The American Gem Trade Association is North America’s largest association dedicated to the advancement of colored gemstones and cultured pearls. Created in 1981, the trade organization was founded to support the ethical trade of precious stones and to educate wholesalers, retailers, designers, and consumers about ethical practices and smart, informed purchasing. As the industry evolved and purchasing patterns shifted, the AGTA needed to stay relevant to its members and the community at large.
AGTA was founded in 1981 to create a trade organization and trade show to support colored gemstone wholesalers. Over the years, the organization had expanded services and membership to include a broader audience without revising the mission and vision or changing the brand platform, identity, and messaging. To stay relevant, the association needed to rebrand and develop stronger marketing and advertising plans that helped manufacturers, retailers, designers, and consumers.
This non-profit organization has a volunteer board, which changes by member election every three years, and a small paid staff. The approval process on a project of this magnitude was complicated and needed seasoned project management. Continuity of vision was held by the CEO but was greatly influenced by the board. Hearing all voices and gaining consensus to execute on objectives and meet budgetary and timeline constraints required flexibility, fluidity, and experienced listening skills. The brand strategy not only needed to include traditional marketing and sales materials, but also digital with an emphasis on marketing its trade shows which are the main source of revenue for the organization: AGTA GemFairs™ in Tucson and Las Vegas.
Ever since the rebranding effort, our membership numbers have been steady. We’re now at nearly 1,400 members. Our outreach and the look of our brand has made a difference in the membership we’ve been able to bring in.
Our first step in the rebranding process was to identify key influencers among staff, board, membership at large, industry and trade media. These people were engaged by email questionnaire and a follow-up phone conversation to gather individual background and vision. Results were aggregated and findings were presented to the board with initial brand platform, audience messaging, and brand identity proposals. Through managed collaboration from all stakeholders, a new brand evolved. New messaging and visuals were developed into comprehensive advertising and marketing plans created to keep members informed, grow the membership base, promote the trade shows and educate retailers/consumers on the importance of buying ethically sourced gemstones and pearls.
Overall membership has increased while the main income producer, AGTA GemFair™Tucson, has broken trade show industry standards by increasing exhibitor participation and attendance over the past four years. In that time period, more than 300 exhibitors represent a tenfold increase; 8,000 qualified buyers attended the 2017 GemFair; 98% of the 2017 attendees met new suppliers (AGTA members) by walking the show, the best buyer-to-exhibitor ratio in the industry: 28:1; and 96% of 2017 attendees planned on attending the 2018 GemFair. That number has held steady for 2019/2020 as our work continues to evolve AGTA.
IF YOU READ THIS WHOLE CASE STUDY YOU MIGHT JUST BE MANAGING A BRAND LOOKING TO BE THE NEXT THING. MAYBE EVEN CREATING YOUR OWN CATEGORY. EITHER WAY WE’D LOVE TO TALK SO IT’S PROBABLY IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO JUST GET IN TOUCH. WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU.