At the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), we have over 40,000 members around the globe. The organization was founded in 1950 and nothing about the brand had changed since then. It became clear that changing the visual aspects of the association’s messaging was a high priority. Technology has changed and the way we were representing engineering was dated back half a century. When we had a change of leadership, branding became a hot topic so we jumped on the opportunity to make changes.
With a strong collegiate base and more millennials joining up than ever before, we had to be current with our messaging and how we were presenting it visually. Our branding had to communicate a new message to a younger generation, but also validate Gen X, Baby Boomers and older generations who have been part of SWE for so long. Engineering is still perceived as being all about building bridges, but today more engineers are working in biomedical and environmental fields or computer science. The rebrand was designed around the youth movement coming into our industry and the changing environment for associations and engineers in general.
To make people pay for membership, your value proposition must stand out, because so many programs, networks and resources are free now. We’re a service that provides products, but we’re also a value-based organization who wants to be with our members as they progress through their career.
We asked: is this an evolution or a revolution of the brand? Were we going to change everything down to the core or was it going to be mostly visual? We went with the evolution method, keeping components of our existing identity while enhancing and adding to it.
In every association, there are those who strongly believe that a change in the association’s brand identity means a change in all that your organization once was, and in some ways that’s true. Culture does change with a rebrand. The hurdle is getting the organization to see change as positive, not scary. It helped that we had a lot of staff and board support. Working with engineers, research and analytics was a huge part of validating what we were doing and why we wanted to do it. That made the staff and the board more confident in pitching it to the larger membership and becoming strong ambassadors for the effort.
Financially, the rebrand budget was designated with special funding. We did preliminary research that was under the mark of the membership budget. It showed the implications of not changing the brand and what impact that might have on membership revenue. Once we made that case, the funding fell into place.
The rebranding process took about two years overall. Conversations started in early 2013 among our leadership. We were fortunate that we had a president and president elect who would carry the torch, because the process would stretch over two terms. We discussed market research, the creative aspects, and the branding launch, then we started coming up with key messaging and eventually new logos.
A living Process
You can’t always rebrand in a condensed period of time. The conversation needs to continue after your brand is relaunched. Check in to see where you are as a brand. This practice frees up a lot of conversations about variables that let you know where you need to be focusing strategically, so don’t rest on your laurels once a rebrand of a product or the organization is done. Keep your members engaged as much as possible, because they have the pulse on whether or not you’re succeeding in what you set out to do. So far, people at my organization have embraced the rebrand in positive ways. I imagine we will revisit the brand in the near future, but not on the scale that we had two years ago.
Drew spoke in the “Rebranding Revelations” session during SURGE Spring, an interactive virtual summit hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on May 2nd-4th. Click here to register to watch the sessions on demand.