From “America’s Who?” to “ACU Who?”

America’s Credit Union went out and did some brand equity research.

“We asked if people had heard of us,” said the credit union’s marketing director, Heidi Marzolf, in an interview with the News Tribune. “The response was ‘America’s who?'”

So the credit union is changing names, and will now be known as “ACU.”

Reality Check: Sure, America’s Credit Union isn’t the most distinctive name in the credit union industry, and awareness of the name may be low in the marketplace, but changing to ACU doesn’t fix anything. It’s the same problem, the credit union just gave it a new name. Actually, this makes the problem worse. The credit union went from limited name awareness to zero name awareness. They are starting from scratch. And what about the 35,000 existing members who knew the credit union by its former name. What questions will they have?

The Financial Brand has previously noted the pitfalls of credit union acronyms, and ACU is no exception. Acronyms are stiff and corporate. They lack personality. They aren’t distinctive. And they are easily confused with all the other ACUs out there, which becomes a serious issue with search engines like Google. There’s ACU (Abilene Christian University), ACU (American Conservative Union), and ACU (Army Combat Uniform), to name a few. The last one presents the biggest problem, since the credit union’s membership is primarily Army personnel stationed at Fort Lewis. It might have been clever if the connection with Army Combat Uniforms was deliberate, but it isn’t.


Heidi Marzolf, the credit union’s marketing director, said, “We wanted warm up our color palette and our logo and really have that reflect the credit union. The new logo is done in soft orange and burnt red, in a combination recalling perhaps an African sunset.” Notice the slightly cantilevered “c” in the new logo.

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Key Takeaway: Having low name awareness does not mean you need a name change. It definitely means, however, that you need more marketing — specifically things like advertising and sponsorships.

The credit union said it wants a brand look-and-feel that is “technology-oriented, friendly, fast,” yet they choose colors from “an African sunset” for their logo, and produce TV spots with a retro-throwback from analog times — a roller derby team? Does any of this make sense? How does all this fit within a cohesive brand strategy?

Bottom Line: Going with America’s Credit Union probably seemed like a smart idea at the time, but they could have dodged a lot of problems had they picked a more distinctive name. Now the credit union is compounding its problem, and the costs in terms of money and lost time are immeasurable.

Note: There is another America’s Credit Union in Texas.

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