans
09-22-2011, 07:51 AM
That being said, a few things I can think of:

Unique names are better. Killer Bees vs. "Insert school name here robotics".


To help out with that, here's a list of every single team and the name they used last year: https://my.usfirst.org/frc/scoring/index.lasso?page=teamlist. (It looks a lot better pasted into Excel as Unicode Text.)

NickE
09-22-2011, 08:25 AM
Once you figure out your brand, you might consider developing identity standards to help clearly define and govern your brand.
Example: 254's Identity Standards (http://team254.com/resources/identity)

XaulZan11
09-22-2011, 08:54 AM
Don't worry about brand until you identify your team's strengths. You can get started on imagery and possible core themes, but hold off on getting too focused on marketing before you know just what it is you can market.

I agree with Alan. For example, our team during our first year or so consisted of mostly shy, reserved students. If our team leader decided before our first year that we would be one of the teams cheering, starting chants, wearing crazy outfits, mascots, it would have been a disaster as all the core students on the team probably wouldn't have done any of that. (Thankfully, our team is a lot more outgoing now). I do think it is important to determine a team name and colors that will be consistent year to year and allow you to do some more of the creative marketing if your team wishes to in the future.

I also agree that consistently winning on the field is the best way to achieve a recognizable brand. Unless you change your name every year, its pretty easy to be remembered if you contend for regionals every year.

Jessica Boucher
09-22-2011, 09:33 AM
For a rookie, Tom's pretty much hit the nail on the head. It shouldn't be THE thing, but it should have some thought put into it as it sucks to change and re-brand.

For rookie-specific branding, I would go talk to ALARM (http://alarmrobotics.wikispaces.com/), who are relatively local to you and in my opinion handle branding as a young team real well. It's there enough to have them stand out from the 4 digit sea but doesn't overwhelm the robot performance.

And as always, you can use Chief Delphi, no one's using that name...

Brandon Holley
09-22-2011, 10:21 AM
For rookie-specific branding, I would go talk to ALARM (http://alarmrobotics.wikispaces.com/), who are relatively local to you and in my opinion handle branding as a young team real well. It's there enough to have them stand out from the 4 digit sea but doesn't overwhelm the robot performance.


And to Tom's point, one reason ALARM is widely recognized is because their rookie year in 2007 was extremely competitive. They impressed many people at the Boston regional that year (our team included).

-Brando

ebarker
09-22-2011, 10:53 AM
If you are starting a new team... team building, team identity = team branding... is job #1. I would strive to create a brand identity that has appeal inside of FIRST, but also to the general public.

The following is essentially a repost from another thread. It is a little dry but if you may get something out if it.

////

Recently Kell Robotics hosted the Georgia FIRST Mentor Advisory Council - Conference last week. The inaugural event of the MAC was a year ago, 1st meet of this year at Kell again. The conference last year had about 16 attendees. This year we had 32. I expect we will probably have 50+ next year.

This years topic is on leadership, group dynamics, team building. This year and last year's topics are generic, useful for any type of organization.

If you go to the 26:00 minute mark, I start a lecture on leadership, for about 35 minutes. The first 10 minutes of that is a little dry but it gets better around 36:00. There is an intermission, and then we go to group dynamics and team building at the 58:00 minute mark. The best part starts at 1:07:00. here (http://www.youtube.com/kellrobotics#p/u/6/UriCZb7IzOI)

I didn't have any real time to prepare for the briefing, I got 4 hours sleep, and I brought my notes to make sure I didn't forget anything, but it seemed to work out well, and the feedback from the audience was excellent. Some mentors drove 300 miles round trip in a single day to attend this conference. The goal of the 'MAC' is to create high performing, self sustainable teams. It is not a program specific low level technical thing that is best left to a workshop.

Our team style guide is here (http://kellrobotics.org/files/Kell_Robotics_Style_Guide.pdf)

Last years presentation was on creating public value for programs like FIRST. Last year's presentations are on the right side of this screen: here (http://www.youtube.com/gafirst#p/c/AF1ABD379844337B)

Creating public value is how you create community and sponsor support.

Karibou
09-22-2011, 12:51 PM
If you think brands are worth the bother, what do they provide? If their bunk, then why do some teams waste the effort?


I think that a brand is definitely worth the bother (then again, I came from a team where the brand was emphasized a lot). How else will someone recognize your team from year to year, regardless of robot performance? Have the students decide what kind of team they want to be known as, and build up from that. Give examples of teams that you feel have "done it right", and draw ideas from them. I think that one of the biggest things is to make sure that whatever image the team decides on is unique, simple, and consistent.

Basel A
09-22-2011, 02:38 PM
Two important things to note in building a brand and identity are simplicity and themes.

The best logo is simple and easily recreated. I mean recreated both physically and mentally. A simple logo is easily remembered, so people will remember your team. Note the logos of successful brands. You see an Apple with a bite out of it? Apple. A blue box with a white f? Facebook. Simplicity is key. Teams like 254 (http://team254.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/swoosh-icon.png) and 2056 (http://www.firstwiki.net/media/d/dd/Finished_Logo.jpg) have this down. Teams with logos like ours (http://www.firstwiki.net/media/2/22/Team_2337_-_EngiNERDs_-_Logo_-_200x200.png) or 1114's (http://www.firstwiki.net/media/5/50/Post-9-1107901443.jpg) are a bit harder to remember. Of course, as mentioned above, success breeds awareness, so 1114 hasn't had any at all problems being remembered!

Allow me to point out that both of the good examples used the team number as a major element while the latter examples did not. It's not necessary, but extremely useful. Even if your name is generic, your number is unique and, alone, can usually lead people to your team in particular. This is one way higher numbers are better: they're more unique. Try finding the Juggernaut's (Team 1) website if you don't know their team name.

Second, themes. These can be simple or complicated, but they define your team. A color scheme is a start and a unique one can be your identity (Think The Pink Team). Try linking everything you do with your team name (if possible) and logo. The Killer Bees exemplify this; you can see their honeycomb pattern everywhere from Chairman's Award presentations (https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/197337_10150148536262789_252780132788_6430052_7868 364_n.jpg) to robots (https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/183564_10150108552602789_252780132788_6199226_7500 463_n.jpg), not to mention the antennae! This is even evident in robot design, from 254's West Coast Drives (though not the originators, certainly the most famous users) to 148's iconic sheet metal. Make these themes patterns and use them consistently. Eventually your team develops an identity around those patterns and are remembered by them.

DSM33
09-22-2011, 06:12 PM
Another major attribute of a brand is the brand color. As mentioned before, Wildstang has a style all its own with the tie-dye t-shirts but I think a color is more important than anything. Many students (from frosh to seniors) refer to certain colors as "Cheesy Poof Blue" or "ThunderChicken Green" or "Pink Team Pink" and a giant section of students and parents in bright yellow is most likely my Killer Bees (or RUSH ;) ). So look for a color that will make your team pop out from the 40-some other teams at your competition.

Also don't forget pass-outs at competitions. They might seem trivial and a waste of time but they will also help build your team's image. For example, I can count at least 5 kids on the Killer Bees right now that use a ThunderChickens lanyard for his or her car keys. Also on the Killer Bees we don't just hand out antenna to people at the competitions, we also created a game to get antenna in the most creative or interesting places possible. For example...
here (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150175045052789&set=a.10150175033152789.316612.252780132788&type=1&theater)
here (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150112821587789&set=o.252780132788&type=3)
and on Fighting Pi's Robot this year :D

Ivan Helmrich
09-22-2011, 06:20 PM
Joe,
First off, welcome back.

I'm going to fall into the 'brand is really important' camp here. I have two points. First, I think the most important thing is to establish a brand identity and then stick with it. I've been working with the same team for 6 years, never with the same school representative for more than 2. Each year, the T-shirts change, the logo changes, the students adopt a different motto. The changes water down the team spirit and it makes us look like we don't know who we are or what we stand for at competitions. The team also wastes valuable time rethinking this stuff every year.

The other point is that part of mentoring students is to help them understand how things are done in the world outside of school. Any company the students will go work for is going to have a brand. Good companies guard their brand as fiercely as any other asset they have. Students need to know this and once in the working world, an understanding of branding as a business concept will help them stand out in a positive way. Being seen as a brand champion and defender is a plus in the working world. It's not just an appearance thing either. I'm in product development, tasked with generating ideas for new product. One of the first considerations with any new concept is how fits with the company's brand. If I didn't understand the value of this, I could not do the job.

Ivan

Aren_Hill
09-22-2011, 06:48 PM
Another major attribute of a brand is the brand color. As mentioned before, Wildstang has a style all its own with the tie-dye t-shirts but I think a color is more important than anything. Many students (from frosh to seniors) refer to certain colors as "Cheesy Poof Blue" or "ThunderChicken Green" or "Pink Team Pink" and a giant section of students and parents in bright yellow is most likely my Killer Bees (or RUSH ;) ). So look for a color that will make your team pop out from the 40-some other teams at your competition.

Also don't forget pass-outs at competitions. They might seem trivial and a waste of time but they will also help build your team's image. For example, I can count at least 5 kids on the Killer Bees right now that use a ThunderChickens lanyard for his or her car keys. Also on the Killer Bees we don't just hand out antenna to people at the competitions, we also created a game to get antenna in the most creative or interesting places possible. For example...
here (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150175045052789&set=a.10150175033152789.316612.252780132788&type=1&theater)
here (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150112821587789&set=o.252780132788&type=3)
and on Fighting Pi's Robot this year :D

I don't have a picture, but someone was ninja enough to get a set on Wall-E

BJC
09-22-2011, 07:10 PM
I will restate what others before me have said. Winning is the best way to build a brand. Yes, it is desirable to have a special color/mascot/whatever. However, these things don't mean a whole lot unless you are good. (and when you are good people will want your handouts, shirts, etc which spreads your team in and of itself.) As this is your first year the greatest community brand you could hope for is "rookie sensation". If you brand yourself in your first year as a winning team who can be trusted to get it done on the field not only will you gain a reputation within the first community, you will find yourself consistantly playing late Saturday.

I'll leave with one last thing. Branding is really just your team trying to positivly influence the way others percieve your team. However, ultimatly, others will develop their own ideas of your team. Be a team who is known for being friendly, professional, helpful, and easy to work with because these are the factor which will determine how other teams think about you. Be a team others want to work with.

Regards, Bryan

Billfred
09-22-2011, 09:18 PM
I will restate what others before me have said. Winning is the best way to build a brand. Yes, it is desirable to have a special color/mascot/whatever. However, these things don't mean a whole lot unless you are good. (and when you are good people will want your handouts, shirts, etc which spreads your team in and of itself.) As this is your first year the greatest community brand you could hope for is "rookie sensation". If you brand yourself in your first year as a winning team who can be trusted to get it done on the field not only will you gain a reputation within the first community, you will find yourself consistantly playing late Saturday.

I'll leave with one last thing. Branding is really just your team trying to positivly influence the way others percieve your team. However, ultimatly, others will develop their own ideas of your team. Be a team who is known for being friendly, professional, helpful, and easy to work with because these are the factor which will determine how other teams think about you. Be a team others want to work with.

Regards, Bryan

I won't draw it all the way over to on-field performance--for a given level of robot performance, there are three differentiators:

1) History. (The blue banner we earned the hard way at Peachtree got us on the map at Palmetto, since we were the only ones thus far that had won a regional in 2011. Until you get through regional number one, you're kinda hosed here.)
2) Connections. (It also helped that George Wallace, who I've known for about as long as I've been in FRC, was running strategy for SPAM at Palmetto--while 180 and 2815 had never shared a field before that weekend, there was already a channel of communication. You being Dr. Joe, you should have this covered like white on rice on a paper plate with a glass of milk in a snowstorm.)
3) Memorability. (This is where branding, especially on-robot branding, helps.)

Things you'd want to consider in my book to handle bullet point number three:

1) Colors. These arenas are dimly-lit at times, so the brighter you can get away with, the better. (Turns out that people watching us at Peachtree on the webcast could identify us exceptionally well because of the bright yellow claw we had.) Of course, you are probably also bound by school/sponsor affiliations too--we stretched the USC color charts with yellow (which is in their official color chart but restricted to the feet and beak of the mascot, Cocky).
2) Applying the colors. In our better years, we've sent our superstructure out for paint at the district career center or had it anodized at a shop. This year, out of time and unable to paint in the pits, we wrapped the robot in black gaffer tape, close-enough-to-garnet racing tape (actual label), and yellow gaffer's tape. The former is undoubtedly better, but the latter is better than nothing.
3) Logos. You can do a lot with two printed colors, which will save you money when you have to screen print team shirts. Hold your designers to that, and it will be to your benefit.
4) Graphics on the robot. When I've needed graphics, I've gone to one of two places. As a USC student, I would run to the campus computer lab's plotter and get big panels done. These days, without that access, we've used vinyl cut by a local company we use at work--that's run from $15 to $70, depending on how much vinyl we're using and how intricate the cutting is.
5) Typefaces. Pick a couple, including one that will work for team numbers on the robot, and stick with them. Make sure they pair nicely and make sure you know the limits on sizing. (You wouldn't want to use an 8-pt. script for example, but it might work for a banner.)
6) Vector is your friend. Seriously, work in vector art (generated by programs like Adobe Illustrator amongst others) from the start and you'll never lack for a properly-sized piece of artwork. I've been known to lift elements of our T-shirt design for other things on just a couple minutes' notice. It's awesome, and I couldn't think of doing this any other way.
7) Find Wendy Austin. Wendy (wendymom on CD) has been a driving force on Exploding Bacon since their inception in 2006. Ignoring robot performance (they're no slouch at that either), I would venture that if 1902 isn't the most memorable team in FRC today then they're certainly in the top five. From the cheers to the shirts to the robot to their website, they have it down to a science (to the point she and Bacon did a workshop on it at the FIRST Championship that I might just have to lasso them into repeating at SCRIW next month).

Chris is me
09-22-2011, 09:31 PM
7) Find Wendy Austin. Wendy (wendymom on CD) has been a driving force on Exploding Bacon since their inception in 2006. Ignoring robot performance (they're no slouch at that either), I would venture that if 1902 isn't the most memorable team in FRC today then they're certainly in the top five. From the cheers to the shirts to the robot to their website, they have it down to a science (to the point she and Bacon did a workshop on it at the FIRST Championship that I might just have to lasso them into repeating at SCRIW next month).

This just can't be understated.

Billfred
09-22-2011, 09:53 PM
This just can't be understated.

Chris' post, when taken horribly out of context, really sums up the whole thread of what you can do short of building your reputation (which no flashy name or shirt will do*).

Is a screaming pig on a rocket understated?
Is a green and orange combination understated?
Is a group of team members shouting "OINK! OINK! BOOM!" understated?

If you run any aspect of this exercise through that question and get "no", you probably need to refine it further. Build things that go to 12. (http://xkcd.com/670/)

*If 1902 weren't such awesome people, their following would've thinned out long, long ago.

BJC
09-22-2011, 10:07 PM
I won't draw it all the way over to on-field performance--for a given level of robot performance, there are three differentiators:

1) History. (The blue banner we earned the hard way at Peachtree got us on the map at Palmetto, since we were the only ones thus far that had won a regional in 2011. Until you get through regional number one, you're kinda hosed here.)
2) Connections. (It also helped that George Wallace, who I've known for about as long as I've been in FRC, was running strategy for SPAM at Palmetto--while 180 and 2815 had never shared a field before that weekend, there was already a channel of communication. You being Dr. Joe, you should have this covered like white on rice on a paper plate with a glass of milk in a snowstorm.)
3) Memorability. (This is where branding, especially on-robot branding, helps.)

I am not specifically talking about how you play on the field but how you act as a team, and how that goes a great way in contributing to your team reputation. Here History, Connections, and Memorability are definatly significant. Teams have long memories-- for both positive and negitive things. As to on-field-performance regarding branding. I think you would agree that the best known compainies are also some of the most successful. Similarly, some of the best known FRC teams are also the most successful. Weither or not their good branding drove their success or their success created their brand into something memorable is debatable. However, the connection is there. People remember people who are successful. When I look back on previous games I best remember the robots that were really successful, but not quite as well all of the robots which were painted their various teams' colors. I think what it comes down to is, because every team tries to be unique in their colors and stand out among the crowd of other teams, it is easy for everyone become a blur. (I know all of the crazy colors/mascots no longer even phases me during compitition.) Because of this the way your team acts and performs is that much more important, it is a further way to differienciate one's team from the rest.

The best way I can explain this is to use an example. If you have had any interaction with the Killer Bees you don't simply think Black, Yellow, Antenne. (I hope) You are also calling up positive experiences regarding us. "Oh, they helped us with our cRio problem last year" "oh, they were really nice when we played with them in a qualification match," "Man, I hope we don't have to play the Killer Bees." As a team grows older these sort of things begin to add up and deveop into a reputation which is seperate from the brand but which is at least equal to it in importatance.

Mark McLeod
10-10-2011, 06:40 PM
Jenny asked me to post this:
2011 Team nicknames (http://www.team358.org/files/frc_records/TeamNicknames2011.xls)

It's just a sortable spreadsheet of the 2011 FIRST database entries 1986titans linked to earlier.
One of the sheets has sortable team nicknames if you want to check your potential nicknames to see if anyone's already using it.

JaneYoung
10-11-2011, 12:36 AM
Chris' post, when taken horribly out of context, really sums up the whole thread of what you can do short of building your reputation (which no flashy name or shirt will do*).

Is a screaming pig on a rocket understated?
Is a green and orange combination understated?
Is a group of team members shouting "OINK! OINK! BOOM!" understated?

If you run any aspect of this exercise through that question and get "no", you probably need to refine it further. Build things that go to 12. (http://xkcd.com/670/)

*If 1902 weren't such awesome people, their following would've thinned out long, long ago.

If you are going to follow through with Billfred's suggestion to contact Wendy, be prepared to listen to the story of how their team's branding came about. It didn't happen overnight and it wasn't just the result of one person's phenomenal idea. It was developed and continued to be added to. Mike Walker contributed the team yell and it is important to understand why he felt it valuable. (It doesn't fit the description of cheer or chant - it fits the description of yell.)

The pig on a rocket was an idea that was contributed in an interesting manner as well. It is a good story. Very good story. Also - the pins that they use as giveaways are very hot items, especially when they add a game piece to the pin. Initially, they would sometimes receive feedback along the lines of the pins looking too unprofessional and homemade - not polished like the buttons that so many teams make. The pins that 1902 makes each season convey a strong message of what they are about and who they are.

Talk to Wendy or Sarah Plemmons and ask them to tell the story. Be prepared to learn.

I wish you and the team all the best, Joe, and I'm so happy to see your posts on CD. Especially because they involve a rookie team.

Jane

P.S. *If 1902 weren't such awesome people, their following would've thinned out long, long ago. There, fixed that for you, Billfred. :)