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Why One Association Didn’t Let COVID-19 Stop Its Rebrand

After spending a year working with stakeholders to redesign its image, the American Lung Association decided not to scrap its rebrand when the pandemic hit. Instead, it quietly launched the new look while fielding questions about the disease attacking lungs.

One of the messages the American Lung Association (ALA) hoped to convey when it rebranded to a new blue color scheme late last month was the optimism of its community. The organization’s optimism certainly comes through in its move to launch the new look amid a global pandemic.

“If you asked me a year ago if I’d want to relaunch our brand in the middle of a health crisis, that would not have been my first choice,” said Julia Fitzgerald, ALA’s chief marketing officer.

Despite it not being the first choice, the association found it to be the best choice, given that COVID-19 is a viral illness that affects peoples lungs, similar to influenza, SARS, and MERS.

“We thought about it and asked, Do we want to go into this with our old brand? Do we want to be connecting with all these people [concerned about COVID-19] with the old brand?”

The answer was a resounding no. So, ALA quietly launched its redesigned logo and website on March 23, as much of the country was working from home or on mandatory lockdowns.

“Instead of coming out with all of the fanfare you normally have with a refresh, instead we inverted that,” Fitzgerald said. “We said, ‘Here is what we are doing for constituents.’ At the bottom, we said, ‘If you notice our site is different, we had a refresh.’”

Why Rebrand?

While the 115-year-old organization has strong name recognition and had early success fighting tuberculosis, other aspects associated with its brand weren’t as solid.

“People recognized our name, so our awareness was high,” Fitzgerald said. “When you started asking the next questions, we were getting disconnect.”

Those next questions involved everything from imagery to spirit. “Our icon is a double-barred cross,” Fitzgerald said. “When we took that icon to get it tested, we weren’t getting strong response.” The icon stands for the three-pronged approach to addressing public health issues that the group pioneered when fighting tuberculosis: education, advocacy, and research.

The association also opted for a new color scheme, switching from red to blue. “There are a lot of public health organizations, and there was a lot of red,” Fitzgerald said. “We needed something that looks like a breath of fresh air. We went with blue. It’s the color of trust, of clean air.”

In addition to the colors, the organization focused on its overall tone, talking to staff, members, volunteers, and other stakeholders to ensure they got it right. They wanted ALA’s tone to showcase the qualities all these stakeholders agreed were the heart of the organization.

“We are trusted and respected, and we wanted to maintain that, but we wanted to let our optimism and focus on solutions come through,” Fitzgerald said. “Now, everything from our font to our colors really reflects our spirit.”

In addition to coming up with the right tone, the group also revamped its website. “We did a complete overhaul,” Fitzgerald said. “Part of being relevant for the next 100 years means committing to the right technology so we can be accessible to the public.”

So far, the feedback on the rebrand has been positive. “People intuitively understand the blue,” Fitzgerald says. “We have over a million new visitors [to our website] every month. The feedback we have is, ‘Wow, you show up.’”

Even though the timing of the rebrand wasn’t ideal, the organization is taking it in stride, as it hopes the new branding suggests.

“Being optimistic people, we are looking to when there are brighter days, and we can talk about the association and new branding a little more prominently later in the year,” Fitzgerald said. “This is the 100th anniversary of that icon, so that allows us to utilize the whole year to celebrate the anniversary and the update.”

The American Lung Association found it was able to pivot and launch its rebrand amid a global pandemic. What is something you’ve been able to successfully pivot when circumstances changed? Share in the comments.

(American Lung Association)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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