Apco Worldwide loader

Learn about the factors that determine trade association effectiveness in the United States

What is TradeMarks?

TradeMarks is a research study which helps trade associations measure the extent to which policy leaders believe they  are effective in achieving their policy goals. Grounded in more than 30 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, giving them the tailored and actionable intelligence needed to chart an enlightened path forward,

With the release of our sixth study in the series, we continue to discern patterns in the data, identify shifts in policy leader expectations and provide associations with a data-driven roadmap for engagement strategies that enhance impact. Read the 2019 press release and Bill Dalbec’s overview blog post.


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, helping associations to act with conviction. This same model has been used in subsequent studies.

Think all characteristics are equal? Think again.

The 2019 model reveals challenges and opportunities facing associations:

  • Associations are stronger than ever. 2019 marks the highest overall TMI score in the six year history of TradeMarks and the third consecutive year the overall TMI score has improved from the previous year. While there are areas for improvement, associations are perceived to be getting results.
  • New Congress, new urgency. With a new Democratic majority taking over the House in January, association effectiveness is even more dependent on relationships – leveraging the ones you have and building those you don’t or may which not be as strong. In a break from history, Lobbying is perceived as somewhat more impactful than Multilateral Impact in the first year of a new Congress, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of the Trump Administration and the need to be agile, moving quickly on policy matters as they arise.
  • Social media remains a challenge. Social media has ranked as a vulnerability every year of the TradeMarks study. In 2019, it has risen in impact value, yet, as a whole, associations have yet to figure out how to effectively use social media to communicate to their key audiences. Our qualitative work suggests policy influencer reliance on social media channels is increasing and important to do well.

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

Top Rated Sectors

For the fourth time in six surveys, the Healthcare sector is collectively viewed as the most effective; the top-rated 2018 sector, Technology, drops to 6th most effective.

The second tier is crowded with Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Energy & Extraction all within tenths of a point of each other.

There is more differentiation between sectors on perceived performance than last year – 4.9 points separates the top-ranked and lowest-ranked sectors (versus 3.4 points in 2018).

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 helps clients uncover and prioritize the strengths that they should be leveraging and the most important opportunities they can seize to increase effectiveness.

Here are the associations with the highest performance rating on each of the characteristics that comprise the TradeMarks Model. In 2019, six different associations are viewed as performing best across the 15 characteristics.


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.


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 associations not only to gauge their effectiveness, but also to provide an actionable roadmap 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.

Back to the TradeMarks Model

The TradeMarks Model: Methodology

The TradeMarks Model is informed by more than 30 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 2014, this study was repeated annually 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.

Contact Us

Bill Dalbec

Managing Director, APCO Insight+1.202.778.1032