Branding can be almost anything. And everything.

Understanding Branding

For a long time, Branding was considered to be just the logo and/or the name. Need a new brand? Slap a new logo/name on it and somehow it becomes a totally different, “new and improved” whatever.

But that’s a pretty narrow view of branding. Depending on who you talk to, branding can be almost anything. And everything. Google it, and you’ll find as many definitions and variations on the word as you care to click: brand experience, brand promise, brand value, brand personality, brand monopoly, brand equity, brand image, brand recognition, brand franchise, brand development, etc., etc.

As a credit union marketer, you are probably the one charged with the task of managing your CU’s branding. But with all of these terms being thrown around, how do you know what is more important and what to focus on?

Try to think of Branding as the main category, with five sub-categories that you need to zero in on:

1. A logo and name is only one part of your brand. Combine those elements with the use of fonts, color schemes, symbols, and even sounds, and you have your Brand Identity. These are all the unique components that are recognizable to the general public, that differentiate you from your competitors. Brand Identity is also sometimes used to represent how the brand owner wants the brand to be perceived. (Note: Add human character traits in order to help differentiate, and you have Brand Personality a component of, or option to, Brand Identity.) You have control over these elements.

2. The psychological connections of information and expectations that people make when thinking about your CU forms your Brand Image. Think of this as your reputation, and be aware that it may be different between members and non-members. Often the biggest challenge for Marketing is the gap between Brand Identity and Brand Image; how you want your brand to be seen vs. how it is actually perceived. You have no direct control over this, but you can manage the other points listed here, thereby influencing the Brand Image.

3. Every point of contact, experience and interaction with your credit union is the Brand Experience. This relationship with your member is what truly defines your brand. Great experiences can produce advocates. Not-so-great experiences can create complainers, who are often more prolific in spreading the word. This is where the entire CU staff works for Marketing, so be a good leader.

4. Setting expectations from any interaction with the brand is the Brand Promise. These are sometimes condensed into a tag line, and sometimes listed out in a type of mission statement on values and beliefs. And of course the content of your marketing will communicate, shape, reflect, and refine the Brand Promise on an ongoing basis.

5. Brand Loyalty is the commitment your members have to your CU, usually demonstrated more by use of multiple services than by length of membership, and which becomes even more obvious when they become CU “evangelists,” spreading the word to non-members. This may be the ultimate goal of brand marketing.

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