Engaging. Dynamic. Authoritative. Resourceful. Inclusive. Those are just some of the terms used to characterize the new, reenergized “AAOS brand.”


Published 1/1/2007
Carolyn Rogers

New look matches brand promise

AAOS takes active, strategic role in managing brand

To better understand what the AAOS brand means to you, just take a closer look at the publication you’re holding in your hands. AAOS Now not only reflects the new visual identity of AAOS—it also delivers on the AAOS “brand promise.”

A brand by any other name

What exactly is a “brand?”

“It’s more than a logo,” says Mark Wieting, AAOS chief education officer and chair of the staff branding team. “A brand is the sum total of the customer’s experience with your organization—what they’ve come to expect from you. It’s your promise to them.”

Although the AAOS already had a recognizable brand image, that image wasn’t consciously defined or planned, explains AAOS President Richard F. Kyle, MD, who was intimately involved in the branding project. “The way we communicate who we are and the programs we have to offer dictate how we are perceived by our members, as well as by patients and the public,” he says. “Our brand needs to be clear and consistent.”

In January 2005, the AAOS Board of Directors designated a branding team to oversee the initiative. The team spent the past 18 months in an intensive research and planning program that explored the meaning and value of the AAOS brand. Members of the Presidential Line, the Board, fellows, volunteers, staff and specialty society leaders collaborated in these discussions to provide a “big picture” of the past and future of the AAOS brand.

The research program consisted of numerous focus groups, interviews and a mail survey to 7,100 members. The findings showed that AAOS had a strong brand already, and was seen as an authoritative source of unbiased information and as an advocate for its members’ views.

“The idea wasn’t to change the brand, but to clarify it, build on the strengths that already existed, and then make a conscious effort to deliver on the expectations of our brand,” says Maureen Geoghegan, AAOS marketing manager who worked on the branding team.

Setting the AAOS apart

The branding initiative generated a new visual identity for the AAOS, as well as a number of statements and concepts that help clarify and differentiate the AAOS brand:

AAOS Brand Positioning—Brand positioning is the specific niche that a brand defines itself as occupying in the competitive environment. Positioning differentiates brand attributes and user benefits, and identifies target segments. To best connect with its two primary audiences—members and patients/public—the AAOS created the following two positioning statements:

  • “Building Strength Through Partnerships” (Member-focused)
  • “Your Partner for Lifelong Musculoskeletal Health” (Patients/Public-focused)

AAOS Brand Essence—Brand essence is a brand’s promise expressed in its simplest terms. The most powerful brand essence is rooted in a fundamental customer need. The AAOS brand essence is summarized as, “AAOS builds strength through partnerships—a unifying partner to create the future of orthopaedics together.”

AAOS Brand Belief—Through research and group discussion, the branding team discovered the brand’s core beliefs—a succinct statement of what the brand stands for. The AAOS brand beliefs are reflected in the combination of these five concepts or values: empathy, ally, resourceful experts, results-driven, and unity. These beliefs are distilled in the following statement: “AAOS is an empathetic and caring ally in orthopaedics, a resourceful expert and results-driven leader, uniting the profession to improve musculoskeletal health for patients.”

Logo overkill

In the for-profit world, companies are continually working hard to manage their brand.

“Although the Academy had worked on vision and mission statements, business plans, and long-term goals with its AAOS in 2010 project, it hadn’t given much thought to AAOS as a brand to be managed and shaped,” says Lewis Jenkins, director of marketing.

As a result, the AAOS brand began to splinter. Recent surveys made it clear that members did not associate many of the Academy’s important projects and initiatives with the AAOS.

Some of the confusion can be attributed to the plethora of logos, sub-brands and acronyms—unlinked to the core AAOS identity—that have been introduced in recent years. Many new initiatives—important in their own right—were symbolized by distinct, unrelated logos. Over time, the sea of symbols, tag lines and graphics left many fellows confused, and weakened the overall AAOS brand.

A bold new visual identity

A central element in communicating the brand strategy is the AAOS visual identity system.

“For years we used the Academy’s seal as a logo for the Academy and a letterform ‘AAOS’ for the Association,” Wieting explains. “Created 60 years apart, they looked very different and communicated different messages. We’ve developed a new visual identity that better reflects what the brand is all about and brings the Academy into the future.”

The AAOS is now represented by one core visual identity, or logo, with slight variations to differentiate between the Academy and the Association. The system is built around the organizations’ three major focal areas: education, advocacy and research. It eliminates unnecessary sub-brands and minimizes the use of acronyms and logos.

Following are the primary design elements to look for in the new brand:

AAOS logotype—The new AAOS logotype is the cornerstone of the brand identity system, and comes in two variations—one for the Academy and one for the Association. To clearly identify AAOS involvement in orthopaedic programs, projects, and initiatives, one or both logos will be used in all AAOS communications, publications, and products.

The new logotype is set in all capital letters, giving the mark an air of authority and dignity. The principal logo is dark grey, evocative of silver, denoting dignity and honoring permanence. For projects related to the Academy—the 501(c)(3) organization that is responsible for education and research endeavors—the logo will have red accents, suggesting warmth and approachability. The logo for the Association—the 501(c)(6) organization that conducts advocacy, lobbying activities, and other health policy initiatives—has blue accents, suggesting strength and stability on Capitol Hill.

The “O” symbol—The stylized “O” within the new AAOS logotype emphasizes the importance of orthopaedics. As a contemporary representation of the laurel wreath from the historic seal, the “O” pays homage to the rich tradition of the AAOS. The three equal elements that come together to form the “O” can represent the organizations’ three primary focal areas—education, research, and advocacy. The elements can also symbolize the three primary audiences—members, patients, and the public.

Appearing to be set in motion, the dynamic “O” has been called the “activity circle” of orthopaedics, representing AAOS programs, audiences, and vision toward the future. With three parts creating one whole, the “O” symbolizes unity in orthopaedics.

The Academy seal—The formal seal has been updated and restored. Respect-ing the traditions and heritage of the AAOS, this “old friend” will be used for honorary and ceremonial purposes only.

Brand building

The newly defined AAOS brand is in place, but now the Academy must align its internal reality with the brand promise. This process requires the involvement of both leadership and staff, and is referred to as “brand engagement.”

To learn how to better align the customer experience with the spirit of the AAOS brand, AAOS staff members are currently undergoing brand engagement training through interactive workshops.

“We’re working with staff, and eventually with volunteer members, to integrate the brand principles in our daily work,” Jenkins says. “The goal is to ensure that staff and volunteers provide all of our constituents with a positive experience that is consistent with our brand. Through the products we create, our communication vehicles, and our personal interactions, we want to deliver what the members need and expect from the Academy.”

Wieting agrees. “Whether a member is attending a course, ordering a book, or calling the Academy with a customer-service question, the ‘take-away’ experience should be a positive one, consistent with our brand,” he says. “The brand promise should be infused in everything we do.”

Annual meeting “showcase”

The new AAOS brand will be “unavoidable” at the Annual Meeting in San Diego, Jenkins says.

“Annual Meeting is when most members feel most closely connected to the AAOS, which makes it an ideal time to launch the new AAOS identity,” he says.

The meeting can serve as a showcase for members to witness and experience the AAOS brand in action. “This is an opportunity for the new visual identity to come together with quality education programs, technical exhibits, the spirit of fellowship, and personal customer service to deliver the AAOS brand promise,” he adds.