by Nicole Prelgo, Mercury Creative Group and Angela Kisskeys, Associations North
The Midwest Society of Association Executives (MSAE) is the ‘association for associations’ with more than 1,200 association members from over 350 associations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. For nearly 60 years, they have led the charge in the advancement of association professionals. The 60--year milestone served as an impetus for their organization to hit the pause button and explore the possibility of a brand refresh. The idea was explored internally and the decision was made to proceed with the refresh. Simply put, a rebrand is a sharpening of the focus on what your brand stands for, and for whom.
Even before the pros get involved, there are several things you can do internally to prepare:
Identify opportunities or growth areas.
In the case of MSAE, turning 60 offered them the opportunity to position their organization for the next 60 years by bringing new energy and relevancy to their brand that speaks to both current and future members. This also included an updated look and feel to current communications and brand elements.
Create your brand--building team.
MSAE created a rebrand task force to engage in the process. The task force consisted of three board members, three staff members, three general members, and two branding experts from Mercury Creative Group. Having the right mix of people committed to this endeavor is essential. A rebrand is all encompassing and all staff and leadership play an important role in the process. The right people may differ for every situation, but one thing remains the same -- executive leadership needs to be involved.
Identify Your Audience
Over the years, MSAE’s audience has changed from primarily association executives to serving all association professionals. In the branding process, the organization decided to focus on the advancement of the individual, thereby leading to the advancement of their association and the industry as a whole.
Formulate Your Story
Once the audience is defined, learn to speak their language. If MSAE is indeed serving the professional and not just the executives, how will the story change?
What is being provided for association professionals that is of value and will entice them to join and engage with MSAE?
Recognize Your Position in the Marketplace
In order to put your stake in the ground, you need to identify what you bring to the marketplace in relation to others offering similar goods or services. MSAE clearly defined how they are different and how they deliver on their promise.
Establish Your Brand Value
What do you truly provide to your members/customers in one word? After much discussion, MSAE identified their brand value in one word to be Advancement; Advancement of individual members, associations, and the industry as a whole.
As part of the complete brand evaluation, MSAE’s task force examined MSAE’s name. A brand refresh does not equal a new name and logo, however; after numerous strategy sessions exploring questions such as: Where can we grow? How can we better serve our members? What’s our message? It was concluded MSAE wanted to adopt something that more succinctly captured who they are and what they do. With Advancement as their primary purpose, it was important that their name and identity reflect that. After exploring numerous options, Associations North was chosen. The new name is simple, meaningful, fits their audience, and adds a measure of aspiration. It’s about leadership, authenticity, and principles. It’s not the destination, rather the journey forward. The new name and logo together express forward motion and advancement in a clear and compelling manner. Their new tagline, Moving Professionals Forward, helps further explain the overall essential value and brand story.
Establish Your Goals Around the Rebrand
With Associations North, their goal is full adoption in 12 months. This includes written collateral and verbal messaging. Goals aren’t very effective without measurement. Associations North will measure their success through conversations and comments around the brand change. Success to them means that almost all responses are positive ones.
Develop Your Roll--Out Plan
This is the nuts and bolts of what goes to market when. There are two things to consider here. When and how to promote the change, and to whom? When will all brand elements reflect the new identity? For Associations North, a launch plan was developed to roll out the new name and identity at their 2016 Annual Meeting & Expo. A teaser tagline was developed: Fresh, New & True to lend a glimpse of what is coming.
A rebrand is the opportunity to reinvigorate your organization and generate excitement amongst your members or customers. With their Advancement--mentality permeating all they do, Associations North is confident that the new mindset will attract new members and create opportunities for growth