Flipping the Script on Rebranding: How an Association Told Its Member Story By Josh Miles and Lauren Waldron • August 23, 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’ missions. Advocacy can also mean telling your organization’s and members’ stories through branding and at the Society For Marketing Professional Services, that’s 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 (A/E/C) industries. 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. In other words, SMPS has been showcasing the value of marketing and business development to help grow and sustain business, and to be successful at building business, firms need marketers and business developers on staff.

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 for purchase shortly thereafter. Our brand launch at Build Business was only the beginning, and there’s still much work to do to consistently align the brand with our new strategic plan, which was adopted in 2018.

Below are the pillars of how the rebrand ties into the SMPS strategic plan:

First–We are exploring changes to the organizational structure and how we support our chapters and regional conferences, for example, to standardize the SMPS experience among all of our offerings. We know each SMPS member experience varies dramatically across our 58 chapters. Our goal is to make sure all chapters exist culturally and operationally as one SMPS while still allowing for some local creativity.

Second–We are refocusing our marketing efforts to reach firm leaders to solicit their support for their employees to join SMPS in order to benefit from the value SMPS can provide to firms.

Third–We are marketing SMPS and the value of marketing. In general, marketing seems underappreciated. We are communicating the value of marketing, defining the terms marketing and business development for the A/E/C industries, and showing how marketing positively impacts firm performance.
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 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 visual treatments, tweaking the messaging—the brand voice—over and over, as well as updating the website.

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, which is exactly what our members are doing as marketers and business developers: Driving the business on behalf of their firms and “leading the charge.”

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 sides 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 underscore below the “m” echoes back to the previous version of the logo, emphasizing the value of marketing within this organization.

SMPS has further launched a redesign and branding of two annual events: Build Business, the SMPS annual conference, and for our senior marketer and firm leader symposium, The Pinnacle Experience. The Society is in the process of rolling out a redesign of our Knowledge and Professional Development products that will have its own unique identity with a similar look and feel to that of the overall SMPS brand.

The Future of the Profession

SMPS considered important elements during the rebranding process, like the brand identity and voice, which should reflect the current state of the profession and membership—and of 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. SMPS has already seen a positive net revenue and boost in our bottom line among membership, continuing education products, and annual events.

Think about ways you can better advocate and tell the story of your organization. It may help kick start discussions that lead to improving your messaging and start the conversation about rebranding for your association and membership.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *