Brand New: How Two Associations Rebranded and Refreshed
Having a great brand goes far beyond logo, fonts and color palette. It starts with understanding the marketplace and recognizing what makes your organization different, what you do better than the others. Here’s how two organizations — the Events Industry Council and the Research Chefs Association — executed successful rebranding initiatives.

What’s in a Name? Events Industry Council

In the spring of 2017, the board of the Convention Industry Council voted to change the name of the association to the Events Industry Council and, along with it, approved a new visual identity. It was the culmination of an 18-month process that started with the simple idea of refreshing the organization’s logos, but blossomed into much more.

“All of our logos were developed separately and not necessarily in a coordinated way,” said Karen Kotowski, executive director of the Events Industry Council. The organization not only had the Convention Industry Council logo, but also the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential logo for its certification program. “They didn't look like part of the same family and they didn't really complement each other. It was time to look at how we were visually identified in the market.”

Ultimately, the board decided that rather than just get a graphic designer to redo the logos, it would take a broader look at the brand. They hired a consultant, Navigate Strategies, and appointed an eight-member brand task force to drive the process. One half of the task force was comprised of board members. The other half was made up of thought leaders from outside the organization. The latter included two international members, since the association has a global membership with CMP designees in more than 50 countries.

The brand assessment process started with collecting data. The organization got feedback from members regarding the brand through surveys and face-to-face interviews, explained Kotowski. During this process, they learned that the name, Convention Industry Council, did not accurately reflect the international nature of the organization, which includes 33 exhibition and events industry associations from around the world. The word convention, while used frequently in North America, did not resonate with people in other countries. So, before examining the visual identity, the task force recommended a new name. Based on research and more feedback from members, the task force coalesced around the name Events Industry Council, which was more inclusive of all the different member organizations.

Focused on Strengths

The assessment also prompted the board to revisit its strategic goals and mission. In gaining feedback about the brand, the association also secured intelligence on what members expected from the organization, its role in the industry, and what its strengths are and are not. The responses crystallized for the task force what set the association apart from others, and led the board to review the organization’s mission, which hadn’t been critically assessed in several years. “The industry saw us as being a champion of professionalizing the industry through the CMP and through leadership and knowledge sharing, research, standards and best practices,” said Kotowski. As a result, the board tweaked its mission to ensure that the new brand was truly aligned with the organization’s strategic focus.

The entire process culminated with a new visual identity. “Our goal was to be bold, progressive and direct — those were the parameters the brand task force set,” said Kotowski. Ultimately, the task force selected new logos for the Events Industry Council and the CMP. Both designs featured lowercase letters and matching color schemes so they were immediately recognizable as part of the association. “Our old colors were light blue and those colors felt very common to us. The new colors, purple and orange, were different from other industry organizations,” said Kotowski. The new logos, along with the new name, were officially launched in April and all have been extremely well-received by membership. “The process led us in a new and exciting direction,” said Kotowski.

RCA’s Recipe for a Rebrand

One of the drivers of the Research Chefs Association’s (RCA) decision to rebrand was the desire to stand out in a competitive marketplace. The association holds a unique place in the industry — representing both food technologists and culinary artists — but leadership felt that status was not fully understood or appreciated by all stakeholders. So, when RCA selected SmithBucklin as its management company in 2016, the board agreed to undergo a review of its brand and how it was positioned.

“Many times, when people talk about brand they default to the logo, or to the creative identity,” said Stephanie Yanecek, senior vice president, Marketing & Communication Services at SmithBucklin, who was responsible for leading the rebranding initiative for RCA. Instead, it starts with an assessment of the mission and vision and evolves from there, she said. “By assessing its mission and vision, an association can determine its unique value and how it’s different from other organizations,” Yanecek said. That, in turn, is the basis for its brand positioning. “To be competitive you need to be able to have a clear message and clear differentiation, and that's what branding allows you to do,” she explained.

The assessment started with focus group research of key audiences. The team talked to those individuals about how they saw RCA meeting their needs, how RCA was communicating its mission and vision, how they perceived the organization and what future challenges they expected. That helped RCA identify any disparities between how RCA was portraying itself and how it was being perceived by stakeholders.

The Art and the Science

Next, they looked at the market — on both the food technology and culinary arts side, since RCA serves both — to understand what made RCA different. With this information, the branding team recommended revising the mission and vision of the association to better reflect the unique value that RCA offers as the only organization that represents both food science and culinary arts professionals. It also developed a brand positioning statement to articulate its place in the market and set a foundation for the rebranding effort. The board agreed and then established a task force to drive the process forward.

In creating the new visual identity, the branding team focused on RCA’s unique place in the market. The logo combined an Erlenmeyer flask and utensils to portray both elements of the membership. The red color scheme is bold and a nod to the old logo that provides a connection to the past, while the lowercase lettering gave it a more modern look, said Yanecek. The board approved the design and the rebrand was officially rolled out at RCA’s 2017 annual conference — introducing members to the new look of the association.

The boards of both RCA and the Events Industry Council know that to stand out, it takes more than just a fresh new look. A successful rebrand must be rooted in the unique value that the association provides for its members.
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