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.
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
- 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
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.