Michelle Silviera, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union responds to the 2Q 2012 CUSP Theoretical Case Study: Old Brand. New Brand. One Brand? Two Brands?.
There’s a lot going on here, Tom. I’d concentrate on the merger and the branding. Put off worrying about the software because this can easily distract you. The merger is going to make way for lots of change, so this is the best time for a rebranding. The most important thing for you is to make the credit union relevant to the members and to the communities in which you will operate.
Very likely you are going to need a name change. Your credit union is going through a drastic alteration, so now is the time to tackle this important part of your brand. Moreover, a name change will overcome the problem you’ve had with people thinking you are a kind of labor union.
When you look into the name change, I’d avoid initials. We were Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union beginning in 1912 and then changed the name to JDCU back in the mid-1990s. We kept the initials for 10 years or so, but doing so gave rise to confusion with another credit union in our area, DCU. We also found the initials did not really tell people who we were; it was as if we were hiding who we were. We thought about this and decided that despite the fact the past is important to us — we are in our 100th year and grew up with the immigrant community in Lowell — our initials did not embrace our past. So we changed the name back — as mentioned in your case study — from JDCU to Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union. Everyone was pleased we did.
We took advantage of this opportunity to change our logo. It had been Jeanne D’Arc [Joan of Arc] mounted on a horse holding a banner. People could not quite make out the horse because both Jeanne D’Arc and the horse were small. Our new logo depicts Jeanne D’Arc from the waist up; thus she is more prominent, easy to see, and recognizable.
We also developed a tag line: “We share a common thread.” It speaks to the credit union philosophy of people helping people. At the same time it hearkens to our roots in Lowell’s textile industry, thus working to keep our credit union relevant to the people in our community. Make your tag line complement your brand and mission.
Your credit union wants to demonstrate its forward movement, but don't modernize your name and logo at the expense of honoring your roots.
Your combining boards might give you some push-back about the name and logo change, so identify a champion on the board, someone who can make the best argument for the changes. Mock-up possible logos and show them around. People can get pretty excited about a new logo once they see it. A new logo shows that you as a credit union are moving forward, but, again, the idea is to show to the membership and the community that you are relevant to them and to their needs and hopes.
Your credit union wants to demonstrate its forward movement, but don’t modernize your name and logo at the expense of honoring your roots. The new name and the new logo should hearken back to the riverfront and west counties and remain relevant to how the two credit unions started and grew. People will appreciate it and respond positively.
At the same time, work to better connect the merged credit union with its members. To me, comparing your number of members to your level of assets tells me there is much you can do to win wallet share.
Tom, I think you need to bring in a professional team for the name change, logo, and rebranding. They will do competent research, beginning with the areas in which the credit unions were founded. Give the professionals time to understand St. Louis and the neighborhoods in which you want to operate. It’s going to take time — months at least, a half-year or even longer is not unreasonable. You want to do this correctly. Don’t be tempted by the notion of being quick to market. If your rebranding takes a bit longer, that is probably going to be in your best interest. That was our experience.
Hire a professional who really understands branding. For us, our CEO knew a good company. If you don’t know someone, talk to credit unions that have done this kind of rebranding and ask for recommendations. It’s going to take a lot of money to do the rebranding correctly, so hire the right people who understand the problem and understand the credit union. Our name and logo change worked for us. We are now more relevant to our members and our community. That’s what you have to be.
And just as a last thought, I’d stick with the community charter. You never know when SEGs might fade or move away.