Anatomy of a Great Annual Meeting: Rebrand Edition

DMAI officially became Destinations International at its annual meeting in Montréal. Here's how the organization pulled it off.

Associations decide to rebrand themselves for many different reasons, including the merging of two organizations or a name that no longer resonates.

For the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the decision to become Destinations International was made because its members are more than just marketers of their destination—they are also destination architects, advocates, and brand leaders. The new name reflects the organization’s broader mandate to serve its members as economic generators.

In March, DMAI began the rebrand roll-out at its CEO Summit, informing these high-level members about the group’s new positioning and foundational pillars. And in the months leading up to the annual convention in Montréal, DMAI employed many different communications tactics to let the rest of its membership know about the rebrand and what it would mean to them.

The crowning moment—when DMAI officially became Destinations International—occurred at the opening session of the annual convention, when the new logo was unveiled and the social media handles switched over. But in its entirety, the annual convention was an opportunity to drive home the reasons behind the rebrand through the programming.

Even the convention city was a statement about the group’s priority to grow its international reach and make a global impact. In choosing Montréal, the D.C.-based Destinations International conference was outside its home country in a bilingual city that feels very European.

“When we said we were coming to Montréal … there was a real level of excitement, and people began planning as soon as we got the dates out,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International. Almost 1,500 people attended the event from 16 countries, an association record.

Here is an inside look at how the organization navigated DMAI’s rebrand in the months leading up to the annual meeting—and then how it went on-site in Montréal.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

An association rebrand isn’t ever just one announcement or one grand moment. It requires a communications strategy employed through every channel over a period of time.

“Since we announced the rebrand in March, across all our communications we were always telling members what we were doing, what’s happening, what we are moving forward with,” said Melissa Cherry, chief marketing officer of Destinations International. “That’s been a consistent thing from a messaging standpoint.”

Cherry also embarked on a paid social media campaign to increase the number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes to better disseminate the organization’s news leading up to the official rebrand at the annual convention and beyond. Each platform had about 5,000 followers when the rebrand was announced, but by mid-August, the group had more than 9,700 Twitter followers and over 29,000 Facebook followers.

Walk Your Talk in Meeting Programming

The Destinations International annual convention was held at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, the city’s eight-level, multicolored convention center.

“The proximity to the hotels is just outstanding,” Welsh said about the convention center. “The building operated beautifully, the service was fantastic, the food and beverage was great, and … the space worked perfectly for us.” Meanwhile, attendees appreciated the proximity of the convention center to the hotels and the walkability to Old Montréal and other parts of the city.

But for the opening and closing sessions, the meeting moved to venues outside the convention center to add to the excitement. At the opening session, held at the Old Port of Montréal, DMAI officially ceased to exist as the Destinations International logo was unveiled.

“That was the brand moment,” Cherry said. “Besides the fact that when you walked in you visually saw it, we opened with our board chair welcoming folks and talking about why we made the change. Then we played a video, which gave additional insight into what that process looked like, how we got there, and what it is.”

A big piece of the rebrand is the focus on four pillars: community, advocacy, research, and education. “You could see that throughout the sessions at the convention,” Cherry said. “We presented a couple new research reports at the convention. We premiered new educational offerings at one of the sessions. We talked about how we were elevating the CDME program [the organization’s Certified Destination Management Executive credential] and adding new professional development to continue that leadership development. We worked to weave all of that in, not to beat people over the head with it but to kind of subconsciously say that we are the authoritative voice to help our destinations.”

So how does Cherry think it all went in the end? “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from our survey,” with attendees giving very high marks to Montréal as a host city, she said. “This convention really set the tone for everything that we have been putting out there about who we are and what we are doing. We literally paid on that promise at that convention.”

Sounds like a smashing success.

Contact Tourisme Montréal to turn your next meeting into an unforgettable event: 1-800-230-0001, ext. 2310;; or

(Handout photo)