Developing the brand: The AAOS process

Developing the brand: The AAOS process

The AAOS brand is evident everywhere at the 2007 Annual Meeting—from the design of the signs and program covers to the emphasis on delivering more than you’d expect.

The January/February issue of AAOS Now included an explanation of the new look and the brand promise, but if you want to know more about how the AAOS brand developed, keep reading.

The AAOS branding initiative kicked off in January 2005, led by a branding team designated by the AAOS Board of Directors. After soliciting bids form a number of branding firms, Landor Associates—specialists in helping organizations develop and strengthen their brand identification—was hired to develop a brand strategy for the AAOS.

“Landor is a highly respected branding firm that’s created major campaigns for FedEx, BP, Kellogg’s—even the American College of Cardiology,” says Mark Wieting, AAOS chief education officer and chair of the staff branding team. “We were impressed with their methodical approach; they touched all the bases.”

Brand diffusion

In working with Landor, the AAOS branding team was surprised to learn that the Academy’s problems were similar to those recently confronted by FedEx, as well as other consumer product companies and service providers.

“Because numerous AAOS programs had their own distinct logos, the problem we shared was the diffusion of our brand, in terms of all the activities a company might be involved in,” says Lewis Jenkins, AAOS director of marketing. “In breathing life into small sub-brands, we were siphoning power from the core brand.”

Successful branding principles required that the AAOS take the following steps:

Unify its brand expressions with one core identity for fellows as well as for patients and the public to present a strong image for AAOS when partnering with other organizations

Communicate the right tone—one that is strong, professional, authoritative, and accomplished; yet also visionary, inspiring, active, dynamic, flexible, approachable, and inclusive.

Create strong, consistent impressions of the AAOS brand that are simple, with enough visual impact to be memorable, and reproduce well in typical applications (from brochures and Web sites to public service announcements on television).

Discovery and research

To create such a strategy, Landor conducted numerous personal interviews and focus groups—with Board members, Academy leadership, staff and fellows—about what constitutes the AAOS brand.

“The focus groups agreed that the current AAOS brand reflects a meat-and-potatoes organization—hard working, strong, reliable, and a respected authority,” explains AAOS President Richard F. Kyle, MD. “The groups also proposed a different future image for the AAOS—one as an inclusive, visionary leader.”

To determine how pervasive and apparent these findings were among the membership at large, Landor took this information and worked with AAOS marketing and research staff to implement a quantitative mail survey of members.

Another crucial step in the branding process was the development of what Landor terms the Brand Driver™—the unique, central concept that serves as a building block for the entire branding program and drives all aspects of the new visual identity.

The Brand Driver™

To identify and define the brand driver, Landor assembled a 15-member work team, comprised of AAOS committee chairs, board members and Chicago-area orthopaedists, for a one-day work session.

In one exercise, participants were asked to review a series of images and select those that intuitively signaled the AAOS brand—past and future. The photographs depicted a range of objects, vehicles, animals, colors and textures, celebrities, architecture, and activities.

Landor paid close attention not only to the members’ choices, but also to their comments and reactions as they made their selections. For instance, when challenged to choose an image of an animal that represented the AAOS in the past, the group chose a lion, describing it as strong, slow-moving and forceful. For the future, they opted for the eagle, describing it as lofty and revered, with great vision and speed.

“This was both an intellectual and emotional process to determine where the AAOS was and where we wanted it to be,” Wieting explains. “The key to the exercise lay in the words people use to justify their selections. Their descriptions conveyed a feeling about what the Academy represents.”

Several months of creative work, revisions and refinements followed. The new AAOS brand strategy was finalized in fall 2006 and approved by the Board of Directors at its December 2006 meeting.


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