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The American Branding Association was the result of a concept originated by a group of established Seattle-based graphic designers and brand managers who sought discussing employment options shortly after the dot com collapse; a crisis which hit Seattle very hard. Since founding its first chapter in 2001 (SBA), it has blossomed into a behind-the-scenes resource for every aspect of the branding process imaginable. Though our main focus is assisting those wishing to educate themselves on branding, we additionally consult to those wishing to hone or develop brands. Since we feel that if the field of branding is to become widely understood, everyone needs to be familiar with the notion of effective branding. Not solely kept aside, or espoused upon later being deployed by a select few of branders via esoteric brand-speak; Although there is certainly a logical place for that within the industry itself, our approach consists of a from the ground up strategy. To act now in connecting students, copy-writers, instructors, designers, strategists, colleges & universities, UX designers, translators, government agencies, and national manufacturers seeking to market their products overseas. In short, the ABA is a networking hub for all things branding for whomever may find benefit. Long prior to the launch of our site, the ABA proved itself as an invaluable asset in connecting branding knowledge, skill, and expertise to U.S. businesses. Every penny the ABA receives, goes back into making these assets available to U.S. businesses and citizens who possess a desire to learn more about the effectiveness of practical branding methodologies.

So why Seattle? Apart from the fact this is where our organization originated, Seattle ranks as the most educated city in the U.S. and is continuously voted as one of the most livable cities in America. The Pacific Northwest in general is very easy to fall in love with. Whether you are a native, or have relocated from Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, D.C., L. A., or beyond, one thing is apparent -we have it all. Beaches, lakes, mountains, wildlife, a vast saltwater sound, majestic natural landscapes, excellent colleges and universities, fresh seafood, the Northern most rain forest on Earth, and some of the most well-established super brands on the planet. In addition, not only do we have a long proven standing as a progressive sustainable-green mecca, where designers are renowned for pro-environmental print solutions, Seattle also happens to be the gateway to the Pacific Rim; And the largest and closest port in the U.S. with ties to overseas manufacturers & suppliers in China, Japan, Taiwan, India, and Korea. Additionally, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, came into his current position as prior Governor of Washington State.

So why an association focused solely on branding?

While many believe that practice and familiarity with branding is prevalent throughout the United States, the sad fact is, it is not. We meet with CEOs, Presidents, VPs and entrepreneurs every week who have no idea what to do, or how to go about doing it. Our organization helps the business community understand what makes a brand effective; then if they request it, direct them to firms or other resources who will best suit their needs.

What led to this? Our community was often asking itself, "While most senior management and business owners claim to know a great deal about branding, why were they not the majority of our clientele? Nor seemingly the majority of most clientele other designers worked with? Were they just too embarrassed to admit the truth?" Example, when we purchased the domain for this site, our representative (who's the co-owner and supposedly "ultra brand-savvy") asked us, "Do you guys actually brand sheep?" -And he was serious.

Adding injury to insult, in September of 2008 Google erroneously removed our indexing while we were uploading new content. When we contacted them, their representative told us "Yeah, you're right, you're not coming up. Does your site promote cruelty to animals?" We were completely taken aback, "You've GOT to be kidding." What really happened was that as we were uploading updated content, their crawlers came in and read our domain as vacant. But the fact that they thought' branding' was solely some sort of animal tagging business substantiated our discouragement. Were Google's representatives really this clueless? A company whose root purpose is in the promotion of brands? If so, American business was in big trouble. In fact, as much commerce as the U.S. engages in, by comparison to Europe and the UK, we are sorely behind.

Do you still think branding is widely understood and commonplace?

It depends on one's exposure. Although the term "branding" in its current meaning has been around for quite some time, having gone through the buzz word circuit, many have no idea what branding is, nor how to ensure a brand's healthy proliferation. Even seasoned branders cannot come to an academic conclusion for its definition. Even so, this was a term that was originally used by graphic designers in developing an entire system for a business's identity -Not just the look; but the sound, feel, scent, shape, color, language, and name -the persona of a business. Many designers were taking on these tasks without actually having a name attached to it. When it became realized that such efforts went above and beyond the scope of traditional "design", the term branding came into common use for a service that went beyond the traditional scope of creating aesthetics.

In addition to this, we all agreed that so much more could be done in moving forward, if:

• We didn't have to spend hours in meetings trying to explain the basics of branding. How nice it would be if all of our clients engaged a shared vocabulary, and were familiar with what it was we were attempting to convey. Thus, equating to less decision paralysis.

• Branding was something discussed outside corporate marketing meetings, during the creation of brand guidelines, or persuading our clients that, "Yes, you do need to stick to the guidelines. That's what they're there for."

• Branding education was easily accessible to small businesses and schools. And mandatory for all MBA and Entrepreneur programs.

• We weren't spending hours trying to locate new vendors to meet a project's green reqs.

• We weren't talking on the phone with students who were asking us which schools we thought they should attend. There are very few branding programs in the U.S. If you know of any PLEASE contact us.

• Having to explain to corporate heads who became stupefied as to why their brands were failing, after they placed their CMO/Marketing Manager into the role of Brand Manager.

While it is true a few well respected branding firms offer prospective clients reading materials on branding, it is often alluded that such materials are really only meant for paying clients (or prospective paying clients), and not the general public. Which frankly, we thought unproductive. So what about the rest of the public who are prospective business owners? We felt there should be a non-bias, free-source organization in support of brander-to-public combined goals. The American Branding Association feels that to make the science/art of branding available to everyone, not just businesses, we will further the public's desire in promoting change, progress, and stoking the fires of passion for nationally grown commerce. Whether on a commercial focus or to promote social change, the ABA will do everything in its power to extend the importance of effective branding to the American community at large.

With your support, the ABA will assist in making our nation a leader of progressive branding once again. But to accomplish this, there needs to be a ground up approach. We have a tremendous amount of intellect and talent here in the U.S. Help us put more of it to good use.

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AIGA Seattle
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