Cascade Community Credit Union serves Douglas County, a small community of 20,000 deep within the heart of the Oregon timber industry. Three other credit unions and a few banks also serve the county. You might think this would be a difficult environment to grow in, but Cascade Community has found a way to flourish within their natural setting.
Cascade Community was formed as the result of a merger between Dougco Schools CU and Western Cascade FCU in December 2002. At the time of the merger, selection of the new name and logo was performed entirely in-house. Neither of the credit unions even had a dedicated marketing team. Without a deliberate branding initiative or marketing plan for a year and a half, the credit union felt they were ineffective in growing and getting their message out.
"Even the small guys, with the right plan and the right partner, can make it work."
-Casey Thorp, Marketing Manager for Cascade Community Credit Union
In August 2004, Cascade Community made the decision to contact a branding consultant they first became familiar with by reading a publication sent out by their state credit union league. The partnership provided Cascade Community with the additional resources and expertise they needed. After conducting market research, they concluded that no credit union in the county had a strong brand presence and everyone was essentially just "doing the same thing."
"We focused on who we were and found a way to articulate that."
Cascade Community was the only credit union in the position to claim that they dealt exclusively with the Douglas County community. They began to develop their brand based on existing credit union values and decided to make Douglas County, with its rustic setting, the focus of their new branding initiative. They developed natural, rustic imagery, updated their logo, and decided to use a down-to-earth tone of voice often combined with humor to communicate their brand to the community. The new brand launched in April 2005, eight months after the re-branding process began.
"Every interaction that our employees have with our members is part of the brand experience."
Cascade Community found that their brand promise had to be authentic, resonate with their employees, and be consistently proven through their actions. The credit union makes sure that everything ties back to the brand they want to convey to their members and potential members. One new way they are demonstrating the brand is through a recent purchase of a company vehicle. Credit union representatives use the vehicle to participate in local charity events, make deliveries, and even drive around town handing out umbrellas to people they see on the street when it is raining.
In the last three years (July '04 - July '07) Cascade Community has seen the following results: asset growth of 12.6%, loan growth of 14.8%, shares grew by 7.3%, equity grew by 51%, and average R.O.E. grew from 8.2% to 15.3%. The credit union recently passed the 100 million-asset mark and is looking to open another branch at the local high school to further grow membership and tap the Gen Y market.
Casey Thorp, Marketing Manager at Cascade Community Credit Union, presented along with Red Canoe, Power Financial, University of Iowa on the Callahan webinar: The Risks and Rewards of Re-branding.