5 Branding Consultants Share Top of Mind Tips

What should credit unions know about re-branding? Five leading consultants give some tips that help explain this hot topic and what it should mean to you.


Although the term "branding" has become a hot topic among senior management at many credit unions in recent years, nailing down a concrete working definition of the process is challenging. Today, with many credit unions considering or undergoing a "re-branding" initiative, it becomes even more difficult to determine what activities should be a part of that process. A simple answer is; when it comes to branding and re-branding, it's not "one size fits all."

I recently had an opportunity to speak with five industry consultants who have been working with credit unions to identify or redefine brands and develop equity in them. In each conversation I asked, "What are you emphasizing with the credit union management you currently work with?"

The Re-branding Misnomer

Jeff Stephens, CEO and Founder of Creative Brand Communications, stressed that re-branding today is almost a misnomer. "It implies that you can be one thing on Monday and on Tuesday you are something else. It is not let's make up something new and cool and stick it on ourselves. True brand evolution is about finding new and effective ways to embody what you already are. Everything that you need...you already have." One way Creative Brand Communications suggest credit unions live out this message is through the use of multi-sensory marketing.

A Foot in the Future

Paul J. Lucas, a former Vice President at 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union turned consultant, believes "80 to 90 percent of credit unions are operating on an outdated model and an outdated concept." With today's tough market pressures and the significant shift in how consumers relate to financial institutions, credit unions should be looking at successful companies inside and outside the financial services sector for branding inspiration. According to Lucas, "Credit unions have a foot in the past and a foot in the present. They need to have a foot in the present and a foot in the future" when it comes to branding.

Service Your Brand

For Michele Featherstone at Credit Union Brand Point, "A lot of credit unions were seeing their logo and their name as enough to create a brand."  She instead asks credit unions to focus on the five biggest factors they are ranked on, "service, convenience, price, technology, and community." Successful re-branding should involve service training because your service is really what helps to differentiate you. But training isn't in itself enough, "annual brand audits and perception awareness surveys help the credit union assess how well the brand is being carried out across multiple touch points."

It's All About Relationships

At iDiz Incorporated, Kent Dicken had this to add, "the biggest thing we run into is people's opinion of what branding is. For some it is a new logo, or a new name, and that is as far as it goes." Their emphasis with credit unions is that "Branding is really the relationship with the member. And the member really controls the brand. Instead of asking what your corporate brand is, the question should be what is your corporate self? The best brands define themselves and don't try to be all things to all people. A good brand will position a credit union differently than others."

Measure What You Have

And Mark Weber, of Weber Marketing Group, believes that "measurement of the equity in a name, versus the equity in a brand" is an important step before any credit union "contemplates the strategic implications of the re-branding process." It's important for the initiative to focus on a 25 year time horizon. According to Weber, "A lot of credit unions are asking how much should they go back to the message that they are a non-profit credit union and profit goes back to the members. Is this message an ownable, differentiated difference to tell their credit union story?"




Aug. 6, 2007


  • Quick read with concise, good information
    Jerry Clancy
  • Where do you dig up these hacks? Very superficial for a topic like "branding."
  • Credit Unions too often see the brand as their logo or their name. In my six county field of membership there are over 65 financial institutions. It is difficult to stand out in such a big field of competitors. The SAFE Credit Union brand has to convey a promise of something special that draws members and potential members to SAFE to use our services. The Brand Promise at SAFE is to offer members an exceptional experience when they use SAFE to improve their finanical well being. A brand has to convey something special to the public--otherwise the brand becomes a commodity. I agree that the company name and logo has to be consistent with the brand promise. But any organization that does not offer an exceptional experience is not a true brand, no matter how creative its name or logo. Henry Wirz
    Henry Wirz
  • A key element of any brand strategy is consistency across all touch points with the customer and that, obviously, includes the presence on the web. That''s where the brand is increasingly experienced by members and expectations not only have to be met but exceeded to create positive brand equity across the board. No longer can a website be just an add-on but needs to be at the center of credit union marketing strategies.
    Joe Buhler
  • 1. Your credti union brand is what your members perceive it to be, nothing else. It is based solely on their experiences at your credit union. Deliver great experiences. 2. Don''t over think a new brand identity or brand ehnancement. The brand position you choose to deliver should be fundamental, simple, basic,
    Max Bendel