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Fraternal branding initiative: Is this our “Billy Beane” moment?


At last month’s Alliance Annual Meeting, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane challenged fraternal leaders to both think differently and act decisively if they were to successfully compete against their larger and better capitalized commercial competitors.

During a presentation on the Alliance’s proposed fraternal branding initiative later that day, Alliance Board member and former Board Chair Harald Borrmann of Catholic United Financial, characterized the members’ decision to move forward on the project as “a Billy Beane moment” for the fraternal sector.

I could not have described it better myself.

test-2Over the past six months you’ve no doubt read and heard quite a bit about the branding initiative. The results of the Alliance’s initial consumer research clearly demonstrate three key findings: 1) the vast majority of consumers are completely unaware of fraternals; 2) there are characteristics of the fraternal model that have significant appeal to a broad cross-section of consumers; and 3) describing fraternals in a way that makes sense to consumers will increase awareness and create growth opportunities for Alliance member societies.

Based on these initial results, the Alliance developed a proposal to provide members with specific branding tools — consumer-tested words and phrases, sample ads, and information on the type of consumers for whom the fraternal model has the most appeal. During the Branding Roundtable session at the Annual Meeting, member society executives discussed the proposal and voiced strong support for moving forward with it.

The total cost of the project is $500,000 and the cost to each society is dependent on the number of Alliance members that agree to fund the project. Members were informed that the cost is estimated to be between $7,500 and $9,500 per society.

Before confirming their willingness to fund the project, member society leaders wanted answers to a variety of specific questions about the branding initiative. This week, Alliance member society CEOs will receive those detailed responses along with a one-question survey asking them to confirm their commitment to project.

Member responses are due by the end of October, and the Board will review the results and make the “go/no go” decision when it meets on December 7.

So it all comes down to you. Are we going to think AND act differently about addressing one of the most profound problems — lack of consumer awareness — facing the fraternal sector? Or are we going to continue with business as usual? We’ll know in just a few short weeks.


3 Responses

  1. Fraternals were formed a long time ago to aid everyday people with their “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” However, the tasks that helped launch the fraternal movement—affordable health insurance, hospitals, life insurance, orphanages, and so on—are now the domain of government and large corporations.

    What launched fraternals was their ability to provide the aforementioned in affordable, meaningful ways to regular people. Fraternals bridged social strata in ways corporations could not, and government only dreamed of. Fraternals were real innovators in building social harmony through their services. It has been fraternals that have led the way in many important facets of society we take for granted today.

    “We [the fraternals], hold these truths to be self-evident…” And, I believe that this is the root of the problem. These accomplishments are not “self-evident” to the generations that do not know fraternal history, and have also diverted from what fraternals currently cling to—a common bond of heritage and/or religion.

    Our fraternals once led the way to social reform. Today, we are viewed as stodgy edifices of the past. We should look to our common bonds as the foundation of our organizations, but present to the outside world as being a “better way” to do business. With the contrast of corporations like Wells Fargo and Milan, distinguishing ourselves may be easier that it looks. After all, who can argue with the value of a fraternal that is “…OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE”?

    Per the AFA’s research, the numbers seem to support this notion.

    PS: Go Tribe!

  2. Bravo, Tim. No way to say that any better.

    And Go Cubs!


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