5 Tips When Renaming Your Financial Institution

Here are five tips from a credit union marketer who successfully navigated a brand transformation from old to bold.

Okay, so you decided to rebrand your financial institution with a new name. You and your colleagues surely realize you’ll have a very long to-do list that reaches to every corner of your organization. In marketing, there may be few fun parts of the project along the way — logo, colors, new business cards, and fresh website — but one thing is certain: the process won’t always run smoothly. Here are five areas that I learned along the way now that our quest to find a new brand identity is behind us.

1. Determine Who Will Generate Name Options… And Who Won’t

Once you announce your intent to rename, it can seem like suddenly everyone becomes a marketing expert. Name suggestions will be coming at you from every direction. But you need to decide before you get started if your renaming team will be accepting names from your staff. What about accepting suggestions from your customers? Some institutions hold a contest to generate ideas. Just beware: you need to proceed with caution if you take any of these routes, because you will almost certainly be forced to justify your ultimate choice to the participants. On the other hand, you may get some great names simply by asking your various constituencies to help.

If you work with an agency, you should have them present you with a list of names based on the brand strategy and attributes you’ve defined. You should also have your agency help you evaluate names in context. Your agency can help you understand your options for branding each of the names on their list, which should include how you would go about telling your brand story.

2. Decide Who Decides

Now that you have a list of potential names, logo options and brand identities, who gets to narrow down the list and ultimately select the direction? Will it be up to the CEO alone, or a committee? The answer probably depends on the dynamics involved at your institution. Just don’t fall into the trap of asking around for opinions until you get the answer you want. You’ll end up muddying the waters, making it more difficult to choose the best strategic option. My advice is to decide who decides up front.

One approach that accommodates a variety of opinions is to create a team comprised of individuals from across your institution. Ideally this renaming team would represent a healthy mix of ages and backgrounds, and encompass a variety of customer-facing and back office departments. You should consider including a member of your Board of Directors. But don’t select the members of this group indiscriminately; you want knowledgeable team members who will provide a thoughtful, informed opinion.

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3. Invest In Training

When it’s time to announce your new name and rollout your brand be sure your employees are prepared to tell the story. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. It’s critical to invest in brand training — give your staff a toolbox of phrases and teach them a set of behaviors that will reflect your new identity. Your frontline staff should understand that the reason for rebranding is to change the the public’s perceptions and expectations of your organization. Be absolutely certain that your employees know what that means, and how to demonstrate that in their day-to-day interactions with your customers/members.

4. It Takes Time For Your Brand to Evolve

Sure, the public-facing aspects of your brand identity will look new and shiny on day one, but will your staff reflect your new brand right away? Some will and some won’t, and it’s easy for employees to slip back to their old behaviors without regular reinforcement. Establish specific brand standards for in-person and telephone greetings and other actions (brand standards should not only apply to proper logo use), then measure them and make sure they’re adhered to. Remember that you’re becoming a new company, which goes far deeper than handing out new staff shirts.

5. Track Everything Possible Leading Up to the Brand Launch

You’ll want to have as much data as possible so that you can show the boost you received from rebranding to your CEO and Board of Directors. Go beyond the obvious call report data such as membership growth and loan growth. Determine what your web site traffic looks like today. What percentage of new versus returning users have you had in the past year? How much time did visitors spent on your site? What was your average monthly gain of new social media followers? These are the types of numbers that can prove a rebrand has moved your institution in the right direction.

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Closing Thoughts

Rebranding your organization will likely be something you undertake more than once in your career. To do it properly, your entire team must approach a name change with the gravitas it deserves. It takes focus and clear communication to ensure you end up with the vision and outcome you seek. Sure, you’ll look back on parts of the journey that you’d do differently if given the chance — everyone does. You may even feel your motivation wane along the way. But trust your judgement, think big, and be confident that rebranding will launch your institution on a path to a bright future. It may not be easy, but it’s worth it.

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