A pioneer prepares for next stage of growth

Prior to 2010, the government agency that would become NJPA was a service cooperative providing financial and buying support for educational and non-profit entities in five rural counties in Minnesota. But a change in Minnesota statutes in 2010 opened up a new opportunity for the government agency to transform itself and become one of the nation’s largest government purchasing cooperatives. It could now offer innovative cooperative purchasing agreements to 50,000 members across the U.S. including governments, educational and non-profit entities.

To signify its reach to broader national audiences, the Minnesota municipal agency changed its name to NJPA, which stood for National Joint Powers Alliance. Once word of the member savings began to spread across other government entities, NJPA’s purchasing volume more than doubled in just five years to more than $3 billion dollars in national contract volume.

Breaking out from the pack

However, concurrent with NJPA’s growth, a multitude of new competitors had entered the field, many with similar acronym names and stars-and-stripes brand identities. NJPA’s leadership recognized the difficulty of differentiating its brand in the crowded cooperative purchasing marketplace. What’s more, the new national name and identity was causing confusion among its long-standing regional business that provided educational services and community support in Minnesota’s rural Region 5.

To help resolve the branding issues, NJPA turned to Tenet Partners to conduct a brand assessment that would determine the best path forward to position the organization for future success in both national cooperative purchasing and its Minnesota regional services.

Tenet conducted research with NJPA’s membership, vendor partners and senior leadership to gain sharper views of its national and regional audiences. While the two different units of the agency operated separately and provided different services to each of their memberships, NJPA was excited to learn there was more that united, than divided, its two divisions. They recognized and embraced the opportunity for a new brand and name that could be a platform for growth, uniting and inspiring its entire employee base around one purpose-driven brand promise.

Creating a powerful brand expression

Tenet led a highly collaborative process with a large NJPA task force of marketers, business leaders, sales force and Board members. The goal? Explore new territory for an aspirational name and brand promise built on the common threads of the business units and reflecting leadership’s vision for the future.

We developed a new name that was distinct and meaningful across businesses and could support future anticipated areas of growth. NJPA would become Sourcewell. The name speaks to both what the agency does—sourcing—and offers a double-entendre with the word “well,” alluding to both the expertise of how well the agency worked and the wise choice of its members for “sourcing well” through the agency.

The new logo and dynamic visual system graphically represented an abstract interpretation of a map of the diverse towns, cities and municipalities that Sourcewell serves, as well as the unique ability of the organization to drive tangible and positive change in those communities.

Bold, energetic and modern, the brand expression extended across the entire organization, uniting the two divisions and paving the way for future growth opportunities. Wildly differentiating in the category, the new brand received rave reviews from associates, partners and vendors alike.

A brand launch consistent with Sourcewell’s brand values

During the brand development process, NJPA provided periodic updates on the project to its entire employee base through regular town hall meetings. Before rolling out the new brand to the public, a special brand celebration for employees revealed the new name and identity, while providing training on how employees could embody the brand through their job responsibilities on a daily basis. “In terms of employee engagement, the transformation has been phenomenal. Employees loved our old image, but our organization is behind us, and they’re excited about the new brand.” Sarah Speer, Sourcewell Marketing & PR Manager.

In the spirit of partnership, NJPA’s national sales team kept their vendor council apprised of the progress and timeline, managing their expectations at every turn. NJPA’s vendor partners, including top brands such as Staples and John Deere, welcomed the change and recognized the positive impact a new brand would have for NJPA and, by extension, for their businesses as well. Vendors recognized that NJPA went out of its way to provide information and tools, such as new logo artwork, approved contract seal artwork and co-branding guidance, to ensure a seamless transition for its vendors with no disruption to their business.

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