Flipping The Script On Rebranding: How An Association Told Its Story

Written by Lauren Waldron & Josh Miles on May 28, 2019

In the association space, we often think that advocacy means fundraising for the organization and lobbying to members of Congress on behalf of the organization’s and members’ mission. Advocacy can also mean telling your organization’s and members’ stories through branding and at the Society For Marketing Professional Services, that is exactly what we did. On behalf of our mission statement and members, we went through a two-year rebrand.

From the early days, SMPS sought to highlight the value that marketing and business development has brought to the architecture, engineering and construction industries on behalf of its members, and for 45 years, SMPS has been going against the grain to reinforce that design and construction are not just “design and construction.” We have been “flipping the script” on this perspective for a long time! When we launched our new brand in 2018 at our annual conference, Build Business, we rolled out a newly redesigned website and affiliated sites, social media platforms, and videos. In addition, new SMPS logo swag was made available to conference attendees, with additional branded items that were soon available for purchase. Our brand launch at Build Business was only the beginning, and there is still much work to do to consistently align the brand with our strategic plan and business strategy.

To provide context on what considerations we made in our rebrand, we want to point out a few factors that went into our decision:

Member Research

In 2016, SMPS engaged a research firm to identify perspectives, opinions, needs, and desires of our members. All members were invited to participate, and hundreds did so through surveys and focus groups. The feedback that SMPS received in the surveys was integral to the decisions about how we wanted to represent our membership, products, services, programs, and events in the “look and feel” of the brand. The goal of our new brand identity, and all its components, is to reflect a need to be current and relevant to our various audiences.

Narrative

In late 2016, SMPS formally adopted its’ new vision statement: Business Transformed Through Marketing Leadership. The objective was and is to motivate people to rally together to create a role for all marketers to become vital dynamic members of the A/E/C industries who not only support but lead the growth of our companies.

During the rebranding process, SMPS went through the same efforts of testing multiple graphic designs, tweaking the words—the brand voice—over and over, updating the website, and, of course, dealing with a few hiccups along the way.

Brand Identity

SMPS wanted to “lead the charge” in the new brand identity, which was more than just a new logo, SMPS strives to position itself at the center of the business growth of our members’ firms.

The new SMPS brand voice is bold, focused, and motivating. The messaging evokes community, inspires confidence, and communicates a clear path for the future.

Our new brand colors, which SMPS calls “revolution orange” and “business black,” are the opposite side of the color wheel from our days of the old brand of navy blue and white. The new logo mark is set in a strong, bold, and friendly lowercase typeface. The bar below the “m” echoes back to the previous version of the logo, emphasizing the value of marketing within this organization.

The Future of the Profession

One of the most important elements that SMPS took into consideration during the rebranding process is that the brand identity and voice not only reflect the current state of the profession and membership, but that it reflects SMPS and its mission statement moving forward.

Our new brand essence is “The Marketing-Led Revolution.” and our goal is to rally members to join an industry-wide movement to change the role of marketing in A/E/C.

With all of these considerations in mind, there is no linear path to a successful rebrand, and it can certainly have its challenges in the association space, operating on tighter budgets and fewer resources. But when you look at the return on investment of a rebrand for your organization, the profit certainly makes up for the initial deterrents.

Think about ways in which you can better advocate and tell the story of your organization, even if it helps to kickstart the discussions lead to improving your messaging and starting the conversation about rebranding.

Author’s note: SMPS has been named a finalist in the Promotional Content: Rebranding category of the Association Media and Publishing’s 39th Annual EXCEL Awards. We are keeping our fingers crossed until the winners are announced.