What’s in a Name? – Rebranding to Create a Welcoming and Accessible Area Agency on Aging


For more than 45 years, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore was a respected, trusted and innovative community resource serving older adults throughout northeastern Massachusetts. In this three-part blog, staff there share the story of how their Area Agency on Aging decided to risk its brand awareness, rethink its visual identity and successfully transition to AgeSpan, a more welcoming and accessible agency for consumers, community partners and other stakeholders.

Under its previous name, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore (ESMV-NS) had been known as one of the largest Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) in New England, serving 28 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts. ESMV-NS served all segments of its community, including some of the poorest communities in the state (such as Lawrence, the agency’s home base) and some of the state’s more affluent communities (including towns like Andover). With a staff of approximately 500 and more than 300 volunteers, ESMV-NS provided traditional AAA home and community-based services and contracted with managed care, accountable care, and other health care entities to address the social determinants of health.

When the agency merged with a neighboring AAA, North Shore Elder Services, its geographic footprint grew, leading to an internal conversation about how this new agency should market itself not only to its new service area but to its current clients as well as to those the agency hoped to serve in the future. Thus began the challenging, yet fruitful process of organizational rebranding.

Rebranding occurs when an agency or organization rethinks its “marketing strategy with a new name, logo or design, with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of customers and other stakeholders.” (The Ultimate Guide to Successfully Rebranding in 2020 (hubspot.com). Many non-profits have found value in exploring rebranding by first conducting a self-assessment, which might include the following as developed by Terri Harel (Is Nonprofit Rebranding Right for Your Organization? | Classy):

  1. Has the mission of your organization changed? Are the changes fundamental to your organizational values?
  2. Has something about your community changed? Do you now serve a different group on of people that you did before? Are you trying to attract new donors or partners?
  3. Is your organization at some kind of inflection point? Do you want to grow?
  4. Are you trying to distinguish yourself from your competitors in a new way?
  5. Have you had some bad press that you want to move away from?

The second part of this blog post series will explore our answers to these questions—and the steps we took to become AgeSpan. 

This blog post was written by AgeSpan staff.