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This case study was written by Fred H. Hutchison and is part of the Innovation and Excellence case studies at the Association Learning Center. It is reprinted here with permission.

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New Association Identity

National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association
Representing the crushed stone, sand and gravel (or aggregates) industries, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association's (NSSGA) 950 member companies produce 90 percent of the crushed stone and 70 percent of the sand and gravel consumed annually in the United States. The director of the U.S. Geological Survey called NSSGA the "largest mining association in the world," based on the volume of product represented.
Develop a new name and logo following the merger of the National Aggregates Association and the National Stone Association.

In June 2000, the boards of directors of the National Stone Association (NSA) and the National Aggregates Association (NAA), voted to merge the two associations into a single entity. In describing the rationale behind the merger, NSA Chairman Kim W. Snyder said "[by] joining forces with our friends at NAA, we can leverage our strengths and speak with one voice. There is no doubt in my mind that, in this case, one plus one most definitely equals three."

Combining the two associations was intended "to provide additional services to the entire industry, add credibility, and enhance the ability to speak with one voice to all levels of government and the public." Since popular programs of both organizations were to be maintained, it was expected that the merger would have the practical effect of permitting the new association to focus solely on its mission of serving the industry.

Under the merger plan, the new association moved immediately into new office space leased by NSA in Arlington, Virginia. Joy Wilson, the president of NSA, was selected to serve as president and CEO, and Charlie Hawkins, the president of NAA, was selected to serve as executive vice president and COO. While the NSA and NAA boards recognized that "there will be savings related to eliminating the duplication of efforts and services, the greatest beneficiary is the aggregates industry, which will have a progressive organization to advocate its interests, educate its workforce, and develop new markets."

Working with an outside consulting firm, NAA-NSA created and implemented a branding initiative including a new association name and logo.

The first order of business for the newly merged NAA-NSA was to settle upon a name and logo for the association. This was not an easy task because there were strongly voiced opinions from many quarters about what the new organization should call itself. For example, the NAA-NSA staff developed an initial list of some 25 alternatives.

Recognizing that need to reconcile the strongly felt opinions of its diverse membership, the NAA-NSA team retained the services of an outside consulting team led by Fred Hutchison (now with Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations) to assist the new association in the selection of its name and creation of an appropriate logo.
Course of Action
The consulting team recommended that the NAA-NSA poll its membership to develop statistically significant data about various name choices and explanatory "tag-lines." Following the internal survey, a telephone survey of select "external" audiences would be conducted to provide further insight into whether or not the selected name conveyed the "right" message to selected target audiences.

Internal Survey. As a first step, the consultant designed a short opinion survey that was distributed to the combined NAA-NSA membership and select others "within the family." The written surveys were returned directly to the consultant for analysis. The consultant's survey report was submitted to the NAA-NSA board of directors on October 30, 2000.

Findings from Internal Survey. Due to publicity and interest, the internal survey achieved a high return rate of 30%. The survey results showed that the industry preferred some variation of: "Aggregates Association," "Construction Minerals Association," or "Stone, Sand & Gravel Association." With regard to the use of a geographical "qualifier," the word "National" was the clear preference.

An important finding was that 78% of the respondents said that the use of the word aggregates would require a "tag-line" that made it clear that aggregates = stone, sand and gravel.

External Survey. Following the internal survey, in November and early December 2000, the consultant contacted some 48 people outside the NAA-NSA organization. This external survey was aimed at congressional staffers, executive branch decision-makers, and journalists. 

Findings from External Survey. As a second step, the various leading names were tested with external audiences through telephone interviews in late November to early December 2000. One suggestion that tested well was "Construction Aggregates Association." However, there was near universal opinion that the word "aggregates" would require explanation if it was used in the name. Also, the external audiences thought that the word "National" should be included in the name to indicate that this was a trade association with national scope.

Summary of Internal and External Survey Results. From the two surveys it was clear that:
The word "aggregates" in the name would require clarification (through the use of the word "construction") and explanation (through a tag line indicating that aggregates meant "stone, sand and gravel").
The word "national" should be in the name.

Thus, the semifinal choices boiled down to:
National Construction Aggregates Association
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association

Final Choice. National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association became the final choice principally for the reasons that:
The acronym NCAA is the intellectual property of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The use of the word "aggregates" would need to be constantly explained.
The Internet domain names for NSSGA (.com, .net, .org) were all available for registration.

But, mostly, the name "National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association" was judged the most straightforward and easily understood alternative.

Creation of Logo and Tag Line. Once the name of the association had been decided, the consultant produced a logo concept, which was shared with the NSSGA staff in early January 2000. The concept consisted of three equal-sized square photographs of stone, sand and gravel. A quick approval was given to the concept and the consultant proceeded to obtain representative samples of these three products. A top photographer took a series of photographs (under identical lighting conditions), and these photographs became the essential elements of the final logo.

Since the name National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association did not require additional explanation through the use of a tag line, the NSSGA was free to develop a message that would help to explain the important nature of the association. The phrase: "natural building blocks for quality of life" was subsequently chosen as the tag line. The logo and tag line were incorporated into the association basic stationery package and used to create the NSSGA.org website.

Unintended Consequences
The NAA-NSA boards and membership voted in mid-2000 to merge the associations and the final legal documents effecting the merger were signed on September 11, 2000. The name/logo consulting team led by Fred Hutchison, was retained on August 31, 2000. Although it seemed as if five months would be an adequate time to conduct the internal and external surveys, settle on a name, and design a new logo, this timeframe proved to be extremely tight.

The first two months of the process were consumed with the internal survey. The external survey took another month to complete (compounded by the Thanksgiving holiday.) By the time a final name had been selected in late December 2000, there were only some 45 days remaining before the new name and logo were to be unveiled at the NSSGA annual meeting on February 14, 2001.

Given this timeframe, there was little opportunity at the end to "tweak" the logo/tag line in time for release at the annual meeting. An additional 30 days would have been very beneficial.
Unforeseen Benefits
In addition to the brand, basic name and tag line information, the internal survey sent to the NAA-NSA members produced some interesting insights about which external "audiences" the membership viewed as most important. When asked to choose between federal, state, and local government decision makers, and news media at similar levels, respondents overwhelmingly judged federal and state government decision-makers as the associations most important "audiences."
Related Pages and Links
NSSGA Web Site

NSSGA Brand Report (.doc)

NSSGA Brand Survey Cover Letter (.doc)
NSSGA Draft of the Internal Brand Survey (.doc)
NSSGA External Brand Survey (.doc)
NSSGA External Survey Results (.doc)
NSSGA Final Internal Brand Survey (.doc)
NSSGA Logo (.jpg)

   2008 Fred H. Hutchison. All Rights Reserved.

Edited on: November 17, 2008