Old Name: Postal Federal Community Credit Union
New Name: BluCurrent Credit Union
Founded in 1929 by postal workers, the credit union said it wanted to eliminate confusion about who could open an account with a more inclusive name that breaks down consumers’ perceived barriers to becoming a member. They also said they wanted a name that better reflected the credit union’s field of membership, which expanded in 1994 to encompass not just federal/postal employees but anyone who lives or works in a 10-county area. The credit union has obtained federal trademark protection, and will be using “Building Better Lives Together” as its slogan. For the development of the new name, the credit union worked with Weber Marketing Group.
No explanation was offered for the logo, which includes a series of four orange and four green panes receding in perspective back to an invisible horizon.
Analysis: Through the color blue, the new name makes an ever-so-subtle allusion to the credit union’s past serving exclusively postal employees. Its coined construction — intentionally misspelling “Blu” and capitalizing the “c” in “Current” — gives the name a progressive feeling, and makes it very easy to secure federal trademark protection.
Whenever you incorporate a color into a bank or credit union name, there will always be someone who questions your choice of hue. Pick red and someone will tell you its associated with financial losses. Even the seemingly safe blue can draw ridicule. “BluCurrent? Why not green?” wondered one member critical of his credit union’s new name. “At least the color green has some connotation with money.”
How Many ‘First National’ Banks Are Enough?
Old Name: First National Bank of Berryville
New Name: First National Bank of North Arkansas
Bank President Bill Hudspeth said that changing the name to include the north Arkansas region more properly depicts the financial institution’s emphasis. “For some time, we have served many communities other than Berryville,” he said.
Analysis: If the bank serves more than Berryville… but less than Arkansas, why do they overreach with such a grandiose name like “First National.” Even if they are the first national bank based in north Arkansas (unlikely), what’s going to happen the next time the bank expands its geographic reach? Are they going to be the First National Bank of Arkansas, South Missouri and Eastern Tennessee?
No one knows for sure how many “First National” banks there are in the world. (The Financial Brand has previously bemoaned the ubiquity of this name in the banking industry.) But one thing is for certain: there are wayyyy too many.
For all the emotional energy, internal time and capital required to complete a name change, making a rhetorical switch with a slight variation of “First National” hardly seems worth the bother.
Catalyst For Change
Old Name: Unicom Credit Union
New Name: Catalyst Mutual
Tess Shaw, Strategy Director at Principals, the agency behind the name change, said, “Audiences don’t really understand credit unions and mutual banking as a category. And the previous name and identity made it appear more like a local telecommunications provider.”
Analysis: Even in Australia, consumers struggle to understand what credit unions are, especially when these financial cooperatives have strange names tied so closely to specific employer groups. Credit unions around the world have wrestled with naming for at least the last two decades, with particular sensitivity to their surnames — should they still call themselves “credit unions,” or something else, like a “mutual” or “cooperative bank?”
Neither First Nor Second to Become ‘1st Advantage’
Old Name: First Federal Savings Bank
New Name: 1st Advantage Bank
The bank’s decision to change names coincides with a conversion from a federal- to state charter. Few other details are offered in the explanation, although they did say the name change is a reflection of their intention to be “the most innovative and progressive institution” in their area.
Analysis: While “First Advantage” may sound safe, it isn’t. The problem with this name is that there are already two other banks using it, one in Minnesota and another in Missouri. There is significant risk whenever you choose a name identical to any other financial institution already operating in the same country — not city or county, but country. This exposes the organization to legal challenges and weakens the brand from the get-go. Besides, the whole point of branding is differentiation.
Further complicating the problem are a couple of other firms that hold federal trademarks for the “First Advantage” specifically in the financial industry.
Bank Sues Credit Union Over Similar Name
Plaintiff: Intrust Bank
Defendant: Entrust Federal Credit Union
Intrust Bank with 45 branches in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, filed a trademark infringement suit against a small Richmond, Virginia credit union that serves mainly local churches and Christian-based groups.
In the suit, Intrust Bank claims that Entrust Financial Credit Union ($67 million in assets) markets itself as a nationwide financial institution, therefore it competes with Intrust.
The credit union was granted a federal trademark for the name “Entrust” in early 2011. Intrust wants the court to revoke Entrust’s USPTO trademark and block the credit union from using Entrust. They insist that any advertising and marketing materials be handed over for destruction.
Analysis: The credit union is probably going to lose. Trying to argue that you are way smaller than the plaintiff doesn’t matter in trademark suits. A small credit union with a website can be viewed by the courts as a national — even worldwide — competitor in the financial industry. Their rule of thumb is, “Would a reasonable consumer be confused?” Someone may try to Google “Intrust” (the bank) only to spell it wrong and end up with “Entrust” (the credit union). It is confusing, and it arguably isn’t fair. The courts have consistently protected the rights of trademark holders when there is an obvious case of phonetic confusion, which this clearly is. Intrust Bank has held a USPTO trademark on its name since at least 1993, which doesn’t bode well for the defendant.
Compounding problems for the credit union, there is another USPTO trademark for the term “Entrust Financial” by a Pennsylvania investment firm, granted in 2002. If they catch wind of this lawsuit, things could really messy for everyone.
From Hyde Park to Blue Hills
Old Name: Hyde Park Savings Bank
New Name: Blue Hills Bank
The bank says the switch is part of a series of steps the bank is making to transform itself from a sleepy 140-year-old institution with six branches to a growing bank with a broader line of offerings. The bank will be using the new slogan “Let’s Get Rolling” as part of its rebranding.
In addition to the name change, the bank revamped its management team, retooled its residential mortgage lending program, and expanded into commercial banking.
Analysis: The new name “Blue Hills” references a popular outdoor recreation area outside of Boston, near where the bank is based. It makes a nice geographical connection for existing customers, helping them continue viewing the bank as “theirs.” But the name isn’t geographically limiting. If the bank wanted to serve a wider area, beyond Boston or even Massachusetts, the Blue Hills name won’t be a problem.
Old Name: Armour Kankakee Credit Union
New Name: Fieldstone Credit Union
In September 2011, this Illinois credit union officially changed its name to Fieldstone. The name is intended to reflect the 175 acres of stony farmland fields where Armour Laboratory built a facility. That lab — built on fields of stone — became the credit union’s sole sponsor and primary source of new members until 2004 when they obtained a community charter. This is the fourth name change for the credit union in its 58-year history. The new name and brand were developed by Weber Marketing Group. Fieldstone will be using the new slogan, “May paths. One destination.” The credit union has obtained federal trademark protection.
Analysis: Fieldstones are (duh) literally stones found in fields. They were commonly used as building materials by American settlers across New England and the Midwest to create fences, hearths and even complete homes. That helps the credit union’s Fieldstone name connote both strength, stability and sense of conservative traditionalism. This can be used to give the brand a feeling of durability and dependability.
The Theory of Evolution
Old Name: El Paso Employees Federal Credit Union
New Name: Evolve Federal Credit Union
The credit union said a name change was needed because the previous moniker created confusion as to who could join. They felt the old name restricted the credit union to just employees of El Paso city, when in actuality they serve everyone across the entire county.
Analysis: The new name implies the organization will constantly be evolving, growing and changing for the better, which could be a tough brand promise for this $300 million credit union to live up to.
There is also a potential trademark issue surrounding the Evolve name. There is a banking and investment firm in Tennessee with a federal trademark for “Evolve” and “Evolve Financial Group.”
What Was Wrong With Just Plain ‘Nevada?’
Old Name: Nevada Federal Credit Union
New Name: One Nevada Credit Union
Nevada FCU switched from a federal- to state charter, which required them to drop “Federal” from their name. The credit union must have reasoned that if they were going to the expense and hassle of changing signage, they may as well look at all the naming options. So the credit union’s leadership team spent several months working with Weber Marketing Group conducting member and non-member research, holding naming workshops and branding sessions.
Analysis: Why wasn’t “Nevada Credit Union” selected? Did it present a trademark risk? Unlikely, considering the credit union had operated with an almost identical name for decades. So does adding the word “One” to the name — a common and familiar financial naming term — contribute enough meaning and context to make the change worthwhile?
Talk to Nurse Carey at CarePoint
Old Name: Tenet FCU
New Name: CarePoint Federal Credit Union
The $44 million credit union elected to rebrand to reflect a more diverse field of membership and be viewed as more inclusive.
In addition to a new name and logo, the website has also been completely redesigned. The new website features “Nurse Carey,” a virtual spokesperson who serves as a guide, shares the benefits of credit union membership and answers members’ questions. On every page, Nurse Carey either offers helpful tips or educates visitors on CarePoint offerings.
Old Name: Cape Cod Cooperative Bank
New Name: The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod
The bank’s board of trustees started thinking about a name change a few years ago, so they undertook market research including customer interviews. They concede the new name represents only the slightest change, but they honestly believe the strategic significance is huge. “We are going to use the word cooperative to reconfirm how we do business,” said John Fulone, the bank’s CMO.
Analysis: If it’s going to cost a ton of money to affect a name change, then why bother with little more than a reshuffling of the old name? Is it really worth it? It’s possible that there was enthusiasm among some members of the bank’s board to change names, but others were opposed (or scared). To appease both camps — those in favor of a name change and those against — the new moniker feels like a weak compromise. A name change represents an opportunity to completely reinvent your brand. In this case, the bank did not embrace that opportunity. Instead, they made their name longer by adding two words (“the” and “of”) — opposite the strategy that most financial institutions adopt when renaming.