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The One Where We Answer Your Burning Questions about Branding

Earlier this month, we hosted a Q&A style webinar called “Let’s Talk Brand and Your Association Board: Ask Me Anything”. Attendees heard from our Creative Director, Gardiner Rhoderick about methods for conveying the value of brand to your Board as well as the challenges and successes of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)’s rebrand from Michele Stickel, NAPNAP’s Director of Marketing & Strategic Projects.

We had so many questions asked prior to and during the webinar and as usual, we just couldn’t get to them all! So, as promised, we’ve compiled all those questions right here to make sure you get the answers you need.

P.S. Our Mighty Branding Toolkit is a perfect companion to this Q&A and should set you and your organization up for a successful rebrand.

Q: How do you ensure to not overwhelm the board with lots of changes at once?

Michele: We were very organized with the information that we shared at our board meeting once a month. We could move forward without overwhelming members with the depth of work because we pulled out the most critical information to share with the board and get the opinions we needed. Limiting the choices to those we knew we could live with was also necessary. However, we were fortunate that our board was ready for a change—which helped. With new members representing new nurse practitioners, our current board was much more interested in change than those in the past.

Q: How do you get your Board engaged when everyone is “too busy”?

Gardiner Rhoderick: The easiest but most challenging answer is to start now. Making your presence and work known at Board meetings will make it a habit of discussion. For example, suppose there is a steady stream of understanding how marketing and brand work is fundamental to achieving your organizational goals. In that case, your board will acclimate to speaking on branding topics during each meeting and facilitate a desire to understand why it might need tweaks, overhauls, or changes over time.

The other approach is to have a systematic “round-table,” where you discuss the process, how it will go, and what your Board should expect. Project management will be a critical component of success that will go a long way with your Board. Since brand exercises can feel nebulous and abstract in practice, establishing agreed-upon milestones and deadlines within these round-table discussions can build confidence in the project’s seriousness.

Lastly, take advantage of technology! The pandemic experience has normalized virtual collaboration, creating opportunities to meet and share screens in convenient ways. Nothing can replace in-person collab, but creating that convenience for your busy Board can increase their participation.

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Q: Since the board is most familiar with mission and brand, how do you get them to see with fresh eyes, from a new perspective?

Gardiner: Bring fresh eyes to them! Let them hear from those outside the inner circle. User research shines here. Start building a culture of research in your organization to make proof points easy to come by. Also, keep your Board up on trends by reviewing examples of fresh brands within and outside of your industry.

Q: How do you overcome members who object to change?

Gardiner: Members don’t like surprises, and change should not be a surprise. Ensure your change is triggered by a strategically identified goal or objective, and communicate that clearly.

Michele: Have a senior board member as champion to privately speak with dissenters. Sometimes they just want to be heard but will come around to the majority opinion.

Q: How did you share rebrand options with stakeholders and what do you wish you did differently?

Gardiner: Our process involves removing subjectivity at the beginning, to ensure core ideas remain the focus. That’s why we start with just words — discussions that describe goals and qualities. Then we move into creative ideation, revealing concepts in black and white, progressing into color, etc.

Q: What if your “brand” has always been defined by a specific idea and it needs to move in a different direction to thrive?

Gardiner: Brands are always subject to changes and shifts in society, scrutinized more so within their industries. As needs change audiences, brands must keep in step. It’s tough to helm an organization and watch it change from its initial incarnation, but responsible and savvy change is a hallmark of great listeners, and consequently long-lasting brands. Change should not equate to abandoning the virtues for why your organization exists in the first place.

The essence of why you exist should permeate, remain, and persist even when you rebrand. If anything, you should turn your mission and goals up to 11.

In the case of NAPNAP, had we changed their name, their mission would not have changed. The things that they do would not have changed. The value that they bring to members would not have changed. That is the essence and the authenticity of the organization—so don’t worry about losing yourself in a rebrand done correctly.

The essence of why you exist should permeate, remain, and persist even when you rebrand. If anything, you should turn your mission and goals up to 11.

Q: Our dues may be going up (stayed the same for 10+ years) and I am wondering how to best “brand” it.

Gardiner: I think this all boils down to how—and how often—you promote the benefits and overall lifetime value of membership to your members. If they believe in your association and the value you bring to their career and industry, the dues increase should be justifiable in their minds. If you are an ASAE member, their online community, Collaborate, has a ton of great discussions in the Membership Community group around this topic.

Q: How important is it to integrate DEI into your brand?

Gardiner: Today, it’s more important than ever to integrate DEI into your brand and is the key to innovation. If you position yourself as an organization that promotes thought leadership and you don’t integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into your conversations, you aren’t a leader in your industry. The key is to integrate these conversations into your brand from a strategic point of view and not just through lip service. DEI should be a foundational aspect for why your organization exists.

Q: Is it OK for a board member’s employee to redesign our logo instead of me?

Gardiner: It depends. Ultimately, we would need to tread carefully and evaluate why we would entertain that idea versus why we shouldn’t.

From the perspective of a design professional, some questions immediately pop up. Do they understand the fundamentals of branding? Do they understand all of the different capacities with which a brand needs to operate? Do they understand that a logo is more than just a logo from a branding perspective?

A key point is to never say no to anything right away. When it comes to associations and nonprofits, we know that there often aren’t huge budgets to spend on big branding agencies. There’s a fine line between resourcefulness and having a strictly professional approach. We would suggest, regardless of your decision, to have a professional opinion from a consultant or somewhere outside of your organization. This will not only provide you with a different perspective but give your rebrand more power behind your decisions when you present it to your board.

Q: When your logo mark and logotype are part of your logo, what is the best practice in using the logo mark independently?

Gardiner: This is where experienced designers will help you navigate when something becomes a brand asset versus an actual lockup identity. A lockup identity is specifically used when a very succinct, condensed appearance of the brand needs to exist.

If you’re sponsoring an event, you’ll want everything regarding your brand identity to be at that event to represent your organization. That’s an instance where you would want to use a brand lockup or logotype.

The logomark is often used for supporting pieces of collateral. For example, the background to add texture to imagery where we want the brand to resonate but not be the full picture or introduce something that’s too busy. Being able to pull apart your visual identity is a really great way to make ties to your core identity.

Understanding when your brand needs to be shown in its totality and when to emboss branding assets and collateral will give you a good guideline for when you want to use your logomark independently. Usually, these guidelines are set in your branding or style guide given to you by your design team.

Q: Are NAPNAP’s annual events also branded with the new logo/brand? Or are they standalone brands?

Michele: We do not brand separately. We came to this decision years ago for our national conference and moved away from location-specific branding. We incorporate location-specific imagery, assets, and program books but this does not change the branding of the event as a whole. Town halls, live events, and podcasts associated with the event do have aspects of sub-branding, but this always ties back into our main logo.

Take a closer look at our rebrand work with NAPNAP:


Q: How do you roll out a new brand?

Gardiner: Understanding that rolling out a new brand takes a long time and treating it like a runway is the most important. People don’t magically appear in a plane once it’s in the air, so we should be bringing our board and organization along the way as you roll out your brand.

Creating transparency and checking in early with everyone is critical. The processes of how a new brand comes together knowing who it affects is paramount to the success of its rollout. You want to try to make it fun and exciting and build some kind of anticipation around it, making the prep-work that much easier.

Michele: For NAPNAP, we chose to do a more social media-focused rollout given the budgets and scope of their audience. We put together an entire launch plan for Michelle that she could follow to a tee like a playbook. The guesswork for what you would need to do week by week disappears and the entire organization is on the same page.

Q: Do you have enough information and feedback to know the ROI and qualitative value of the branding effort?

Michele: Since rebranding, we’ve seen increases in social media engagement, website traffic, and our membership numbers—even during the COVID epidemic. We grew 1,600 members last year and have definitely seen a return on investment.

Gardiner: When gathering information on the success of a branding effort, we want to look at qualitative responses we get back through whatever channels you decide to communicate through. Things like attendees during a Facebook Live event, comments, and feedback are critical to gauge success. One-to-one metrics like this require analysis over a long period of time, so ensuring there’s a positive temperature on these efforts should become a gauge in the short term. Are we seeing positive results?

Another way to measure success is to look at brand consistency across the board. What does this look like? Active adoption of the new branding, desire to use assets, and getting feedback from individual chapters are what we should be looking for. Qualitative metrics of this could be the downloads of brand guidelines, assets, and the number of chapters implementing your branding.

Have a question you still want answered? Reach out or tweet us @youaremighty and let us know!

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