In the January 2008 edition of Credit Union Business magazine, correspondent Lin Grensing-Pophal writes that the “small town, homey brands” many credit unions have simply doesn’t cut it when expanding into business services.
In the article, Michael Poulos, president and CEO of Michigan First CU, agrees. He says that businesses are looking for people who look like they have the financial expertise to take care of things. “A lot of credit unions don’t have that image,” he says.
Although the article specifically examines the impacts branding has on business services, the author makes a number of excellent points that apply to financial branding in general:
- Branding takes time and considerable attention to detail.
- The first thing you need to do is figure out what you can offer that other credit unions and banks can’t or don’t.
- Decide who you are and what you want to be known for, then create that culture and live it out every day.
- A good brand involves some sacrifice. You have to be willing to give up something in terms of target market, size, scope – something. If you try to be known for everything, you’re going to be unknown for anything.
- What employees do every day – day in and day out – and how they live out corporate values is what really builds a brand.
- Branding requires consistency, not only across various tactical communications tools but also through the way employees interact with members.
- Branding is not marketing. The marketing department can’t be the sole creator and manager of the brand.
- Numbers are not going to increase overnight. But a good brand, in the long run, will drive business and create consumer loyalty.
- When building a brand strategy, an outside perspective can provide an invaluable, non-biased perspective.
Key Question: Does pursuing “serious business” require credit unions to sacrifice the sense of character that many members find appealing?