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New Year, New Brand: 5 Association Rebranding Strategies

Taking time to raise brand awareness and limit confusion can help make rebranding a smooth process. Using these tips can help create a smooth rebranding strategy for your association!

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Reposted on December 31, 2018. It’s all too easy to become comfortable with your association’s brand. But, could that comfort be negatively affecting your membership numbers? If the answer is yes, it might be time to think about rebranding strategies. According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), there has been a sweeping decline in association memberships. While the decrease could relate to many factors-- having an outdated brand could be contributing to the membership decline for some associations.

With that statistic in mind, a rebrand could be what your association needs to boost membership and successfully engage with a new audience. Recently, Web Scribble spoke with Jessica Korthuis, the former Director of Marketing for the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA). With almost two years in the position and nearly a decade of communications and marketing experience, she had a lot to say about successful association rebranding strategies and what it can do for an association. So, how should you go about creating your rebranding strategies? We’ll give you some ways to revamp your brand in order to stay relevant in the fast-paced association world.

Why should you rebrand?

A brand is a very important part of an association. But sometimes, change is necessary. According to CrowdSpring, it only takes consumers 10 seconds to form an opinion on a brand’s logo. On top of that, 77% of consumers make a purchase based on brand name alone. You want your association’s brand to stand out to consumers ie your members and potential members. A change in branding could attract the attention you’ve been missing. We spoke to Jessica about the association rebranding strategies over at InBIA, now the largest member-based entrepreneurial support network in the world. She compared the association’s new branding to a sort of “Renaissance period.” The original brand- while good in its prime- was becoming stale. “People just couldn’t relate to it anymore,” Jessica stated. This is what lead her to seek out effective rebranding strategies.

When considering rebranding strategies for your association, it’s always best to keep your audience in mind. Is it growing? Are they converting to mobile-media users? Does your audience notice your association's mission statement and goals? Simply put, associations need to keep up with change. While a brand may be successful at the start, over time it can lose its appeal. Take brands like IBM, Apple, and even J.Crew as examples. Now that we know why rebranding is important, here’s how to successfully reinvent your association’s brand.

Name change: Is it smart or risky?

A new name for your association may seem like an easy fix when it comes to association rebranding. But, it might actually have adverse effects on membership engagement and audience attraction. In 2014, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) spent 12 months rebranding, starting with a name change. The association switched from ASTD to ATD-- the Association for Talent Development. ATD saw the name change as a necessary step in order to broaden its association’s focus.

While a name change was the right move for ATD, it can come at a hefty cost. Not only is there a large fee for processing a legal name change, you also have to consider the cost of marketing with a new name. Many association’s have a limited budget to work with when it comes to rebranding. Take time to think about if a name change is the right move for your association. Consider the benefits of a name change as well as the high cost. Would a name change have a considerable effect on key stakeholders? What about on members? Don’t overlook any aspect of a name change.

Reinvent user experience

Revamping a website is a cost-effective way to successfully rebrand your association. The average internet user spends up to 5.6 hours online per day. You want to make sure your online presence is both up to date and user friendly. Is your newsfeed current? Do you have easy to find links? Can users easily contact your association through its website? 38% of internet users will stop engaging with a website if it is not updated and easy to use. While this statistic is not surprising, it is dangerous for associations with older websites. When rebranding a website, make sure that all contact information and links are current, relevant, and in plain sight. You never want your users to have to hunt for information.

Jessica had a lot of insight on the importance of the online user. “You have to make sure the user experience works.” Optimizing an association’s website regularly is key to making sure a brand stays fresh. Another aspect of rebranding online is mobile media. According to SmartInsights, mobile media devices are dominating online usage devices globally. Out of the total time spent online for the average American, 71% was spent on a mobile device. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, it could decrease engagement rates.

Re-identify your brand persona

Your members are growing and changing every year. But, is your brand persona keeping up with them? If not, it could mean a decrease in membership rates. A brand persona relates to any type of communication between your association and its audience. Whether it’s online presence, marketing, or customer service, your brand persona is what audiences relate to the most.

When InBIA went through their association's rebranding process, they held a brand persona building exercise. Doubling as a team building exercise, the plan was to construct a stronger brand persona from what they originally had. “We had everyone to write down both our current brand persona and our ideal brand persona,” Jessica stated. “We then asked where the differences were between the two and worked on how to close the gap in order have our ideal brand persona.” Review your brand persona on a regular basis. Make sure it is current and relates to the changes in your audience. Is the brand persona you currently have the one you want to portray to members?

When it comes to rebranding, you can’t please everyone

While rebranding is necessary in order to keep up with a new audience, it may take some members time to adjust to new changes. “There’s always a fear of failure when rebranding,” Jessica stated when speaking on the InBIA rebrand. And she has a point. Rebranding always runs the risk of causing confusion with audiences. Don’t be discouraged if your association’s rebrand takes a while to gain traction. Instead, make your rebrand a mission to reach out to more people and limit the amount of ignorance towards the new brand. Be patient and realize you can’t please everyone. There are a few ways to avoid a rebrand failure.

One way is to make sure you stay authentic to your brand’s mission. You don’t want audiences to think your rebrand is a step backwards for the association. Another way is to integrate your new brand into every aspect of your association. Forgetting to fully integrate can lead to confusion in the long run. InBIA has over 2,200 members located in 62 countries. With numbers like that, it’s easy to be intimidated when experimenting with a rebrand.

However, taking time to raise brand awareness and limit confusion can help make rebranding a smooth process. InBIA successfully created a refocused brand for entrepreneurship support organizations to get behind. Using these tips can help create a smooth rebranding strategy for your association as well.