Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dear FamilySearch, About Your Branding...

An Open Letter to Steve Anderson, FamilySearch Marketing

Dear Steve,

You joked at a recent presentation that we in the audience probably didn't think FamilySearch needed any marketing. We all laughed, we who live in the mountain west and use some aspect of FamilySearch every day.

Missionaries in Essex, VermontBut when I read this morning's Burlington Free Press (Vermont, for those of you asking), I got a chuckle. In an article titled "Missionaries work streets of Essex," writer Matt Ryan mentions the local family history center.

"The church's Family History Center...provides Internet access for members to find their ancestors on databases such as ancestry.com."

I had to laugh. O.K. I concede your point. Your Church's genealogy efforts could benefit from a unified, visible brand. I know you want to leverage the brand loyalty, trust, and respect of your splintered brands: FamilySearch.org, Personal Ancestry File (PAF), the Genealogy Society of Utah (GSU), the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL), and the Family History Department and the Family History Centers (FHCs) of that church with the really long name. (Let's see... Did I miss any?) Separately, the brands aren't large enough to break through the public's consciousness. Together, you'd have a real chance that any person touching their genealogy would know all about you.

FamilySearch LogoI've seen your efforts to unite under the FamilySearch brand and I commiserate with your frustrations. You've done a good job with your software and web offerings. But you're in a large bureaucracy full of people who are really attached to their current names. If I were King, here's what I would do:

  • Stick to using FamilySearch as an adjective. Besides the solid legal reasons, brands work better as adjectives than as nouns.
  • As GSU is the legal entity under which much of your work is done, rename it to The FamilySearch Genealogical Society of Utah and establish a DBA of The FamilySearch Society. Use the full name inside any markets where GSU is your known brand and the DBA everywhere else.
  • When writing about the FHL and FHCs use the terms FamilySearch Family History Library and FamilySearch Family History Centers the first time each is referred to. Afterwards, use the shortened terms FamilySearch Library and FamilySearch Centers. After three years, switch entirely to the short forms.
  • Change the name of the Family History division of the Family and Church History Department to the FamilySearch division (or FamilySearch Department).

Do these things and you'd have the FamilySearch brand in people's faces, soaking up and unifying the value of your current brands. They are worth too much to abandon.

There you have it: the opinion of an outsider. Oops. I mean I'm an outsider-insider... No, an inside-out sider... Never mind.

Good luck,
— The Ancestry Insider

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