Test the Waters with a Partial Rebrand

Written by Bridget Krause on April 4, 2018

Rebranding an association is not a task to be taken lightly. There are so many elements to consider: funding, leadership buy-in, visual identity, and member reception. Before diving into a full rebrand, consider taking it step-by-step and conducting a partial rebrand first. You’d be surprised at how much impact small changes can have on member rates and engagement.

Why Partially Rebrand?

I am Director of Member Relations at the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), where we have 43,000 individual nurse members. Before our partial rebrand, our membership levels had plateaued. We looked at a variety of factors to target this issue, including our membership materials. They had not been updated in a while and did not speak to who emergency nurses are today, so people in the industry couldn’t see themselves in the organization.

When our organization was founded, emergency nurses had limited options for education, networking and advocacy. Today, many more avenues are available, and we have to focus on standing out from general nursing associations as a specialty association. We also have the Internet to compete with, especially because 40% of our membership is age 38 or younger, and comfortable seeking out information through social networks and peers online.

To challenge these competitors, we recognize that emergency nurses are unique. They meet incredible challenges in their workday, from workplace violence to mass casualty incidents. We focused on tailoring our offering for this specificity of experience as part of our rebrand. The imagery on some of our materials was not identifiable to a healthcare organization. We had to refine the whole visual identity of ENA membership materials, not just a logo. Instead of relying on stock photos which were often irrelevant, we did a photoshoot that reflected emergency nurses and their environment.

What Happened Next?

We were unsure how much impact a partial rebrand would have, but we saw significant results including an increase in new members and retention rates. Pulling this lever caused changes we never anticipated, and made way for a larger conversation around a full rebrand. Coming up to our 50th anniversary, we are preparing for a larger organization rebranding project in advance of that landmark.

Don’t underestimate the power of having the right people at the table. Rebranding, even partially, is a big project and I have been in organizations where people dipped their toe in and then retreated without seeing the project through. A dedicated leadership pushed our project towards success and paved the way for the Board to approve a full rebrand of the association. We have a Director of Marketing who is passionate about the rebrand, an Executive Director who is focused on this as part of the strategic plan, and a President who looks to the future while maintaining our grounding in the history of our organization. These key players are invested enough to make this happen on a short timeline.

Our members are also central to the success of any branding efforts. It has been a challenge to make brand quality consistent throughout our state councils and chapters. We try to offer as many materials as we can to make their lives easier on a local level, while maintaining our brand identity. This problem is ongoing, but we have created an online brand center for our local leaders where they can download logos and poster templates. We plan to build brand guidelines and policies into our upcoming rebranding strategy to help support a more cohesive voice.

Bridget spoke in the “Rebranding Revelations” session during SURGE Spring, an interactive virtual summit hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on May 2nd-4th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.