How One Association Changed Its Look from the Inside Out

The Ohio Restaurant Association has been busy behind the scenes, launching an array of new products and services for its members in the last year. To make those changes more visible, ORA rebranded. Here’s how they did it.

Sometimes you need a new look to reflect the true you.

At least, that’s the idea behind the loverly musical My Fair Lady. Inside the unkempt flower girl Eliza Doolittle, snobby professor Henry Higgins saw a dormant rose who just needed some lessons in manners, phonetics, and dress in order to bloom.

In announcing a major rebrand last week, the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) had similar aspirations: It wanted to reflect what was going on inside the association with a new look on the outside.

But what was going on internally?

“We’ve served restaurateurs and food service professionals for nearly a century,” according to an ORA video that accompanied the rebrand’s announcement. “It’s a rich history of great people, good restaurants, and wonderful food.”

But ORA felt it was time to pivot from serving primarily as a lobbying organization to offering members high-value knowledge and networking benefits. In the last year, the association has announced a bevy of offerings, including the CONNECT online platform, where members can network, and regular Idea Factory events, in which industry thought leaders share trends and insights.

ORA has also renewed its partnership with chapters around the state—calling them Local Restaurant Alliances—to address workforce development challenges, among other issues. And it’s also making strides, through its technology committee, to help member restaurants better understand how to market themselves digitally.

To represent and reinforce these important changes, ORA partnered with a Columbus-based advertising agency called Summerfield and convened a Brand Transformation Committee composed of board members and industry leaders to develop a new look and feel for the organization’s brand.

Communications Director Natalie Walston said ORA had watched how often some of the best and brightest companies have rebranded and transformed in response to shifts in their industry. “We have to be right with those Fortune 500 companies that are constantly changing,” she said.

And with a rebrand, backed up by substantive changes internally, ORA is hoping its doing just that.

“The ORA brand position is our promise,” said Maureen O’Rourke, ORA’s director of marketing and strategic partnerships, in a press release. “We are a unified community providing the Ohio restaurant industry the resources to succeed. Our goal is to help members write their success story.”


(iStock/Thinkstock/Associations Now photoillustration)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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