Association Rebrand Puts Focus on Consumers

Following high-profile members leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association over concerns about its advocacy positions, the group is changing its name to the Consumer Brands Association and focusing on consumer needs.

Associations typically devote a significant amount of time to building and protecting their brand. But what happens when your brand has slowly garnered an image your members don’t like?

After more than a century of existence, the Grocery Manufacturers Association faced this dilemma.

A few years ago, several well-known companies like Nestle and Campbell Soup Co.  started leaving GMA because of controversy around its lobbying efforts. For example, the association was fighting against consumer-focused policies like requiring genetically modified food labeling.

Recognizing that the needs of the industry are different today and wanting to shift its focus to helping brands connect with consumers, GMA announced late last month that it will be known as the Consumer Brands Association beginning in January.

The rebranding, according to GMA President and CEO Geoff Freeman, is a direct response to member concerns. “This was demanded by our members; this was demanded by the industry,” he said. “They drove this change. We are thrilled to have that passion so invested.”

That passion is the driving force behind CBA’s mission, which Freeman said is to help members better connect with consumers. “We are helping companies deepen their relationship with the consumer,” Freeman said. “At each and every turn, we are going to be asking ourselves, ‘What is the consumer looking for?’ and ‘How can we leverage the power of our brands?’”

CBA wants to serve as a trusted information repository for both consumers and brands. As an example, Freeman pointed to cannabidiol (CBD), an active ingredient in marijuana that is often promoted as a health supplement and is popping up in many products.

On issues like these, where members and consumers need more information before diving in, CBA wants to help them gather that data. “We need to create clarity on behalf of the consumer,” Freeman said. “We are not pro-CBD or anti-CBD. Consumers have told us this is an area that they’re confused about. We are going to get rid of that confusion.”

To that end, CBA will spend more time with consumers. “We are going to be working more directly with consumers,” Freeman said. “We’ve created our own consumer panel where we can do research. If our association is going to effectively represent the industry, we need consumer perspective.”

In addition to the name change, Freeman said the organization is making structural changes to improve efficiency. “We are trying to streamline the governance and make it more nimble,” he said, noting that GMA had accumulated 110 internal groups, all working on various projects. “We have really streamlined the groups to make sure we have the right people working with us and are agile enough.”

Ultimately, CBA wants to increase its effectiveness by using the association’s resources wisely. “We are trying to put our limited resources toward the issues that matter most,” Freeman said. “We are going away from being all things to all people to helicoptering up to the things that matter most.”

How has your association dealt with changes to its brand over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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