It was March 2014 that Bill Winter retired as the president and CEO of St. Cloud Federal Credit Union ($120.4M, St. Cloud, MN). A 40-year veteran of the credit union, his departure presented both challenge and opportunity. When Jed Meyer replaced Winter in May of that year, he aimed to embrace both.
Meyer admits he inherited a credit union with high employee and member engagement, but he still saw opportunity. To modernize the credit union without losing its sense of past, St. Cloud would revamp its brand package — new logo, new slogan, new mission and vision statements, and new core values.In second quarter 2014, St. Cloud increased loans by more than 15% year-over-year and shares by 5%, both well above asset- and state-based peer averages at that time.
“We wanted to make sure we bridged the gap of who we’ve always been,” Meyer says. “We’re leading ourselves into the future, but we’re not changing things we don’t need to. To ignore all the things we’ve done over the years would have been irresponsible.”
On the left, St. Cloud's old logo. On the right, the new logo.
A Brand Process
Meyer and St. Cloud’s board discussed the rebranding over two-and-a-half months. Meyer says he wanted to find out three things from his board and his employees: “Who are we? What do we do well? Who do we want to be moving forward?”
Along with these interviews, St. Cloud asked members the same questions in a survey, and consolidated all this feedback into its strategic planning process.
But before it could move forward with its new brand package, St. Cloud had to fill a vacancy. Wen its vice president of marketing retired, the vice president of brand and marketing, Sarah Mason, stepped in to the role.
To ignore all the things we’ve done over the years would have been irresponsible.
It was Mason who turned the interviews and survey responses into a more specific plan. She even interviewed Meyer to see how to best implement his personal preferences into the branding.
“We said, ‘Sarah, here is the baseline of who we want to be,’ and she took it from there,” Meyer says.
A New Brand Package
St. Cloud’s overall goal with its new brand package is not to overwrite the history of the credit union but to “reenergize” its mission and vision while “taking it to a whole new level,” Meyer says.
The brand rollout began in June 2015 and with a two-word slogan serving as its cornerstone: “Meaningful Difference.”
“We want to be the financial institution of choice by making a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” Mason says.
St. Cloud created an infographic featuring its core values.
Before, says Meyer, St. Cloud’s slogan was “people helping people” and its mission statement included striving to foster a “financially fit” membership.
“That’s something that a lot of credit unions use,” he says.
And although St. Cloud still wants to develop a financially fit membership, Meyer believes the term itself can be vague.
“I think everyone defines financial fitness differently,” he says. “A lot of people think they are financially fit, so then what? How can you serve them?”
Using “meaningful difference” as a slogan captures the cooperative spirit of people helping people while reflecting who the credit union is and who it wants to be, the St. Cloud CEO says.
“In developing an authentic brand it’s important to match your internal and external messages,” Meyer says. “I believe we’ve made a meaningful difference in the past and I want to see us do it from a whole new level.”
Making A Meaningful Difference
“Meaningful difference” goes beyond the member. It’s about more than having great service or products. For St. Cloud, it’s about understanding the needs of the individuals in its community as well as its employees.
CU QUICK FACTS
st. cloud FCU
Data as of 09.30.15
HQ: St. Cloud, MN
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 10.07%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.11%
“We can give you the best rate on a mortgage but no one aspires to a mortgage; they want to have a home and raise their family,” Meyer says. “Most members don’t want the best rate on a CD, they want to send their kids to college. That’s the opportunity we have to make a meaningful difference well beyond banking.”
Whether it’s being more accessible to local media or partnering with local school districts, in making a meaningful difference, St. Cloud plans to exhibit a higher level of community focus and recognition.
For example, this past Columbus Day the credit union’s branches were closed but St. Cloud held a community day. Through a partnership with a non-profit, the credit union painted 20 rooms and a hallway on one floor of a local homeless shelter.
“The pastor who runs that said that we were able to accomplish more in six hours than she was able to do in 10 months on a different floor,” Meyer says.
Going forward, St. Cloud will continue to complete the logistics of its brand transition. It has already changed the signage at its branches — its new set of branding was designed by a third-party marketing firm — and has introduced the logo in various collateral. But there’s still more work the credit union will finish in 2016, Meyer says.
There are some elements of the change that will take yet longer. Further developing a presence in the community, for example, and some that have no finish line.
“In terms of living out our core values,” Meyer says,” I don’t know that ever ends.”