Branding is never a "one and done" thing.

Why good credit union branding is never done

Just like people, every credit union wants to be well-known and popular. They want to portray an image or persona that everyone knows, understands, and likes.

Kind of like my brother.

When my brother was in high school, he always wanted to be like the “cool kids.” Because the “in-crowd” seemed to have all the fun. But it never worked when my brother tried to change the friends he hung out with and how he dressed to raise his cool factor. 

The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t improve his situation. The reality was that he had academic skills, played sports, and participated in many school clubs. In general, he had his act together.

The problem was his branding.

Up to that point in high school, he had spent years cultivating a personal brand of the “dependable smart guy” who hung out with the academic Illuminati. So hanging out with the cool, rebellious kids wasn’t going to work. No one accepted it. He was unknowingly trying to rebrand himself into a different character. 

And the longer he tried this, the more resistance he met. Finally, after a while, his teachers started suspecting deep-seated personal issues and trouble at home—a sad case of branding gone wrong.

Fortunately for my brother (and probably my parents), he discontinued his branding experiment and got back on track. 

Credit Unions are a lot like high schoolers sometimes. They desperately want to fit into people’s lives. But, ultimately, they find that staying true to their established brand is more challenging than they imagined. But well-executed branding is like magic. The credit unions that remain focused on their brand tend to be more successful.

So, what is branding?

Branding is much more than just creating a logo or finding a slogan. It’s about combining branding efforts in marketing and in every interaction with the credit union so that it all comes together naturally. Branding represents everything your members and potential members perceive and experience. 

Sure, branding is partially about designing a visual identity. But, it’s also about creating its personality and values.

The process starts with a well-defined strategy.

branding strategy defines who the credit union identifies with, what values it promotes, how it approaches members’ emotional connections, and how it puts the brand into action every day. On the other hand, a branding campaign refers to specific branding tactics to communicate a brand, like colors, logos, slogans, line extensions, etc.

The brand strategy is essential because credit unions can’t produce effective brand campaigns for growth without it. It’s like trying to create a building without a blueprint plan. Branding campaigns need to stay true to the credit union’s brand perception. It’s all about creating a CU persona that consumers trust. The goal is to form relationships, so you need an emotional connection between the members and the credit union.

Authenticity is incredibly important. You have to live the brand every day. Contradictions in brand follow-through tend to make members feel betrayed.

Branding’s Superpower

A strong brand strategy doesn’t just make a credit union remembered in people’s minds; it gives the CU identity, reliability, authority, notoriety, and power over the competition. Additionally, it puts credit unions ahead of their competitors because branding increases sales through advertising and various marketing channels.

When done correctly, branding provides a credit union with the superpower to increase visibility and create recognition. A strong branding strategy makes consumers feel like they belong to your credit union’s community. Likewise, your members feel like you’re talking directly to them. 

This emotional connection contributes to growth because people like to buy products or services they can relate to. Branding’s ultimate superpower is loyalty. Brand loyalty is a win-win for credit union marketing and advertising departments since member growth and retention tend to improve sales and loan volume.

Why branding is ongoing

Even beyond high school, my brother’s branding evolved. He dressed better and started acting a little more mature when needed. However, he stayed true to the academic brand he cultivated in high school, and it allowed him to network to improve his collegiate experience. Credit unions also need to improve their branding while staying on point.

Branding is never a “one and done” thing. It’s a continuous process of evolving what the CU is and will become. When it starts, branding needs management because it takes time to recognize a brand as something special. There’s also competition from similar products or services, which makes differentiation very challenging. 

Branding is hard to get right. Get help when you need it.

When my brother was getting started in his career, his personal branding occasionally failed. There were times when he just screwed up or didn’t have the answers to move farther. That’s where colleagues, mentors, and business coaches helped to guide his efforts. Similarly, sometimes even credit unions need a different point of view.

Developing a good brand strategy can save a credit union a lot of time and money. However, it’s a constant process that needs a strong foundation and proper management to develop. Sometimes, having a third party that can view your business from outside produces better results and allows you to see things from “outside the box.”

At iDiz Inc, we help clients with everything from strategy to rebranding to campaigns; creating the brand and support pieces that help fulfill a credit union’s brand promise. So if your brain is hurting trying to figure out the next steps, contact us about building a new brand or even rebranding a tired one. We can help. 

Jon Cooper

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