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What Drives Your Re-Branding? - 3/12/2013 -

Before undertaking a rebranding effort, identify the specific needs that your brand must satisfy.

By Jennifer J. Salopek

Association brands are more than names, logos, and tradeshows. A brand is the public’s total experience with your organization. It’s the feeling people have when they think of your organization, visit your website, view your magazine, or click on your social media postings. Your association’s brand is its identity.

At an Association Media & Publishing Lunch & Learn program held February 20, 2013 at the National Guard Association in Washington, DC, two presenters shared their experience and expertise on best practices for rebranding. Up first was Jennifer Cedoz, senior art director for TGD Communications. Cedoz has overseen rebranding campaigns for such diverse groups as the Association of Marketing Services Providers, the National Association for the Self-Employed, and the Association of Government Accountants. Before undertaking a rebranding effort, Cedoz said, consider that your brand must satisfy your needs for application, messaging, feeling, imagery, and usability. Rebrands commonly are driven by industry changes, internal changes, societal changes, or style changes.

To get the most from your rebranding effort, Cedoz suggests thinking through the answers to these questions:

· What expectations should I set internally to prepare for a rebrand?

· What audiences do I need to consider?

· Can I do the rebranding myself? (No!)

· How do I find the right partner for a rebrand?

· How much should I be prepared to spend?

· How much time should I allocate?

"Give yourself the permission to take the time to do things right,” Cedoz advises. "Rebranding can be a long process; it’s important to get everyone in the organization on board and to make the rebrand work for all departments.”

Although we hear much more about rebranding flops than triumphs, a successful rebrand can bring many benefits to your organization, says Cedoz, including:

· Better perception of the organization.

· Relevance in the industry.

· Clear messaging.

· More useful tools for staff and volunteers.

· More members.

· More conference attendees.

· More sponsors and exhibitors.

· More advertisers.

· More press coverage.

Developing the Brand Promise

Next, attendees were treated to a case study by Elizabeth Ryan, manager of interactive media and communications for the National Association for Environmental Management. Ryan led NAEM’s rebranding and website launch in 2010. The following year, she oversaw the content strategy and design of the association’s Key Practice Areas, a 100-plus-page online library. She followed a 10-step process in the rebranding project:

1. Understand what exists.

2. Develop a plan.

3. Recruit help.

4. Find a creative partner.

5. Understand the brand.

6. Articulate the brand value.

7. Create the message.

8. Validate the message.

9. Bring the brand to life.

10. Live the brand.

In step 5, "Understand the brand,” Ryan interviewed 25 to 30 NAEM members to find out what the organization means to them. "We discovered that members liked what they were getting from us; they’re values-driven but still business people; and the NAEM brand needed clarifying,” Ryan says. The member feedback drove the development of the association’s unique brand promise, which is empowerment facilitated by confidence, inspiration, and connection.

The brand promise led to an understanding of NAEM’s brand personality, which Ryan describes as innovative, welcoming, collaborative, and inspiring. Once she created the core message—"NAEM empowers corporate leaders to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability”—she and her creative partner developed a mood board to translate the positioning into visual concepts.

Step 9, "Bring the brand to life,” included a logo refresh, a relaunch of the website, a redesign of the event website, creation of the Key Practice Areas, and development of multimedia content that highlights thought leaders and emphasizes NAEM’s value in the marketplace. "Living the brand” means the development of standard contracts, guides, and templates that ensure consistency.

Both speakers received numerous questions from the audience, most of which had to do with walking the fine line between getting staff buy-in for a rebranding campaign and interpreting a brand too narrowly. One audience member expressed her frustration at being tasked with creating a tagline that "means all things to all people.”

"A good tagline highlights the most important benefit of your association,” Cedoz advises. "Don’t confuse a tagline with a mission statement, and don’t use it as a headline.”

Other questions had to do with justifying the investment in a rebranding campaign and measuring its success. Although that measurement is difficult, Cedoz says, it’s important to ask careful questions that allow you to set goals ahead of time. If you’re rebranding your major trade show, for example, likely goals would be attracting more sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees—goals that are quite measurable.

Jennifer J. Salopek is a freelance writer in McLean, Va. Association Media & Publishing thanks Jennifer for her fine job covering this event for members who could not attend.


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