Last year, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce embarked on a major project — creating a new image or brand. We’ve always been the voice of business in Ohio, but no one had ever stepped back and asked, “What is our brand?” This is easily answered for companies that create sport shoes or communication devices, but how does one brand a membership experience?
The realization that we needed a brand came out of the development of a long-range plan. After going through focus groups, surveying members and nonmembers, goal creation, etc., it became clear the chamber was lacking a specific brand.
Internally and externally if someone was asked what came to mind when he or she heard “Ohio Chamber of Commerce,” the answers varied. We needed to define our brand so that it would be clearly understood.
This realization was new; it was big and quite frankly undertaking a project like this was kind of scary. With buy-in from our entire staff and board approval, our branding journey began.
Tackling the project
We knew we couldn’t tackle this on our own, so we solicited outside assistance — including peer groups who had gone through a branding process. We talked to our own member companies, including Procter and Gamble, Nationwide and Wendy’s, to gather their valuable input.
Then we selected Ologie, a Columbus branding company that specialized in branding (and rebranding) nonprofits and institutions of higher education, to work with us. Since the Ohio Chamber of Commerce isn’t creating widgets, it was important to use someone with experience branding a relationship experience, which is what companies receive when they become a member.
Because all staff members play an integral part in the chamber experience, they were involved from the beginning, meeting with the branding team to provide input and insights. It didn’t matter if you were the CEO or building receptionist; everyone played a part.
A true reflection
The final outcome was new, different and authentic. It encompassed what the Ohio Chamber of Commerce had always been — we just didn’t realize it.
The tone in which we talk about the Ohio Chamber’s work became all encompassing, engaging and positive, and we adopted the phrase “We’re All for Ohio.” Our colors went from blue, gold and some red to a color pallet that includes a bold orange, warm yellow, soothing grays and an exciting green, blue and red.
Although the process was time-consuming, the outcome has been exceptional. It’s a better way to define the Ohio Chamber internally and, most importantly, externally.
Since we launched the new brand in January, our weekly email readership went from 18 percent to 25 percent, thanks to a change in layout and tone. Our members have positive comments about the new look and feel. Our staff members are excited to incorporate our new brand in everything we do, as it’s truly a reflection of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
And while the new brand brought many changes, we discovered one thing really didn’t change — our mission, because “We’re All for Ohio.”
Julie Wagner Feasel is a Vice President of Communications at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio’s largest and most diverse statewide business advocacy group, has been a consistent voice for business since 1893.