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Unread 09-21-2011, 10:22 PM
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[DFTF] Building the Brand

This is part of a series of posts called Drinking From The Firehose on getting Dr Joe back up to speed on All Things FIRST.

I just posted Things a Rookie Team Should Do in the Fall...

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?

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Unread 09-22-2011, 12:54 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 07:20 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Anderson View Post
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.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 07:54 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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
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Unread 09-22-2011, 08:04 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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."
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Unread 09-22-2011, 08:06 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

The best way to build a brand is to win. I think the brand association is a side effect of increased exposure.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 08:25 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bottiglieri View Post
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.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 08:44 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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
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Unread 09-22-2011, 08:51 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Bottiglieri View Post
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/i...?page=teamlist. (It looks a lot better pasted into Excel as Unicode Text.)
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Unread 09-22-2011, 09:25 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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
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Unread 09-22-2011, 09:54 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Anderson View Post
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.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 10:33 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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...
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Unread 09-22-2011, 11:21 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jessica Boucher View Post
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
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Unread 09-22-2011, 11:53 AM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

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

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

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

Creating public value is how you create community and sponsor support.
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Unread 09-22-2011, 01:51 PM
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Re: [DFTF] Building the Brand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Johnson View Post
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.
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