Research Quality Association

Working with a global non-profit organisation to help them rediscover and define their brand strategy

Research / Brand Strategy

The RQA (Research & Quality Association) is an international non-profit organisation. They provide a platform for quality and research professionals worldwide which is dedicated to their training, collaboration and professional development. They also help their members keep up to date on regulatory changes within the industry.

Founded in 1977, RQA serves a niche audience operating within pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, chemicals and medical devices. It proudly supports over 2,500 members through its training courses, conferences, networking opportunities, discussion forums, regular industry updates, eLearning and more.

The RQA is a complex organisation. It is run by a board, committees, volunteers and an office team. Each and every person is dedicated to delivering RQA’s service and product portfolio and the marketing and administration that comes with doing so.

The Challenges

The RQA is a financially stable and growing organisation. When the pandemic hit, it quickly adapted to moving most of its products and services online. The transition to a more virtual world revealed some concerns. Membership behaviour is more passive than the RQA would like it to be, and engagement is low.  

Understandably, they are concerned that the membership value proposition is not clear or effective enough, which in turn affects how much of an impact the RQA has on the industry.

Furthermore, the membership of the RQA is ‘aging’, with young professionals under the age of 30 making up just 4% of the overall membership. As a global organisation, they are not reaching their international members and prospects effectively enough.

The Brief

Keen to build a strategy for the future, RQA wanted to make sure that they are supporting their members and customers in the right way. With a focus on marketing individual services in recent years, they had neglected to advertise the brand’s overall value proposition to their members. By being too close to the issues, the RQA reached a point where they “couldn’t see the wood for the trees” and therefore reached out to Studio Brand Up for help.

The objectives for the project were to:

  • research and investigate the motivations and needs of members to improve membership engagement from passive to more actively engaged behaviour
  • profile prospective members to understand their motivations, needs and goals to convert leads more successfully to RQA members
  • clearly outline what the membership should look like and how it adds value to each member
  • redefine the RQA brand and what it stands for

The Solution

We followed our methodical approach of internal and external research to analyse the overall brand strength, perception of RQA and to see where their difficulties are rooted. Based on these key insights, we helped RQA redefine a simplistic brand strategy framework to inform and support their future brand building.

Internal Research

Our internal research focused on understanding the history, culture, structure, and product portfolio of the organisation. Combining meetings and desktop research we gained a good overall picture of RQA as an industry organisation, its vision, opportunities, and challenges.

We held individual Interviews with the CEO, chairman, and people from the marketing, membership, customer service and finance teams. This was to build a picture of internal brand perception, priorities, challenges, and opportunities.

External Research

We combined qualitative and quantitative research to gain a clear understanding of RQA’s members and prospects. Our aim was to discover how RQA provides value to them and if there are elements that need improvement.

The external research started with two workshop sessions with the internal team. In the first session, the Buyer Persona Mapping workshop, we asked the team to map their members goals, pain points, tasks and influences. The purpose was to build a picture of how RQA understands their members and prospects.

In the second workshop, the Customer Journey Mapping workshop, we looked at RQA’s assets and touchpoints that members and prospects typically encounter when interacting with RQA, from first awareness to becoming a loyal member. This process shed light on gaps and opportunities to improve the member journey.

Following this, we held Interviews with a cross-section of RQA’s audience to evidence and complete RQA’s understanding of their audience. We spoke to members and prospects, committee members and professionals based in the UK, Europe, India and Australia. We asked how RQA is perceived as a brand, how they describe it, how the organisation adds value to their work and career and what needs to improve to serve them better.

To complete our external research, we reviewed several RQA Surveys, including member satisfaction surveys, membership renewal and non-renewal surveys from the past 2 years. These documents gave us additional insights into how RQA members rate the organisation, its services and products.

Brand Strategy

We summarised and presented our research insights in a detailed report. The results prove RQA’s deep-rooted meaning and importance in the quality community.

However, it revealed a lack of awareness of RQA worldwide, an internal lack of strategic priorities and cultural challenges within the organisation, which impacts on how RQA services and supports its members. A focus on short-term marketing over brand development amplifies this. RQA’s service and product portfolio, branding and communications are inconsistent and confused, leaving prospects unsure of the value they receive.

Our research showed that the value RQA provides to its members, the intangible benefits – community, networking, network building – are just as important as the tangible benefits, such as training and conferences etc. The community aspect, however, is seldom communicated, although it directly answers several members’ needs.

Based on the outcome of the research, we ran a brand strategy workshop to help RQA clarify their positioning. Together we created a simplistic framework that outlines:

  • Why they exist
  • What they are and do
  • How they work and by which values they are guided
  • How they differ from similar organisations

This simple framework is designed to help RQA with their decision making going forward – to set priorities, streamline the product and service portfolio, innovate with more clarity, improve internal and external communications and hire the right talent.

“Studio BrandUp, with their logical stepwise approach, hit the ground running, seamlessly bonding with the RQA Taskforce and leading us on a ‘branding’ journey. Within days, BrandUp gathered information by probing our structure, products and services, pricing, and industry. The initial meeting was slightly perplexing but extremely thought-provoking; we’d never thought along such lines before.

The workshops that followed were challenging – why didn’t we know about our business and industry? RQA is a market leader, yet the workshops unearthed demanding questions on issues we wouldn’t have considered previously. As a result, within weeks, we could see our portfolio from a different perspective which allowed us to rethink our approach to customers and members.

For years, we’ve been pondering the purpose of RQA and how the purpose brings value to members and customers. We thought we knew the answers but had difficulty articulating them. In reality, we just didn’t know! But, thanks to BrandUp, we have expressed the value of what we do; not only that, we’ve assessed the impact of our portfolio on the different grades of membership, including the value to non-members.

We’re now in a much better position than we were a few weeks ago – the journey isn’t over, but we know we’re on the right path and heading in the right direction.”

Anthony Wilkinson, CEO, RQA