The Gist

  • Marketing association benefits. Joining a marketing association provides benefits, such as networking, training, and professional certifications, and can enhance professional credibility.
  • Association considerations. It's important to do your homework and make sure the association aligns with your interests and goals.
  • Tailored resources. Specialized marketing associations cater to specific roles and industries, such as contact center operators and chief data officers, and offer tailored resources and services

Marketing associations have been around for well over 100 years. The oldest were founded in the early 1900s and represent a broad swath of North American marketers and their companies. Many are global in nature with affiliate chapters across the globe.

The Benefits of Joining a Marketing Association 

For ambitious marketers who want to excel in their field, joining a marketing trade association can provide a lot of benefits. They offer professional networking and training opportunities as well as professional certifications. Some hold annual awards that recognize excellence within the profession.

Marketing associations are also good places to go for industry insights and information and staying up-to-date with best practices. Many associations also lobby federal and state governments on behalf of the profession writ large.

Additionally, trade association memberships can enhance members’ professional credibility and demonstrate a high-degree of commitment to their careers and the profession.

For corporate members, there is the added benefit of increasing their credibility by associating with a reputable marketing trade association. This can be particularly important if the company is seeking to establish itself as a thought leader.

Many organizations also provide members with opportunities to advance their careers and get hands-on advice, said Julie Busha, president of Slawsa, a specialty food product similar to relish.

“I joined the Specialty Food Association about nine years ago and the value to my business has been beyond what one could hope for an annual membership fee of a few hundred dollars,” she said. “I cannot put a value on the education component because by taking advantage of that guidance over the years, I have saved from mistakes that never happened because I was prepared.”

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Marketing Associations: Not All Sunshine and Roses

While there are more benefits than drawbacks to joining a professional organization, it is still important to do your homework, said Joshua Frick, president of Kiddie Academy.

"Companies should always be cautious about what or whom they associate with,” he said. “While it can be said that a high tide raises all ships, being connected to an organization that doesn't have a strong reputation can hurt your brand by association; particularly if the organization openly expresses political views that are not in alignment with your brand."

Another potential drawback is costs. Membership fees and other costs such as traveling to events, can be prohibitive for some marketing professionals, especially those who are just starting out.

It's important to ensure that the organization aligns with your specific interests and goals. If the association is focused on just one aspect of the marketing profession or industry that doesn't interest you, it may not make sense to join.

Some marketing trade associations have limited geographic reach, which is less of an issue today, but could still limit networking opportunities if the organization doesn't hold events beyond your immediate area.

Finally, it's important to consider the time commitment required to fully benefit from membership. Active participation in the organization's activities, such as joining steering and planning committees, can be rewarding but may also be time-consuming and challenging if one is pulled in too many directions.

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Top Marketing Associations by Organizational Role

When compiling this list of marketing associations, we considered the various roles within a marketing organization. While many of the organizations listed here offer specialty tracks in areas such as data and compliance or marketing technology (martech) that cater to most roles, we also found some associations that focus more specifically on certain specialties, such as chief data officers (CDOs) and contact center operators.

Marketing Associations — All Roles

American Advertising Federation

The American Advertising Federation (AAF) may be the oldest and largest marketing association in the world. Founded in 1905, it comprises over 150 US-based clubs and represents 35,000 advertising professionals and more than 60 corporate sponsors.

The AAF hosts numerous programs and initiatives, including the Advertising Hall of Fame, the American Advertising Awards, the National Student Advertising Competition, the Mosaic Center on Multiculturalism and summer Ad Camps for high school students.

The AAF's self-described mission is to be the “Unifying Voice for Advertising” by promoting and protecting the advertising industry through advocacy, education and innovation. Everyone from entry level marketers to seasoned professionals are members of its ranks.

The programs and services the AAF provides includes government advocacy, education and professional development, networking and recognition, setting ethical industry standards and developing and enforcing of the industry's self-regulatory codes.

  • Membership fees: The AAF does not post membership fees on its website
  • Who should join:
    • Marketing professionals
    • College students interested in marketing careers
    • Corporations
  • Conferences: The AAF hosts multiple conferences and events including the Admerica and hosts the Advertising Hall of Fame
  • Certifications: The AAF does not offer certification programs
  • Specialized services: Research reports, legislative advocacy, various awards

American Marketing Association

Founded in 1937, the American Marketing Association (AMA) is one of the oldest and the largest associations catering to marketing executives and their companies in the world. The AMA is headquartered in Chicago and has 30,000 members. The organization has over 70 local chapters in the US and 350 affiliate chapters around the world.

The organization’s goal is to be the leading voice shaping how marketing gets done around the world. It serves the marketing community by providing a forum for professional development, education, networking and advocacy. It does this by providing a wide range of resources and services including professional development programs, original research, marketing conferences and networking opportunities.

It also provides a range of educational opportunities including the Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) designation, which recognizes marketing professionals who have demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field.

The AMA regularly engages with policymakers and other influencers to promote policies that support the growth and development of the marketing industry.

Learning Opportunities

  • Membership fees:
    • Professional or Academic Membership - $149/Year
    • Group Membership - $119/Year per person
    • Student Membership - $29/Year
  • Who should join:
    • Marketing and sales professionals of all levels
    • Small business owners, freelancers or career switchers
    • Scholars, academics and doctoral students
    • Undergraduate students
  • Conferences: The AMA hosts a number of conferences and events each year
  • Certifications: The AMA offers digital, management and content marketing certifications
  • Specialized services: Jobs board, volunteer opportunities, 19 special interest groups

The Chief Marketing Officer Council

Founded in 2001, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is a global network of 16,000 senior marketing executives dedicated to sharing insights and best practices, collaborating on common challenges and advancing the marketing profession.

Its mission is to promote marketing excellence while helping marketers drive growth and create value for their organizations.

The organization provides a range of resources and services to its members, including networking opportunities, and professional development through educational and training. It also conducts original research studies and surveys on various topics including customer experience, digital transformation and brand strategy.

  • Membership fees: The CMO Council does not list membership fees on its website
  • Who should join:
    • Chief marketing executives at a corporate, brand, division, line of business or geo level (CMO, EVP, SVP, VP, Director, Head of Marketing)
    • Functional leaders heading up operations, campaign management, advertising, research, analytics, digital, ecommerce, data, revenue, customer experience, finance, procurement, IT, etc.
    • Transitioning, fractional or retired chief marketers who are consulting, mentoring or coaching
  • Conferences: The CMO offers a variety of events
  • Certifications: None listed
  • Specialized services: Research surveys and reports, webinars, strategic interest groups

Association of National Advertisers

Founded in 1910, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is a U.S.-based advertising industry trade association that represents over 1,600 member companies and 25,000 brands that spend over $400 billion in marketing communications and advertising.

The organization's mission is to champion and protect the interests of its members, promote responsible advertising practices and advance the industry as a whole.

It does this by promoting transparency and accountability in the advertising industry. The organization speaks out against ad fraud, viewability issues and other practices that can undermine the effectiveness of digital advertising. It also advocates for greater transparency in the advertising supply chain.

The ANA provides its members with a range of resources and services, including original research, benchmarking tools and networking opportunities. The organization also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including the Masters of Data & Technology conference.

  • Membership fees: The ANA does not list membership fees on its website
  • Who should join: Corporations
  • Conferences: The ANA hosts over 700 events and conferences each year
  • Certifications: Certified ANA Marketing Professional
  • Specialized services: Two jobs boards, training, leadership Centers of Excellence

Specialty Associations — Chief Data Officers

International Association of Privacy Professionals

Founded in 2000, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) is a U.S.-based professional organization with a mission to define, promote and improve the privacy profession around the world. It boasts a global membership base of over 100,000 privacy professionals, including chief data officers and other data management professionals.

The IAPP provides a range of resources and services to its members, including education and training programs, certification programs, networking opportunities, research reports and policy analysis. The organization also hosts a range of events, including conferences, workshops and webinars.

The IAPP also offers a range of certification programs including the Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP), which, according to the organization, is the gold standard in privacy certification. The organization also offers certification programs in privacy management, privacy technology and privacy law.

  • Membership fees:
    • Professional - $275
    • Government - $100
    • Higher Education - $100
    • Not-For-Profit - $100
    • Retired - $100
    • Student - $50
  • Who should join: Privacy professionals and corporations
  • Conferences: The IPAA hosts various conferences throughout the year
  • Certifications: Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP), Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT) and others
  • Specialized services: GDPR training, privacy enhancing technology training, jobs board

Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

Founded in 2004, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) provides its 7,000 members in over 100 countries with professional educational, professional development tools, and networking opportunities. It also publishes Compliance & Ethics Professional (CEP) Magazine and a quarterly newsletter.

It also offers a range of certification including the Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP), which, according to SCCE, is recognized as the gold standard for compliance certification. The organization also offers certification programs in healthcare compliance, financial services compliance and data privacy.

  • Membership fees:
    • Individual - $325/year
    • Group - $275 per person/year
    • Retiree - $150/year
    • Student - $49/year
  • Who should join: Professionals and students involved in or interested in compliance activities
  • Conferences: The SCCE hosts various conferences throughout the year
  • Certifications: Certification options include Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional (CCEP), Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional–International (CCEP-I), and Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional Fellowship (CCEP-F)
  • Specialized services: Publishes monthly magazine — Compliance & Ethics Professional, Innovation and Ethics awards, educational webinars

Specialty Associations — Contact Centers

Professional Association for Customer Engagement

Founded in 1936, the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) offers a wide range of services and resources to its 4,000 members, including education, certifications, networking events, original benchmarking and research, as well as hosting the annual Contact Center Awards program.

PACE also conducts regular surveys to better understand customer engagement trends and best practices. Its members represent all sectors of the customer service industry, including technology, finance, retail, hospitality, healthcare and more. It is the only nonprofit trade association dedicated exclusively to contact center operators.

  • Membership fees: The PACE does not list membership fees on its website
  • Who should join: Corporations
  • Conferences: The PACE hosts an annual conference
  • Certifications: ThePACE offers the Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP) certification
  • Specialized services: Call center advocacy at the state and federal level

Marketing associations have been a cornerstone of the marketing profession for well over a century, providing a wide range of benefits to members such as professional networking, training opportunities and industry insights. However, it's important to do your research to ensure the association aligns with your specific interests and goals before committing to membership. While costs and time commitments can be potential drawbacks, the benefits far outweigh the costs for those who want to excel in their field.

By joining a reputable marketing trade association, members can enhance their professional credibility, demonstrate their commitment to their careers and the profession, and gain valuable insights and advice to help them advance.