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Rebranding: It's a Process, Not a Destination - 7/23/2013 -

For an industry and an association in transition, rebranding was an opportunity to overcome some obstacles.

By Amanda Jennison

Going through a rebrand may seem like a daunting task for association professionals who have never gone through the process before. At Association Media & Publishing’s Annual Meeting 2013, members had the opportunity to sit in on a session, "Renaming, Repositioning, Revitalizing: Building a Recognizable Brand that Speaks to a Changing Industry,” to learn from one association’s experience of going through a rebrand.

Michelle Raymond, director of marketing and communications at Association of Marketing Service Providers, and Rochelle Gray, president and creative director at TGD Communications, shared the story behind AMSP’s rebrand.

Why Rebrand?

  • Industry in transition. AMSP, a national trade association for the mailing and fulfillment services industry, was seeing a major change in its industry. A steady decline in mail volume, customers increasingly going paperless, and the emergence of new messaging channels were reflecting a shift in the industry model. AMSP knew it needed to take advantage of this opportunity, not fight it.
  • Membership in transition. As the industry was changing, so was AMSP’s membership. With the industry contracting, it saw customers beginning to want a full-range of service providers and less space for niche shops.
  • Association in transition. Seeing its industry and membership base quickly changing, AMSP knew it needed to change its business model to reflect this shift. This transition would mean addressing new needs of membership, as well as maintaining its core membership of mailing and fulfillment customers.

Accepting the Challenge

AMSP began the process of remodeling the association through strategic planning in 2009. During the strategic planning process, AMSP:

  • Evaluated assumptions about its future
  • Conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis
  • Identified core members
  • Affirmed its core ideology
  • Began to envision the future of the association
  • Developed the plan for moving forward

Raymond commented that the strategic planning process helped AMSP identify the need for a transition and envision its future as leading an industry transformation.

In 2011, AMSP staff and volunteer leadership revisited their previous assumptions for the future and discovered that the landscape had changed. The team developed a three-year plan focused on membership, core services, financial stability, and federal advocacy.

AMSP’s next step was to search for a reliable partner that would extend its marketing, branding, web development, and social media expertise to the association for its rebrand.

Peek into the Process

AMSP hired TGD Communications and Grow Socially for the rebrand. TGD and Grow Socially helped AMSP conduct member surveys and interviews to get members engaged in the process and to gauge member opinion on the rebrand. This gave AMSP the opportunity to determine member needs and expectations, as well as set goals for the project.

For AMSP, the rebrand included a renaming. When it was time to determine a new name for the association (formerly Mailing Fulfillment Service Association) AMSP asked for members’ opinions. Raymond learned through gathering member responses that you are always going to get push-back. Some members wanted to eliminate any limiting terms in the name, such as "marketing” and "mail,” while others wanted to incorporate words like "distribution” and "provider.” It was up to the team to determine which path was the best way forward in developing a new name for the association.

More than 40 potential names were proposed, with contributions from TGD, board members, member surveys, and the association project team. After narrowing this list down to six names, the board selected Association of Marketing Service Providers (AMSP).

As required by association bylaws, 10 percent of all members voted on the new name at the association’s 2012 annual conference, making it official. Raymond stressed the importance of timing, as it was critical to get the correct percentage of members voting so the association would not have to wait another year for a vote.

Branding Phase

After the new name was chosen, AMSP moved into the branding phase. Gray explained that it’s important to remember the original motives for the rebrand, the goals set forth at the beginning of the project, and to review competition.

Moving into the design exploration phase, Gray explained that 32 logo designs were presented and then filtered down to three designs to present to the board. Raymond and Gray advised the AM&P audience to present options by showing them in use. How will the logos look on letterhead, a potential email template, or other marketing collateral?

After the logo was chosen, the team explored a color palette. By request of the AMSP board of directors, the original brand colors were included in the exploration phase. The team ultimately decided to stick with the original color palette, thinking it was expressive enough to stand out while also being functional. The final tagline was then reduced and chosen and presented in a mock-up with the new logo for final approval.

Brand Application

Raymond and Gray asked attendees to remember that a brand is not a logo. It takes time to apply the new identity across all brand touch points, including revitalizing messaging to be consistent with the new look and feel of the brand. Also, keep in mind that if your association has member chapters, the new brand will need to be applied across all chapter touch points as well. For AMSP, templates were created for forms, awards, emails, and presentations to ensure consistent communications from each chapter.

AMSP’s brand application also included a website redesign. AMSP worked with its vendors to achieve better navigation and organization with its site by moving from a proprietary platform to WordPress.

Key Takeaways

To conclude the presentation, Raymond and Gray highlighted key points from what they learned during the rebrand process:

  • Input from volunteer leadership can greatly affect the direction of the final decision.
  • Internal research and assessments may be rejected in favor of volunteer leadership opinion.
  • Interview volunteer leadership before investing in complex studies.
  • Staff and partners may have a very different understanding of what change and transition mean.
  • Transition will not – and did not – appeal to 100 percent of the membership.

What was the biggest takeaway of all? For Raymond and Gray, it was this: A rebrand is a process, not a destination.

Amanda Jennison is marketing specialist at Bates Creative. Association Media & Publishing appreciates her willingness to cover this annual meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.


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