Ronald L. Geren, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP, AIA
Several weeks ago, I received a call from a middle-school student. He was supposed to interview someone in a career field in which he was interested—my ego swelled. Then common sense hit me: would a pre-teen boy be excited about becoming a specifier and building code consultant? When I asked him why he wanted to meet with me, he responded, “Because you’re CSI!”
Pop! There went my ego, because I knew exactly what he was after. After collecting what was left of my self-esteem, I politely explained to the young man that I have nothing to do with crime scene investigations.
Even before a certain television series began appearing on CBS 12 years ago, ‘our’ CSI has been suffering an identity crisis. However, on the bright side, we have been around longer (65 years to be exact), and will outlive the TV-shows-that-shall-not-be-named. I hope.
In Sarah Sladek’s 2011 book, The End of Membership As We Know It: Building the Fortune-flipping, Must-have Association of the Next Century, she explores how associations must change for an era where technology is essentially a part of everything and where membership is morphing from an older generation into a newer one. She writes, “Healthy, successful associations are responsive to change. They don’t walk around with their eyes closed. They are constantly thinking ahead and moving forward.” The design and construction industry has changed, specifications have changed, and construction documents have changed—in response, CSI has changed along with them. The problem is few people know about it.
Although specifications have been front and center for many years (it is literally our middle name), CSI needed to address evolving technologies in construction documents and building through the introduction of educational programs, standards, formats, and certifications either lacking or nonexistent in other industry-related associations. This led to initiatives only CSI could develop and foster, such as new formats and standards (e.g. GreenFormat, OmniClass, and the Uniform Drawing System), educational opportunities (e.g. webinars, the Academies, and YouTube videos), and certifications (e.g. Certified Construction Contract Administrator [CCCA] and Certified Construction Product Representative [CCPR]).
Revitalizing the brand
CSI took a bold move to improve the public perception about the organization. This was the result of a ‘brand revitalization’ that began at the end of 2011. With board approval, the institute hired Potomac Communications Group—a marketing and media outreach consultant—to work with the CSI Brand Revitalization Task Team (BRTT) in creating a stronger image for CSI.
BRTT members were selected to represent the diversity of CSI and its stakeholders; it included institute leaders and staff, chapter leaders and members, emerging professionals, nonmembers, architects, specifiers, and construction product representatives.
The effort began with a membership-wide survey and interviews with CSI board members and staff. The results of the survey and interviews formed the foundation of the brand revitalization process, providing guidance for the task team and consultant.
To better focus the task team, a ‘messaging triangle’ was developed to describe the three elements of the CSI Experience (Figure 1) who we are, what we do, and how we do it. These elements are:
- As an organization, we are evolving to meet the needs of a changing building design and construction industry.
- We connect all members of the building team to the information they need to effectively communicate and improve project delivery.
- We are the only community where one can network and collaborate with building experts across the design, building materials, and construction disciplines.
After much discussion and many iterations of logos, descriptors, and taglines, the task team forwarded its final recommendation to the CSI board at the September meeting before Construct 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. After unanimous approval, the board decided to reveal the revitalized branding to the CSI membership at the Annual Business Meeting that week at the convention.
The approved recommendation included using an initials-only name in its messaging, but CSI will legally remain as “The Construction Specifications Institute, Inc.” BRTT made many attempts to provide a descriptor to accompany the ‘CSI’ initials (in the same vein as CTIA—The Wireless Association), but decided describing CSI in four words or less proved to be an impossible task. In lieu of a descriptor, a tagline was created that would accompany the logo and says in as few words as possible what CSI is about: “Building Knowledge, Improving Project Delivery.”
The first two words offer dual meanings:
- CSI educates the industry (i.e. builds knowledge); and
- CSI is a source of information on the built environment (i.e. knowledge of buildings).
With respect to the “Improving Project Delivery” portion, buildings will be constructed with or without CSI. However, through CSI’s efforts in the areas of standards and formats, education, certification, and practice tools, the methods for delivering buildings are improved.
As for the logo (found on this issue’s cover), it retains CSI’s traditional terra cotta shield—a popular request from the member survey. The ‘S’ was deemphasized
by using the same proportions as the other two letters, which retain the italics from the old logo. Along with added tapered stripes in the shield, this conveys CSI is moving forward. The second color is blue, which communicates CSI’s focus on professionalism. The tagline is located below the logo and is right-justified along the slanted line of the letter ‘I’ above.
Where do we go from here?
The implementation of the new brand has already begun. Beyond the pages of this magazine, the new logo can be found on flyers for the CSI Academies and the Master Specifier Retreat. There will be a brief single-sheet “Guidelines for Using CSI’s Logo and Tagline” available for download by chapter and regional leaders to assist in using it in a consistent, but reasonable manner.
The important thing to remember is a brand is more than just a logo—it is the image we want people to see when they hear the name ‘CSI.’ The logo is a graphic representation of the CSI branding message we want to impart on the design and construction industry. Your CSI experience will be different from the CSI member next to you, and theirs will be different from the experiences of other members. However, regardless of our individual experiences, the message we communicate should be consistent and clear: CSI adds value to members’ careers and provides solutions to their problems.
Instead of being viewed as a bunch of “spec writers with product rep groupies,” we want to be valued as an organization with dedicated professionals in multiple disciplines, working together to enhance a continually evolving design and construction industry. For more information, visit www.csinet.org/brand; questions and comments can be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronald L. Geren, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP, AIA, is the CSI director from the Southwest Region and the chair of the Brand Revitalization Task Team (BRTT). He is the owner and principal of RLGA Technical Services LLC, a specifications and building code consulting firm located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Geren is part of The Construction Specifier Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.