Association naming used to follow a relatively simple formula, combining geography with industry description followed by the word “association” (or a synonym thereof). Thus we have functional names along the lines of:

  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • American Sugarbeet Growers Association
  • Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association

What if your association’s name has historical significance but no longer accurately reflects a diversifying target audience?

Association Naming & Strategic Rebranding

Granted, association naming is just one piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be solved as marketplace changes contribute to declining membership. But some associations are tackling the naming challenge head-on, as part of larger efforts to refresh their brands and maintain their relevance—especially with millennials.

For example, the Investment Management Consultants Association, or IMCA, recently rebranded itself as the Investments and Wealth Institute. For an article in Financial Advisor-IQ, I offered my thoughts on the association naming change:

“I think the rebranding, from ‘IMCA’ to the ‘Investments and Wealth Institute,’ may be a very strategic move on the association’s part in terms of extending the organization’s long-term relevance.”

The article went on as follows:

Galvin, who had nothing to do with Investments and Wealth Institute’s rebranding, is also impressed “that the new name omits the word ’association’ entirely. That, she says, is “a change many associations struggle with—despite research that shows many younger professionals don’t see as much value in the traditional trade association model.”

Further, in dropping the word ’association,’ IMCA shifts focus from ’Who is this organization for?’ to ’What does this organization do?’ while “the word ’institute’ helps clarify this is a place for advanced education and certification,” says Galvin. This amounts to “a very clear member benefit and a specific reason to join,” she adds.

First Point of Reference

Your association’s name is the first point of contact that potential members have with you. A name that energizes and inspires people to learn more is a critical first step toward building and maintaining a healthy membership base.

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