Maine has a reputation for fun, outdoorsy adventures and, according to its tourism office, it’s known as “Vactionland.” TruChoice Federal Credit Union ($80.8M, Portland, ME) decided to embody its home state’s reputation by redesigning its work space and rebranding its image toward a more natural theme.
The credit union redesigned its branches with colorful walls and quirky, open desk spaces, but it also revamped its website with the same bright colors. The yellow, green and blue color scheme seems to reflect the relaxed attitude of Maine’s residents.
Walking into the building, pale yellow walls with red and green accents have a calming and uplifting affect. In the middle of the office, a large structure acts as a cubicle but it’s not a typical four-sided cubicle. It’s a strange spilt-milk-like shape. While there are still walls to separate the employees, the space has opaque windows that can be opened for interaction. Or employees can roll their chairs to outer parts where shared desk space can be used for joint work.
The credit union has had solid loan growth in recent month that Ann Marie Wayne, vice president of marketing and sales at TruChoice, attributes in part to the rebranding. After net negative growth the last year, TruChoice has $5.5 million in new loans, which is 9% over its goal.
TruChoice’s membership is increasing as well. More than 250 net new members joined the credit union this year, about 150 more than the past year. TruChoice’s 12-month member growth is 4.33%, which is significantly higher than its peer group of credit unions with assets from $50 million to $100 million. That peer group reported 0.89% 12-month member growth rate at 1.75%.
In November, the credit union implemented a new loan system with less paperwork. Whether members apply online or within the branch, they can be approved within five minutes and walk out with a loan in 15 minutes. The credit union’s loan volume has increased from $56.3 million in June of 2011 to $61.8 million in June of this year. The number of loan accounts per member, at 0.77%, is 33 basis points higher than its peer group.
TruChoice partnered with Ethos Marketing for help with its rebranding. While the credit union knew it’s rebranding was personal and fun, Ethos Marketing used the words “slightly unconventional.”
“It was a makeover to fit the personality we already had inside,” says Eileen Batchelder, marketing manager at TruChoice.
TruChoice’s member service, underscored in the rebranding, is extraordinarily personal. Employees, such as Lindsay Bernier, drive to member’s work places and homes to pick up checks and signatures, in case a member can’t get to the branch before it closes. This type of member service not only stands for the credit union’s unconventionality, but also parallels its new tagline, “bank simply.” Having the simple mantra has created consistency and confidence within the credit union brand.
“We were living [bank simply] out before we did the rebranding,” says Bernier, a financial service rep. “Now people know what we’re here for.”
The credit union’s new mission statement aims for confidence and clarity. The mission statement explains the union supports its membership with online products and services accessible 24/7: “Isn’t life complicated enough? Bank simply – with TruChoice Federal Credit Union.”
“Rebranding gave us a common language to describe it to others,” Batchelder says. “Before the rebranding, we couldn’t decide what to talk about first, so we’d throw all these random services at people without being able to tie it together in one package.”
TruChoice now offers many products and services online to provide for its SEG membership, including medical services personnel who can sign up online at any hour now.
“We really felt we needed to get stronger at online account opening and provide an online lending platform,” Wayne says. “Our target members work during the week and have difficulty getting to the branches so we felt the online channel was what we needed to build out.”
The credit union hasn’t changed its products. It is promoting them more successfully through story-telling instead of specials. “We felt like we were running these specials, these campaigns that would bring people in for short-term relationships,” Wayne says. “We needed to focus more on long-term relationships.”
The rebranding has been a success for the credit union, but didn’t come without a cost. TruChoice spent approximately $60,000 on the immersion piece and $120,000 on the implementation. Members are happy with the credit union’s new look, focus and convenience, Bernier says. And employees enjoy the changes also. The energy and enthusiasm of the credit union team trickles down to the membership, creating a vibrant workplace and a happy membership.
“Until now, we didn’t have a ‘cut to the chase’ way of explaining that element of service we provide across the board,” Batchelder says. “We have lots of stories to tell, but before the rebranding someone walking into a branch or visiting our website didn’t get an immediate sense of who we are.”
Empowerment Through Rebranding
•TruChoice identified its core values. “If you tell the truth, people will gravitate toward that,” says Ann Marie Wayne, vice president of marketing and sales at TruChoice. With member and non-member surveys, the credit union determined its strengths and weaknesses. The credit union acknowledged its weaknesses and decided to either improve or focus resources elsewhere.
•TruChoice knows the importance of involving employees up front. Be honest with employees about the process and how they’ll be involved. And involve employees from across the organization, from tellers to managers to executive staff. “The people who are right there with the members on the front line telling the story, being TruChoice, needed an active role,” Wayne says. During the immersion process, focus groups were set up that not only included executive staff but also loan officers, tellers, and employees from every department.
To learn more about when to rebrand, check out the subscriber package: Old Brand. New Brand. One Brand? Two Brands?
Author Bailey Reutzel and multimedia producer Melissa Forsyth hit the road in August for a weeklong Cooperative Trek. They traveled from Washington, DC, to Portland, ME, stopping along the way at 11 credit unions and learning first-hand about successful strategies to share with our readers. Follow the 2012 Cooperative Trek on CreditUnions.com as we release stories from the road throughout the fall of 2012.