Rebranding Roundup: How Associations Are Reinventing Themselves

Considering a rebrand? Here’s a collection of tips and case studies from associations who have gone before you—plus one more that’s in the midst of rebranding right now.

As we’ve noted here at Associations Now more than a few times, association rebrands were kind of a big deal in 2013. New names and fresh logos will most likely continue to trend in 2014.

Any time you’re dealing with a name change you really ignite a lot of emotion.

After covering so many reinventions, a few themes have stood out:

  • Carefully weigh a name change. “In corporate America they throw lots and lots of money behind a name change to make you forget the old name,” Steve Drake, president of SCD Group, Inc., told us last fall. “Most associations don’t have that kind of budget for the marketing.” Determine the effects a name change will have on your key stakeholders, Drake added, and, no matter how small, don’t overlook what your acronym would be.
  • Consult your members. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance asked for member feedback when deciding whether the organization should remove the word “fat” from its name. “Any time you’re dealing with a name change you really ignite a lot of emotion,” Brandon Macsata, a consultant working with NAAFA during the rebranding and managing partner of the Macsata-Kornegay Group, Inc., told Associations Now. “It’s giving folks an opportunity to provide feedback wherever possible and being very strategic in how you go about making the change. If you try to steamroll through it, you better be ready for plenty of problems and fire coming from members.”
  • Perfect your timing. When the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel changed its name last fall, it tied the big reveal to its 25th anniversary, when it announced the new name as well as a new logo and mission and value statements.
  • Reconnect with your mission. When launching a new fundraising initiative last year, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society took it as an opportunity to reinvent how it presented itself to the public. By connecting its mission with its brand identity, LLS aimed to create a more cohesive picture of what it does as an organization, so that when people donated to its various campaigns they would attribute it to LLS.

To add to that list: Amidst industry-wide changes, help your members rebrand, too.

The Water Environment Federation is doing this. As a result of a movement within the water-quality industry to focus less on waste-water disposal and more on resource recovery, WEF is not only changing the way it represents itself as an organization but also assisting its members refocus, too.

It’s more than just a name change, said Barry Liner, director of WEF’s Water Science and Engineering Center. It’s an ideological shift toward encouraging people to embrace a more product-focused model, he said. “That means you’re recovering water through water reuse. You’re recovering nutrients and making fertilizer, and you’re generating renewable energy.”

WEF has been incorporating the new mindset into its publications—all mentions of waste water treatment plants (WWTP) have been replaced with water resource recovery facilities (WRRF), for example—and into a host of new products and initiatives.

“We’re developing tool sets and initiatives to drive people toward resource recovery and encouraging those people who are already doing it to publicize the information so that everyone else will proceed down that same path,” Liner said.

For example, at WEF’s upcoming Utility Management Conference, there’s a planned workshop devoted to “Branding Water Utilities for the 21st Century.” Its presenter, Karen Pallansch, CEO of Alexandria Renew Enterprises, will lead a discussion on how and why the Alexandria, Virginia, water utility rebranded itself.

“It’s about people who have seen the light and are helping others,” said Renee Kayal, education and training program director at WEF. “And a lot of people may have seen the light but just don’t know how to get to the next step, so we’re hoping that this workshop will be a good example of that.”

Have any other tips on managing an association rebrand? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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