Q&A: The Art Of Branding And The ‘Scient’ Name Change

Last month, Ledge Light FCU changed its name to Scient Federal Credit Union, and rolled out a new brand identity and website. With only $220 million in assets, this small Connecticut credit union now looks like it’s punching well above its weight class.

At first glance, you’d never guess Scient FCU only has 15,000 members and two branches. These guys look more professional and polished than many credit unions 2-3 times their size. And that’s all thanks to a recent rebranding project the credit union just completed.

Prior to becoming Scient, this is the last logo Ledge Light FCU used. The old identity made the credit union look small and outdated.

Brand strategy and design firm Van Deusen & Levitt Associates conducted brand equity research, developed the new name, brand positioning, visual identity and launch support materials for Scient. The Financial Brand sat down with Glenn C. Van Deusen, one of the agency’s co-founders, to discuss the art of rebranding Ledge Light to Scient.

Changing a financial institution’s name is one of the hardest things a financial marketer can ever be tasked to do. Doing your research, getting internal buy-in, and training staff are all critical to success, as Van Deusen points out. See how they pulled it off in this Q&A interview about the process behind ‘Scient.’

Why did the CU decide to change names?

Glenn C. Van Deusen, Co-Founder/ Van Deusen & Levitt Associates: Scient Federal Credit Union was founded as the Pfizer Employee Credit Union in 1968 by a small group of scientists at Pfizer’s R&D facility in Connecticut. In 1993, the name was changed to Ledge Light Federal Credit Union. The name was inspired by the New London Ledge Lighthouse that is in Long Island Sound and is visible from the Pfizer facility.

The name served the organization well for nearly 20 years. However, as the CU expanded beyond coastal New England, the name did not resonate as well with people across the country. They decided they needed to expand geographically and were concerned that the former branding could be an obstacle.

How long did the renaming process take?

GVD: The entire process from start to finish was about two years. There was extensive research that we conducted — within the CU and across the country — that led us to our recommendation to actually change the identity. After that, there was a full exploration of options, testing, and internal buy-in/training activities.

The project followed four primary phases of Discovery, Definition, Expression, and Implementation. The time was roughly split half to the first two phases and half to the second two phases.

How many names were created and presented?

GVD: We created over 1,200 names and continually refined the list to arrive at 22 leading candidates for client consideration and ultimately 3 names made it to the final list.

To be as thorough as possible, we did develop a few evolutions of the previous name even though our research suggested a clean break was a better option. When we analyzed the evolutionary options and judged them against the strategic brief, they quickly fell out of consideration. The process Van Deusen & Levitt uses for naming is driven by fundamental strategic criteria defined through our Discovery and Definition phases rather than by what is “safe” or “easy to sell.” These criteria include not only uniqueness, memorability, pronunciation, etc., but also how well the name aligns with core brand equity drivers, existing brand character attributes, desired brand aspirations, and future business goals.

What’s the story behind the ‘Scient’ name?

GVD: Our brand equity analysis revealed several core attributes that differentiated the CU. Their focus on the life science industry and their reputation for being flexible to each member’s individual situation were two of the most valuable equities to leverage. The name’s ability to relate to life science professionals as well as people outside of that industry was considered to be a key strength. We wanted a name that expressed strength and confidence while also providing the reassurance of a CU that was personal and caring.

Was there a brand strategy to underpin the new name?

GVD: Absolutely. All of our work is grounded in a deep strategic understanding of the client’s brand. Our ability to reveal key customer insights (both internal and external) and confront the unfiltered truths about the brand are hallmarks of Van Deusen & Levitt. Two of Scient’s main tenets are: (1) understanding the needs of people in life science companies, and (2) being flexible to member’s individual needs. Beyond those, we would be getting into areas that are too confidential to reveal for competitive reasons.

Did the credit union’s management team struggle at any point with the name change?

GVD: Not unlike other organizations, there was concern of how change would be received by employees and members. Was a total rebranding required or could the brand evolve more gradually or simply do a better job of marketing the existing brand that had been in place for nearly 20 years? The process that Van Deusen & Levitt uses, and the way we conducted and interpreted brand research, resulted in tremendous buy-in across all internal and external constituencies.

How did you go about building the brand identity?

GVD: Van Deusen & Levitt has a rigorous yet straight-forward process for branding that is transparent and involves the client at every step. For Scient, a project team that included representatives from Marketing, Management, and the Board of Directors was assembled. This team ultimately became ambassadors to the rest of the organization.

The Scient brand identity was created from a strategic brief that captured all of the insights from our first phases of the project. Conceptual sketches, a study of relevant color and typographic styles, linguistic and cultural interpretations, and a full competitive audit were some of the tools we used in our wide ranging design exploration.

How was the new name and brand rolled out internally?

GVD: Van Deusen & Levitt always reinforces to clients the need for the brand to be built from the inside out, with a clear understanding and hopefully passion for the brand developed among employees so that they can live the brand with their customers and colleagues. There was a variety of training tools developed and sessions held with employees a few months before the public launch.

As previously mentioned, we also involved employees right from the very start and gathered their thoughts and concerns two years before the CU was rebranded. By time the public became aware of the new identity, employees were already deeply on-board. The brand is not just the name or the logo, the brand is the entire experience, so training and engagement of employees is absolutely essential.

What did the initial public launch entail?

GVD: The brand was rolled out via letters, emails, press releases, statement mailings, newsletters, website announcements, video messages from the CEO, and other tactics. The goal was to immerse members and prospective members in the new brand and the reason for the new brand as quickly as possible. Activities were developed for both on-site implementation as well as in-home.

The public relations components of the launch plan included press releases to the local media near each location, an interview with the CEO by a paper near the headquarters, and a week long Open House event at the headquarter branch location.

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