Dan Goldstein knows there’s an entire industry that’s judging him and his team after the most-discussed brand change in the AV world in a long time hit one of the largest associations in the business: InfoComm International becoming AVIXA.
Goldstein, senior VP of marketing and communications for the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA), understands the risk he and the association are taking by ditching the InfoComm International brand in favor of a more modern name that truly evokes what leadership expects the industry to be for the next 50 years.
“Rebranding is always a big step with built-in risks and usually something you don’t want to do until you’ve gone through every other possibility,” says Goldstein, who joined AVIXA three years ago after seven years with Integrated Systems Europe in publishing, marketing and communications.
How AVIXA Happened
“I spent my first year [at the association] looking for other ways to exploit the growth opportunities without rebranding,” says Goldstein. By August 2015, he went to senior leadership for the association and told them a brand change was necessary.
From there, Goldstein started looking for a consulting firm to lead the rebranding effort.
“In addition to convincing everyone else, I had to convince myself,” says Goldstein, noting he told Ripe, the agency that advised him, that InfoComm International wasn’t going to change its name.
Consultants interviewed hundreds of the association’s members around the world and came back with an answer: it’s time to rename InfoComm.
“They presented a very compelling case,” says Goldstein.
Goldstein and his team came up with almost 70 possible new names, some of which were ruled out for copyright reasons or just because the group decided they weren’t good enough.
“AVIXA was always a front-runner,” says Goldstein. “Some of the names we came up with had too much of a risk factor. We were trying to find that balance between trying to make an impact and ensuring the new brand does what you want it to do.”
The new brand highlights that members are in the AV space, says Goldstein, noting it’s an acknowledgement about “taking back the AV industry.” InfoComm leadership talked since its 2013 strategic plan about creating exceptional experiences, so that word had been a critical component of its message for a while. Adding “Association” tells people outside the space that this is a non-profit, not a big corporation, says Goldstein.
Goldstein isn’t sure exactly how many hours he and his team put into the brand change, but he knows it stretched for about 16 months before it was finalized around the time of ISE 2017. In the meantime, the department continued to market the association’s other events, setting a string of attendance records along the way.
The brand update is just one of five pillars in the 2016 strategic plan and he and his team have continued to work on the others while waiting to introduce AVIXA to the world last week near the association’s headquarters in a grand-scale rollout.
The new brand was approved before ISE 2017, but executive director and CEO David Labuskes felt it was better to wait to unveil it since that’s not just an InfoComm show. Although InfoComm 2017 set an attendance record, officials didn’t want to launch the new brand in Orlando because it would’ve taken attention from the exhibitors.
So they waited … and waited … and waited. Although there were some close calls, Goldstein was never worried someone would sabotage the big reveal.
“It’s all about trust,” he says.
After the AVIXA Announcement
The new association name and acronym has predictably drawn a lot of reaction among media, volunteers and members who heard about the change on social media as it broke precisely at 7 p.m. E.T. on Sept. 13, 2017.
Goldstein says he had some sleepless nights leading up to the announcement to staff members and media and volunteers over the past several weeks, but his fears were rooted in having some sort of technical problem or a persistent cough as he announced InfoComm International was becoming AVIXA.
“I was confident, not arrogant,” he says. “I felt like it was the right decision. Dave is very strong in taking people through the story, step by step so they understand.”
Goldstein has seen what he calls “the trolls online,” but says they’re criticizing the AVIXA name only, not what it stands for and not the process he and countless others went through before deciding on the new brand identity.
“They don’t know what steps we took to get there,” says Goldstein. “That’s one of the risks you run in the modern world with social media and everyone being able to express their opinion without having all the information.” He pointed to President Donald Trump and his penchant for firing off tweets in response to the big news of the day.
“I welcome the criticism. You can’t just brush it off. I’ll make the time to respond to everyone who has an issue with it. The good news is no one hates [the new brand] when they hear the full story,” says Goldstein.
“The worst thing that could’ve happened is if nobody cared. Ambivalence would have been the nightmare scenario. When we have our new member models all set up, when we’re publishing more market research and putting out new content, that’s when it’ll all make sense,” he says.
Although Goldstein and his team put in many hours leading up to the AVIXA brand rollout, he knows there’s a lot more to do … once he takes a few days off later this week, a move he’s advised everyone in his department to follow.
“You have to make sure this brand is not a hollow promise,” says Goldstein. “It’s about retaining what’s gotten us this far and building on that. Two years from now, it’ll be so obvious why we did what we did.”
Goldstein is emphatic about the criticism in some circles that the AVIXA brand signifies a shift in focus for the association away from integrators to primarily being about end users.
“We will never be an end user organization,” he says. “We have no ambition to be that.”