Branding Your Program

Branding may be the single most overused and misunderstood word in marketing. So before we talk about how to brand your program, let’s talk about what a brand actually is (and isn’t). A brand is not a name, a logo, a slogan or all of the above. It’s more than all of that.

A brand is actually the instantaneous feeling you get in your gut the second you hear the name of a product. Try it for yourself. Read each of these words and then stop for a beat and recognize the thoughts and feelings that pop into your head as you think about them.

  • Coke
  • Las Vegas
  • Law and Order
  • America
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Doritos
  • The Dallas Cowboys
  • Ford

That thought/feeling is actually a combination of every experience you have ever had with that product in your entire life. And every message you have ever internalized from that organization, its competitors or others about that product. That is what a brand is. That feeling in your gut.

Consumers use that feeling as a shortcut to guide decision making. If you are looking for a pick-up truck and you have a very positive impression of Fords, then you can narrow the universe of potential vehicles to F150s right away and cut your efforts considerably. This is not necessarily a logical decision so much as it is an emotional one. And the more variety there is in a market, the more important brand becomes to streamline decision making.

So the trick when building a brand for your adult hunter/angler education program is to develop a consistent name, logo, messages and actual product experience so that all or your efforts give the same positive impression to the people that hear, see or experience them.

What will a good brand do for your program?

Branding creates your program’s personality – Lincoln has a different personality than Ford even though they are selling nearly identical products. That difference is created primarily by branding and then by adding a little extra bling, fit and finish to the Lincoln vehicles to make the experience of driving a Lincoln consistent with the marketing efforts.

Personality is created by using a consistent vocabulary of words and images that become your program’s voice. Mountain Dew and Jeep have a similar vocabulary. Jaguar and Grey Goose have very different voices, although they are similar to one another. If a Jaguar commercial featured a surfer dude in board shorts and a tank top calling a new Jaguar gnarly, it would not be consistent with your image of Jaguar (and surfer dudes).

Branding is consistent despite fashion and fads – Your organization’s brand (not it’s slogan or it's logo but it's central core meaning) should almost never change. McDonald’s followed the baby boomers through their entire life cycle and changed its appearance, messaging and services again and again while always honoring its central brand value of offering consistent, tasty, inexpensive food in a convenient location.

It started by offering the first real national fast-food offering. Mom and Dad could take the family to any McDonalds anywhere and get the same tasty, affordable meal. Then they invented the Happy Meal to keep the little ones happy. And that worked so well they added a playground. Then they added drive thrus to keep us on the road and in our cars. And later when the boomers got older they added fancy coffee (but still at an affordable price) and free wifi so that road weary travelers could get back out of their car, catch up on their email and watch a YouTube video before they jumped back on the freeway.

Branding transcends products and prices – The Ford brand has a meaning. The brand is dependable, solid, no frills, and practical. And that brand is consistent from a $14,000 Fiesta to a $25,000 Mustang to a $65,000 F150. You need to do that too. You need to offer a consistent brand for all the programs and experiences you promote and then you can tweak that overall brand for a specific program like new adult hunter training.

So your DNR might stand for natural, outdoor fun and your new adult hunter training program might stand for easily understood ways to acquire sustainable protein. The two brands don’t conflict with each other but the DNR brand encompasses the new hunter training brand as well as the advance elk hunting program being offered to another segment of the population.

Branding makes a lasting top of mind awareness - All this consistency of central values, vocabulary and experience over time creates a lasting impression and top of mind awareness. If you succeed in building a brand that truly has meaning then that brand name instantly generates a flood of thoughts, images and meaning in a potential buyer’s mind. That is a powerful form of shorthand. The word Jeep instantly generates a flood of thoughts about off-roading, mud, fun, friends and the outdoors. That is why Jeep owns that segment of the auto market. And that is powerful.

How do you build a brand?

So now we know what a brand is and how it works, how do you build one for your program? Building a brand starts with your target consumer.

  • What does that consumer want?
  • What do they care about?
  • How do they speak?
  • What constraints are they under?

Then you build a brand that is consistent from the name and logo to the promotional posters, in-class handouts and graduation certificates that is consistent to your target consumers’ needs, desires and values.

One great way to quickly and internally test the validity of a brand or a marketing message is to test it against a marketing persona.

A persona is a profile not of your average customer but of your optimal customer. You build this persona based on your experience in the market, research and a little bit of intuition. We’ve provided reams of information on the most common groups of people you might be recruiting to your new adult hunter/angler program in the Motivations section of this website:

Your program might directly target one of these groups or a combination of them, for instance experience motivated, female millennials. Once you feel you have an understanding of the target for a particular program, then you can start to develop a persona around it.

As you build your persona, remember always that you are creating the optimum consumer for your program, not the average one. And you are creating a “person” with a name, a face and actual characteristics. It is best to create a persona of a single human being or perhaps a couple. Give them a name, put them in an actual city, tell where they went to school. Have some fun.

Characteristics you should be sure to consider in a persona include:


  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Location – Rural, Urban, Suburban
  • Income
  • Education
  • Marital Status
  • Children


  • Professional?
  • Skilled trade?
  • Unskilled labor?
  • Student?


  • What type of home do they live in?
  • What do they drive?
  • Hobbies
  • Favorite books, magazines, movies, bands, TV shows


  • Healthy?
  • Dietary issues or restrictions?


    What makes them tick:

    • Values
    • Interests
    • Concerns
    • Motivations
    • Hot Buttons
    • Life Goals
    • Politics
    • Heroes
    • Influencers

    Media Consumption

    • Traditional Media
      • TV
      • Radio
      • Newspaper
      • Magazines
    • Online Media
      • Websites
      • Social Media
      • Video or Audio streaming
    • Technology
      • Cable TV
      • Satellite Radio
      • Computer
      • Cell Phone
      • Set Top Boxes
    • What type of information are they after?
      • News
      • Sports
      • Entertainment
      • Keeping up with family and friends

    We’ve provided personas for each of the five target markets discussed in as resources at the end of this article.

    Once you have a persona(s) built for your program you use them in several valuable ways. When you are writing an email, flyer or press release for your program, write as if you were writing to and for your persona/optimal customer. If you have an in-house marketing department or an agency, give them your personas to create messages for and when you see the messages they create, read them as if you were that persona and say to yourself “Why do I care?”. If every message for your program is written so your optimal consumer would care, then you’ll have a great marketing program.



    VALS | The VALS Types

    VALS™ places U.S. adult consumers into one of eight segments based on their responses to the VALS
    questionnaire. The main dimensions of the segmentation framework are primary motivation (the horizontal
    dimension) and resources (the vertical dimension).