If you are even considering rebranding, there's likely a good reason

Remember your past. Build on your present. Brand for your future.

Rebranding a credit union is tough. Everyone has an opinion, and most aren’t afraid to state it. For every member that identifies with their shared history, there are others that see a need to update their brand for the future.

And both have a point. But time keeps moving, and credit unions have had to evolve to survive.

A credit union today is not the same credit union it was 60+ years ago when it began. Its brand may be out of date. Its name – something that made sense back then – might not make sense now.

It may make even less sense in the future.

And isn’t the future what you should be thinking about, when you begin to consider rebranding your credit union?

Of course.

As long as everything that has led up to this point becomes your foundation for the future.

Remember your past.

There was a reason your credit union began. It took a lot of guts for those founding members to give it life by pooling their hard-earned cash. Each one of them had to decide to trust their peers more than they trusted banks.

It was a gigantic leap of faith, and your CU (and your job) exists today because they jumped.

So even though that original employer no longer exists, or the community isn’t big enough to keep you growing, you still owe it to the founders to recognize their contribution.

Now that doesn’t mean that you are stuck with all or part of the current brand or name. If you are even considering rebranding, there’s likely a good reason you need to make a change.

But if you can stay connected with your history, your new brand starts off with a lot more equity.

Build on your present.

Where you are today is a reflection of what you have done in the past. You’re doing lots of things right, or you wouldn’t be here.

But simply existing is not much of a brand.

And since everyone seems to have their own definition of branding, you need to first get everyone on the same page.

Begin by collecting stories that reflect all the good you do – helping a member consolidate loans into a payment they can afford, backing a family that is buying their first home in three generations, taking the time to teach an older member how to pay their bills online. These are the heart-warming touchstones that validates why your staff does what they do.

At the same time, keep in mind that everyone’s present likely still has a lot of artifacts left over from their past – artifacts that won’t be viable in the future.

In other words, you need to find out what you could be doing better.

Give your staff and members a very public way to talk about what works well, and, just as importantly, an anonymous way to point out what could be improved. Research your peers to find out if they have found better solutions. Pick the brains of vendors you trust.

Next, take a good hard look at your membership and surrounding community. Do they want what you offer? Will they want what you plan to offer? Do they show potential for extended future growth, or do they have limitations?

Are you reaching the potential members you want with your current marketing? What goals do you have, and what should you change in order to attain those goals?

Use what you are doing today in order to build a strategy for tomorrow. With all of your research, the decision whether to update or rebrand should be pretty obvious to anyone that isn’t anti-any-kind-of-change.

Brand for your future.

Once you pick your direction, start talking about it. Build a consensus, and get people excited about the possibilities.

If you are thinking of a new name, let your members know what you are thinking and why, then ask them to help you start collecting suggestions. It may be a long shot since not everyone is good at names, but it always helps to involve your members and staff.

Bring in resources to help you brainstorm other possibilities. Check the NCUA and USPTO databases for conflicts with other existing credit union names and trademarks.

When you start designing your new brand, don’t forget to look beyond how it will appear on everything, everywhere (signage, credit cards, stationery, website, marketing materials, etc).

Educate your staff on the new brand, so that they can help your current and future members understand the benefits of belonging. Launch your brand with its own marketing campaign, forming a foundation for future product campaigns.

Throughout the process, be sure to work with a branding agency that understands what makes your credit union the unique entity it is.

One that remembers your past, builds on your present, and helps you brand for your future.

Kent Dicken

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