Questions to Ask When It’s Time for Your Credit Union to Consider a Change
As credit union brands seek to reposition themselves to deepen relationships with existing members and attract new ones, there are many things to consider, most importantly whether or not rebranding is in order. Rebranding isn’t as simple as changing a logo and tagline. It’s a deeper consideration of how the brand behaves and relates to its audiences both internal and external.
In a recent rebranding initiative for one of our New York-based credit union clients, there were several things that we considered before changing an identity that had over 20 years of equity in the marketplace. Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves, which you might find useful if exploring rebranding your credit union:
What Questions Should You Ask Before You Begin?
What’s the objective?
Are you changing your offering? Are you simply trying to modernize? Are you changing to reflect a shift in ownership?
For our client, the goal was to create a more modern and sophisticated identity, one that worked with both retail and business members and prospects.
What’s the cost benefit to rebranding? What’s your upside business potential for rebranding relative to the expense of an identity change? In this case, the credit union competes in a crowded environment where product and service offerings are indistinguishable across financial institutions. In order to differentiate from the standard fare and expand beyond traditional “employee membership” roots, the brand needed to make an investment through the line that would change its image and pay out in increased awareness, positive perceptions and member acquisition.
What Pitfalls Should You Avoid in Rebranding?
Don’t walk away from your equity.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t evolve, but that your evolution should embrace the qualities and attributes that you own and can leverage to help further differentiate your credit union. Our client had equity in years of service to its community and the foundation of its new identity became the very community it serves.
Don’t change overnight. This should be a strategic and thoughtful process that involves research among key internal and external stakeholders, industry influencers, members and prospects. Be sure to gain a full understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats before you consider a new direction. The insights gleaned from the research we conducted helped influence and drive the credit union’s repositioning.
How Do You Manage Rebranding Challenges?
Don’t underestimate the importance of your organization and your board of directors. They will need to rally around your new identity and support the change. Employees might feel uneasy about change and it will be your job to make them your biggest brand advocates. Our client’s internal launch was a themed celebration for living the new brand including speeches, employee acknowledgments and branded clothing and accessories.
Take stock of all of your assets and make a plan. A new brand identity touches everything—from your letterhead, business partnerships and branch signage to your website, collateral and advertising. For our credit union client, we helped conduct an audit of all assets and developed a master execution plan for changing over to the new identity.
How Do You Capitalize on Opportunities for Effective Rebranding Execution?
Financial services doesn’t have to be corporate and dull. Standing out requires taking a risk and having a clear point of view. The new credit union identity we created has a bold and distinguishable color palette, strong graphics, a modern take on its traditional qualities and a reflection of the community it serves. Importantly, it has the flexibility to work as a branding device and to also support the promotion of specific products.
Expand your outreach through public relations. Take advantage of editorial interest in the news and seek out opportunities to get it covered in relevant outlets. Our client had a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its headquarters branch with press attendance and a community-based icon to help bolster the excitement and pickup of the story.
Consider a teaser campaign prior to the full launch. Teasers help pique interest and curiosity and signal that change is coming. One watch-out is that you must have an adequate level of investment in the launch for the teaser to truly have impact and meaning. For this credit union, we executed our teaser advertising through the unveiling of pieces of the new logo in high traffic out-of-home locations as well as through distribution of the new logo in the form of a puzzle to internal audiences.
Set key performance indicators for your efforts. Identify the metrics by which you will measure success before the start of the rebrand. Is it shifts in attitudes and awareness, incremental membership investments in products and services and/or increased membership? At the end of the process, these indicators hold everyone accountable for success or failure. Our credit union partner fields an annual usage and attitude study and is specifically looking for lifts in consideration over other financial competitors in the market.
Rebranding is a big endeavor for any brand in any category and often takes 12-18 months. For our credit union client, it involved three months of research, four months of creative development and refinement, six months of execution and four months for the internal rollout and teaser campaign. So, our final advice to you is to understand your business objectives for rebranding, be diligent in your research, consider all your stakeholders, be creative, set success measures, make a plan and embrace the change!
(This article, coauthored by Jennifer Forgét, Vice President of Client Engagement, and Lisa Liebman, Vice President and Managing Director, originally appeared in Credit Union Management Magazine, a monthly publication for credit union leaders.)