The National Federation of Independent Business was founded in 1943 to advocate for small business owners in state and federal legislature. With over 300,000 members, it’s the largest trade association with an exclusive focus on small business owners. It has a significant reputation in the media, legislatures, and the courts. But its awareness among its core demographic – small business owners – is barely there. Any awareness the organization had was through their plaques, plastic sheets designed to look like brass plaques with their acronym that are routinely displayed in the windows and desks of their members. Many confused them with the FDIC. They were known as a right-of-center organization that provided little value for its members. But among their engaged core membership, they were respected and admired for their advocacy work and their strong services offered to support member businesses. In short: They had an awareness problem, but they also had a dedicated fanbase.
With a new CEO and an energized leadership team, NFIB engaged us to work with Hill + Knowlton to uncover quantitative insights about NFIB’s membership and employee base, shaping a new direction for their identity just in time for their 75th anniversary celebration.
Exploratory meetings and in-depth interviews – 20
Current and prospective member survey – 1352 current, 533 prospective (including 111 former)
Small business is an emotional cause. It’s a distinctly American cause. The fulfillment of the American dream. At the core of that cause is a strength of character that drives small business owners and NFIB. Independence of thought and action. People who start their own businesses are not taking the easy path. They are trailblazers. And that’s a distinctly American image. The frontier spirit.
Their logo is directly inspired by this theme. It embodies the action of trailblazing in its symbol and echoes that dynamism in its logotype. The identity is simple and direct. It’s confident. And the language is similarly confident. We recommended reorienting messaging to focus on positive, galvanizing, and strong word choice to bring members and prospects together with NFIB, focused on the future.
The NFIB is not just a logo or a tagline. It’s a breathing, changing thing. NFIB’s history of brand inconsistency is a testament to just how complicated branding this kind of organization can be. We recommended reorienting the organization’s brand architecture and formalizing it using a simple, on-brand system with future growth in mind.
We worked directly with NFIB’s marketing team to ensure that everything we made for them was practical and smart. That collaboration yielded further extensions of the identity, including a vibrant green for use in digital application.
One of the more important extensions of the identity was a photography style guide. Small business is rife with clichéd stock photos. Think hyper-clean men and women with artificial smiles and their arms folded standing in front of their fake businesses. We recommended they shoot photography that speaks to their members’ daily experience. Small business owners are busy. They don’t have time to put on brand-new aprons and hold their open signs and stand around. We created guidelines to ensure that photos show people at work, absorbed in what they’re doing and surrounded by relatable chaos.
We helped NFIB release their new look to the world through strong photography, video, and animation. First, we created a video to announce the rebrand to their employees across the country. This reveal video included a look at their identity as it changed over their 75 years of history. The video was received positively in every corner of the organization. It set a palpable momentum for the rebrand launch.
NFIB pointed us to some incredible members that represented everything that makes NFIB strong. We followed them in their daily lives, capturing them at work – all of the drudgery, excitement, and complications that come with hard work. Getting to know these people was rewarding. We uncovered further stories that distinguish the people at the heart of America’s small businesses. And we met some good people in the process.