Rebranding an Association Awards Program

There aren’t many programs that do what AMA Baltimore’s Marketing Excellence Awards does: recognize the strategic and creative work of marketers in the greater Baltimore area. And after 33 years as the Marketing Excellence Awards, AMA Baltimore was ready to reimagine the program to bring fresh and modern energy into the brand. It’s 2019, and things have changed. Today, marketers have a seat at the table and a real stake in business more than ever before — their efforts are dynamic, unique, and create a profound impact.

Awards are given to local organizations and agencies that implement the best marketing campaigns and demonstrate measurable campaign results. Year after year, the winners set the bar high and prove to be innovative, creative, and results-driven.

Beyond Definition (formerly Bates Creative) has been a member and supporter of the American Marketing Association for years, being involved in both the national and local chapter levels. We feel strongly about highlighting the amazing work marketers are doing in our mid-atlantic region and were proud to join AMA Baltimore to lead the Marketing Excellence Awards rebrand effort and revitalize the awards program for its 34th year.

“We were looking for something that can make us stand out more. Bigger, better, bolder.”

Dov Hoffman, Vice President of Programming

Historically, the Marketing Excellence Awards had trouble clearly defining itself with no consistency in its program branding. There was no true brand essence of the Marketing Excellence Awards. As a result, it left an experience that didn’t reflect the excellence of the work it celebrated.

Introducing, the MX Awards

For its 2019 celebration, Beyond Definition worked with the AMA Baltimore board of directors to not only refresh the program’s brand but to also refresh its name, evolving the Marketing Excellence Awards into the MX Awards. The new name plays off an abbreviation of its established name to reflect a fresh and modern feel without deviating completely.

AMA Baltimore’s awards program is different from other award competitions because of its dual focus on both the creative and marketing aspects of work. It’s an awards show celebrating the bigger picture and the impact of marketing excellence. We knew the program needed to evoke great pride, credibility, and feel elite but not snobby. The evolved name—MX Awards—is bold, sleek, confident, and leaves a sense of intrigue without being too abstract or exclusive.

“We wanted to create a name that was bold, intriguing, and polished. MX Awards has a nice ring to it—it sounds more exciting and creative.”

Alex, Director of Brand Strategy

Pulling Inspiration from AMA National’s Brand

AMA Baltimore is one of more than 70 chapters that fall under the national American Marketing Association brand. This year’s awards program was not only momentous for its rebrand unveiling, but it was also the first year AMA Baltimore partnered with the AMA One Chapter Alliance, a multi-regional partnership between four AMA chapters across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region. Because of this, the AMA brand needed to come through in a stronger way with the new MX Awards branding. This presented a challenge in finding a strategic way to tie the overarching AMA brand into the MX Awards while remaining differentiated enough to stand alone and create a wow-factor for the Baltimore chapter membership.

The most iconic part of AMA’s brand, the branded bold logomark with rounded edges, caught our attention. Our design team presented a new MX Awards logo concept that pulled the “greater than” symbols from the national brand guidelines.

A number of pattern variations were also created including a diagonal iteration with colorful diagonal lines with rounded edges, a dot pattern, a pattern treatment using the greater than symbol, and an iteration to create an “M” from AMA National’s logo.

“When you look at the color palette, it feels like a party.”

Cecile Jordan, Art Director

To bring this all to life in a memorable and impactful way, our team played with multiple color combinations to evoke a sense of bold excellence. The color scheme needed to be elegant, yet reach a younger audience while standing the test of time. When looking at neutral color combinations like black and white, it definitely was elegant but too traditional, and lacked the wow factor our collective team was aiming for. AMA Baltimore was set on hues that had an edgier feel with variety and room to play with the collateral execution.

The funfetti style color palette was inspired by the AMA National brand colors and is set up to be easily added to, should the MX Awards brand evolve and expand over time.

Finding the Words That Evoke Excellence

Marketing excellence, reimagined. The new tagline for the MX Awards inspires excitement to draw marketers’ attention into exploring the awards program and wanting to be a part of this excellence.

The messaging that follows accomplishes an interesting challenge, it’s inclusive yet selective. The phrasing, syntax, wording, and cadence of the sentences point to how the MX Awards is selective in the work they choose, but inclusive to all people who want to enter and be a part of this experience.

MX Awards Brought to Life

After finalizing the new MX Awards identity, it was time to craft collateral to reflect the transformation. A comprehensive website, sponsorship package, email graphics, social media graphics, and a digital call for entries were created for digital promotions. For print, we created a call for entries mailer and poster, an invitation to the MX Awards Gala, and the official Gala program.

The MX Awards website serves as a one-stop-shop for all visitors to learn about the program. It’s simple and sleek, asking visitors to engage by either entering their work, or supporting the program as a sponsor.

The downloadable sponsorship package is a crafted piece that adheres to the new brand guidelines, provides clear information on how to be a platinum, gold, silver, or bronze sponsor, and calls out prominent information about AMA Baltimore’s chapter. Small design changes, such as replacing bullets for “greater than” signs, create a connection to the larger awards show brand throughout the packet.

To promote the newly branded event, our team designed custom email graphics set that promoted call for entries, a second set calling for sponsorships, and a third to promote the gala. Each set has several variations for AMA Baltimore to A/B test email performance and market the event in a number of different ways to resonate with its audience online.

The social graphics followed suit. For the call for entries, call for sponsorships, and gala promotion, all graphics are spacious with very little text included. The various patterns and pop colors speak for themselves. The patterns were strategically placed to accent the important information, for example, the greater than signs pointing to the date of the call for entries deadline.

For print pieces, we started with the call for entries mailer, which was the first visual representation of the MX Awards to the public — it needed to stand out. The mailer featured unconventional fold lines that open to a statement piece: a poster that marketers would be proud to hang in their office. Simultaneously, we created a digital call for entries piece that played with the various patterns from AMA National’s logo. The result? A clean, digital resource that used whitespace and strategic design to best present entry details.

The MX Awards Gala invitation was next on our list, and took on a traditional approach. The shimmering envelope opened to a thick, heavy die cut paper with a holographic foil finish to create a simple, elegant piece.

The MX Awards Gala program was then designed to be useful yet memorable for gala attendees. Resting on top of the program laid a clear MX Awards coaster that attendees could take home as a keepsake to remind them of the event that evokes excellence.

The MX Awards Gala Debut

The MX Awards Gala was held on May 16th, 2019, and brought the new awards show brand identity to life for all to experience.

Setting Up For Long-term Success

With the foundation of the new MX Awards brand built, Beyond Definition delivered a brand style guide for the AMA Baltimore board of directors to be able to build upon in years to come.

This year, the 34th annual MX Awards had a record number of entries with over 130 attendees at the gala, which is a testament to the program’s rebrand, the talent it attracted, and the appeal to marketers in the area. Through this strategic rebranding effort, we were able to give the MX Awards a boost in confidence, a new competitive edge, and an appeal that will attract marketers to be a part of this experience for years to come.

Gala images provided by Coyle Studios and AMA Baltimore.

Jenna Lally's headshot

Jenna Lally

As Marketing Strategist, Jenna crafts customized digital marketing strategies and cross-channel content to connect with diverse audiences.

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