Rebranding: partial polish or total transformation?

Once the Board is on board with rebranding, the question soon becomes “how far should we take it?” For some, a rebranding should be more about refinement than reinvention, a partial polish over a total transformation. Others would prefer the more extreme approach, looking for a new name and a new beginning in order to create something fresh and amazing.

How do you know which approach is right for your credit union? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is there a major reason we need to change our name? For example, your original SEG wants you to stop using their trademark, or your FOM just grew beyond the city / county / state border in your name. A reason this forehead-slapping-obvious should make it easy for everyone to get behind the idea of a full d0-over.

Or, if the original SEG was a corporation that closed, changed names, or moved away many years ago, and the only locals that remember why you have that name are about the same age as your Board members, then jump in with both feet and use the opportunity to reinvent yourself and connect with your members like only you can.

2. What’s really working for us and what isn’t? Forget about what you have always done, what you have always offered, and look at the results. Are loans outpacing deposits? Are product lines and capabilities growing, or are budgets being cut back? Are you adding more members than you lose every year? Do you keep wondering why your average member age keeps getting higher? Data can fill in more details than memories, and help make the case for whatever change may be needed.

3. Is anyone excited to be here? Look around you. Are staff excited about what they accomplish, or are they just going to work at a job every day? Is any member under 40 talking about you, recommending you to her friends? How strong are the connections on both sides of the desk? Without any buzz, you’re probably boring more than the staff.

Bottom line: A “partial polish” might be in order if your product penetration and membership have been in more of a slow fade than a looming crisis, and there haven’t been any major changes. An updated brand matched with a new marketing strategy is a great way to reinvigorate staff, change the community’s opinion of you, and bring in new members while building on your old brand’s recognition and heritage.

If you have a major reason to change (see question #1 above) or some sort of crisis is on the way in the next few years, you probably need something more like a total transformation — the goal is survival, and setting the stage to thrive far into the future. This takes a long-term commitment, strong leadership, the ability to make tough decisions, and a willingness to let go of baggage from the past. But the results from such a transformation can be electrifying.

Kent Dicken

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