5 reasons to rethink your rebrand
Four years ago, I had the great fortune of participating in a highly successful rebranding project for Logix Federal Credit Union – formerly Lockheed FCU. The reasons for the rebrand were complex, but they largely stemmed from the fact our namesake SEG had moved many facilities out of our market areas.
Since that time, we’ve grown members in double digit percentages each year, and we regularly take calls from credit unions looking to match our success by rebranding. My advice to most: invest elsewhere first.
It should be noted early on that the opinions expressed in the article below are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. Consider also that my title of Online Marketing and Social Media Manager gives me a limited perspective; however, the two roles mentioned in my title put me in a unique position to speak objectively about the SEO implications of a rebrand, and subjectively about the human implications.
There are four primary reasons I don’t believe most rebranding efforts are worth the money. But if Buzzfeed has taught me anything, you weren’t going to click unless I had a list of 5, so I added one. Plus, number 4 is going to blow your mind!
1: Your people are not your brand
Do you believe, as so many CEOs do, that “your people are your brand”? Like really believe it?
According to a recent study performed by Monigle and presented at TheFinancialBrand Forum, 44% of “bank brand leaders” said they have gone through a rebrand in the last 24 months, and a further 61% said they need to do so in the next 24 months. If you’re doing the math – that’s 105% of banks rebranding in a 4 year period. And if a brand is truly nothing but the people, then a rebrand means we’d all better freshen up our résumés.
In practice, a rebranding project still has very little to do with the people working for a company. If it did, the rebranding presentations given by large branding agencies at industry conferences would have much more to do with the Recruiting Department than the Marketing Department. And perhaps they should.
A company that believes its people are its brand won’t invest in a new logo until it is confident the people wearing it are of the highest quality and passionate advocates of the brand. In my opinion, we could have renamed our credit union almost any word in the dictionary and achieved great things because of the people wearing the name. Our people were and are our brand.
2: A rose by any other name smells as sweet. Also true of latrines.
In a 2011 Kelton Research survey, 83% of consumers said it would be important to read online reviews about a financial institution before making a decision. But it is a mistake to think that 83% of the people walking in your door have read a review. Rather, a company with poor reviews will lose many of these potential members to one with a better rating.
With this in mind, take a moment to visit your Yelp pages. Does anyone mention your color scheme as their reason for the glowing review? Has your font been the inspiration for a 10 paragraph rant? (Don’t answer if it is Comic Sans – this was supposed to be rhetorical.) Does it really matter what brand name a 3 star overall rating appears next to in Google searches? The finest font and color scheme in the world will rarely be seen if nobody is visiting your website.
In our market the Lockheed name is revered, and for our Legacy members, the name change was heartbreaking. Our CEO personally responded to hundreds of upset members, and our social media feeds were inundated with threats to leave. During the transition we also received several online reviews, many of them talking about how much they hate the new name, colors and mascot. But what’s strange is – most of these were 5 star reviews.
As Shakespeare penned, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This has proven true for Logix. Before the rebrand we averaged 4.8 stars on Yelp, and we continue to average 4.8 stars today.
A company with consistently mediocre service, fees or rates should not invest capital or time in a new brand if the opportunity cost is a delighted member. A beautiful logo next to a bad review amounts to lipstick on a pig.
3: Search engines will lose you
(The next three reasons have to do specifically with changing names vs. just brand aesthetics.)
Imagine your website is a branch and Mr. Google has been coming to the same place for decades, reliably finding you in the same parking lot and greeting you by name upon each encounter. He’s memorized where everyone sits and knows exactly where to find the services he’s looking for. Then one day with no warning, you up and change your name, move to a new address, and put all your stuff in different places. Even if you told Mr. Google where you went (have you thought about how you’re going to do that?) it would be quite a while before he was in the habit of looking for you at the new address. Meanwhile, he’s just standing in front of your old branch telling everyone who shows up looking for you that you don’t live there anymore.
If you simply must change names, at least make it easy to google and hard to misspell. (Trust the guy who spent hours trying to work the word “logics” into his website content!) If someone hears your name in a radio ad or from a friend, they’ll be googling you and you’ll want to be found.
4: More importantly, search engine users won’t look for you
Oh please, please – if the name of your city is in your name, do not change your name. There are many more pleasant uses for the dollars you’ll need to buy back the organic traffic you lost in searches for “Yourcityname credit unions” or “Credit unions in Yourcityname.”
Fortunately for Logix, we didn’t have anything to lose. But it should be noted that smaller credit unions in many of our market areas appear higher in Google searches simply because of this one attribute.
5: You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul
You probably have lots of good data to suggest that people don’t think they can join your credit union for one reason or another. Perhaps, like Lockheed FCU, you only appeal to one SEG and nobody else knows they can join. Have you considered, though, how great it is that that one SEG knows they can join? As a challenger brand, your specialization is a competitive advantage to be nurtured, highly targeted advertising is your greatest opportunity, and exclusivity is your pathway to achieving some margin in a commoditized industry. When the name of your primary SEG disappears from your name, so too does your emotional relevance to anyone.
As evidence, consider the personalized experience offered on many big bank websites and mobile apps. Wall Street spends untold millions attempting to perfect personalization on their websites and other touchpoints. Each of them has a CRM team exclusively dedicated to this goal, which can increase web conversion rates by 42%.
What smaller credit unions lack in digital personalization, they gain in actual “personal personalization.” Odds are a visitor to the “Durnsville Firefighters Credit Union” website is a firefighter in Durnsville. He probably landed on a page with a picture of a brave Durnsville firefighter on it, with an offer and tone that make sense for firefighters in Durnsville. By staying true to itself, DFCU just achieved organically what big banks could not, even with large CRM and web personalization spends.
While I’m personally thrilled with the Logix rebrand and proud of what we accomplished, I find that too many credit unions are interested in rebranding simply because they do not like their logo or feel that their brand is dated. To me, the opportunity costs of a rebranding investment to change outdated insignia are simply too high, and these projects frequently create the illusion of progress while taking focus off meaningful goals.
“We tend to meet any new situation by (changing things); and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.” ~ Petronius