In late April 2014, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) changed its name to the Auto Care Association (ACA). We spent a year and a half on an extensive rebranding initiative that would ultimately change the name of our industry from the automotive aftermarket industry to the auto care industry.
Our association identified a major obstacle to achieve our key strategic plan goal to increase the awareness and understanding of the role, value and significance of the industry and the association among our stakeholders and audiences.
Intuitively, we believed the obstacle was, people outside of our industry didn’t understand what the term automotive aftermarket meant and, consequently, did not understand or appreciate whom our association represented. These stakeholders include media, educators, consumers, prospective employees and especially policymakers. Our government affairs staff routinely spent the first few valuable minutes of meetings with state and federal legislators and regulators just explaining who we were.
Our association’s leadership decided it was time to do something about this problem, and a rebranding initiative with bold objectives was funded:
· Rename the association
· Find an alternative for the term aftermarket
· Establish the association as the voice of the industry
· Better reflect the role and value of the industry
Results of exhaustive research and focus groups reinforced the initial contention — the term aftermarket had to go — and led us to develop our brand values and a new story that resonated with our industry and consumers. The term auto care industry is a succinct representation of our industry comprised of companies who manufacture, distribute, sell and install auto parts and provide vehicle service and repair. Regardless of their role, they all have one thing in common: they care for consumers’ vehicles.
To roll out the new brand and language to all of our internal and external audiences, a comprehensive strategic plan was created. The plan ensured our internal audiences embraced the new brand by living its values, adopting the new language and consistently using the visual identity. Our objective with external audiences is to increase our visibility, influence and respect among policymakers and regulators and boost awareness and trust among consumers.
The internal rollout came first, starting with a teaser video shown at a high-level industry event during Automotive Aftermarket Product Expo (AAPEX) in Las Vegas in November 2014. Since then, we delivered a steady drumbeat of direct communications to members, along with earned and paid media in key trade publications to create excitement and ensure buy-in and participation.
Concurrently, association staff was busy redesigning and updating the website, social media platforms, publications, signs and all collateral materials. A style guide was developed to provide information on incorporating the brand into all existing and future communication channels, including typography, color palette, logo usage standards and graphic standards. Critical to the success was sharing this information with our members via an owners manual booklet welcoming them to the new ACA and making these guidelines available on our website.
We believe the rebranding was successful because:
1. We worked with the very best communications agency we could find with experience in rebranding.
2. We devoted the resources and time to exhaustive research.
3. We communicated early and often to our members and the industry about what we were doing and why.
4. We helped members embrace and adopt the changes by providing all of the necessary information and materials.
We have now shifted from the rebranding phase to the widespread promotion of our new brand to all of our stakeholders. Activities and promotions are underway for 2015 to continue the rollout of our new brand promise and messaging. To learn more about the ACA and why independence drives us, visit www.autocare.org and watch our “Who We Are” video. Welcome to the new ACA.
RICHARD WHITE is the senior vice president of the Auto Care Association in Bethesda, Maryland.