What is TradeMarks?

TradeMarks is a research study which measures the extent to which policy leaders believe associations are effective in achieving their policy goals.

Grounded in more than 25 years of experience studying the attitudes and perception of policy leaders, APCO Worldwide produced the first ever study to tackle the question of association public policy effectiveness with a systematic, survey-based and objective approach. Policy makers and influencers rate associations on both overall effectiveness and a range of detailed areas. The results show in detail where associations must excel in order to enhance their impact.

After completing the fourth study, we are now able to discern patterns in the data, identify shifts in policy leader expectations and provide associations with a data-driven roadmap for engagement strategies.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact:

Bill Dalbec

Deputy Managing Director, APCO Insight



APCO Insight® developed the TradeMarks Study in 2013 to identify the key characteristics that define association effectiveness in achieving the public policy priorities of its members. Advanced statistical analysis allowed us to isolate the characteristics that have the most impact in shaping policy success. This same model has been used in subsequent studies.

Think all characteristics are equal? Think again.

The 2017 model indicates that it is important to:

  • Navigate the playing field. With a new administration, fully Republican-controlled Congress and divisions emerging within each chamber and political party, it is particularly critical to develop both wide-ranging and deep relationships throughout Washington. Effective associations build and maintain relationships across the legislative, executive and regulatory regimes for representation and advocacy efforts, even in this currently very challenging environment.
  • Go local. Given the division in Washington, the importance of having an impact at the local level has risen significantly compared to 2016. Associations that are effectively connecting at the state and local levels are more likely to be perceived as strong at the federal level as well.
  • Take a stand. Associations that are leading and hosting conversations and working with others – including industry allies, one’s own membership and “strange bedfellows” – to get out one’s message or offer another perspective in support of public policies are able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace of ideas. Using one’s convening power asserts leadership and gives voice to others who can connect with policy leaders in perhaps a different way.

Learn more about the TradeMarks model and the TradeMarks model methodology.

TradeMarks Model 2017

Top Rated Sectors

Given the focus on the Affordable Care Act and threats to repeal the law, it is not surprising associations in the health care sector have needed to be very active in Washington. As a result, for the third time in four studies, the sector is the clear leader.

The middle tiers are very crowded, with six sectors within 2 points of one another.

Transportation & Travel clearly lags the field and particularly the leader.

top rated sectors trademarks 2017

Top Rated Associations

Policy leaders recognize that different associations focus their public policy efforts in different areas. By understanding how the associations are viewed on each of the discrete drivers of effectiveness (characteristics) and the relative impact these drivers have in shaping overall effectiveness, the TradeMarks Model prioritizes the most important strengths to be leveraged and the most important opportunities to be seized to increase effectiveness.

The table displayed shows which association has the highest performance rating on each of the 15 characteristics that comprise the TradeMarks Model. In 2017, six different associations are viewed as performing best across the 15 characteristics.

top rated associations trademarks 2017


TradeMarks measures the relationship between association effectiveness and several key actionable outcomes that are critical to achieving policy success. Learn more about each of the five outcomes below and discover the impact on each one when an association improves its perceived effectiveness score.

trademarks outcomes

trademarks outcomes


About the TradeMarks Model

TradeMarks is a groundbreaking model developed by APCO Insight that measures the extent to which policy leaders believe associations are effective in achieving their policy goals for their members.

TradeMarks is the first study to ever tackle the question of association effectiveness with a formal, systematic and objective approach. The TradeMarks model pinpoints the specific actions that can be taken to achieve optimal impact in each area and quantitatively determines the relative impact of each factor. It allows us not only to measure effectiveness, but also to provide an actionable roadmap to associations for how to increase their perceived effectiveness and achieve their desired outcomes.

By understanding how the associations are viewed on each of the discrete drivers of effectiveness (characteristics) and the relative impact these drivers have in shaping overall effectiveness, the TradeMarks model prioritizes the most important strengths to be leveraged and the most important opportunities to be seized to increase effectiveness.

The TradeMarks Model: Methodology

The TradeMarks Model was informed by more than 25 years of conducting qualitative and quantitative research for associations among Washington, D.C. policy leaders – the Members of Congress and their staff, executive branch professionals and other influencers who shape the opinions of associations.

Based on this experience and conversations with our partners, a list of 52 characteristics that define association effectiveness on policy issues was developed. A pre-test survey was conducted among policy leaders to isolate and validate the key characteristics that drive perceptions of association policy effectiveness; the modeling identified 15 valid factors that explain what policy leaders consider when evaluating an association’s public policy effectiveness.

In 2013, a full-scale survey of policy leaders in Washington, D.C. was conducted using a mixed-mode methodology offering respondents the opportunity to complete the survey either online or over the telephone.

Policy leaders were asked to evaluate five randomly-selected associations with whom they are familiar from a list of 50 associations in Washington, D.C. The results shown on this site are limited to data for the overall association sector represented by the 50 associations. All data, including association-level data, are the exclusive property of APCO Worldwide. For information on findings for individual associations, please click here to contact us for more information.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, this study was repeated using the same methodology.

Trademarks Outcomes Methodology

The Outcomes / TradeMarks Index (TMI) impact begins with the development of a robust measurement model of the effectiveness of associations. The model reflects the specific and unique expectations of policy influencers for association policy effectiveness. The measurement model provides a highly reliable index of association effectiveness and that of the individual associations included in the study.

Our analytic models analyze the statistical relationship between the TMI and key outcome variables which are derived from the survey data. The predictions shown in the Outcomes / TMI impact are based on regression models analyzed from observed data.

As with any regression model, the predicted outcomes shown are subject to the caveat of ceteris paribus (assuming all other variables except those under immediate consideration are held constant) and are subject to multiple sources of known and unknown error, including sampling error for survey data, error as a function of self-reported outcomes and all other sources of survey error that cannot be precisely measured or estimated. Furthermore, all measures of correlation (including regression analysis) do not imply causation.

About the Rankings

The Rankings present the top scoring organization for each characteristic, from among the trade associations we studied in Washington, D.C., using the TradeMarks methodology. As such, rankings do not necessarily include “best in D.C.” — some organizations were not reviewed. Furthermore, top scores on a particular characteristic should not be interpreted as receiving top scores overall. Some organizations performing very high in aggregate on the TradeMarks Index did not receive top marks in any one category.