Credit unions that invest in the long-term strategy of brand-building lead the pack when it comes to establishing deeper and more meaningful member relationships. Recognizing the intersection of ever-increasing consumer choice (both traditional and non-traditional) and subsequent consumer confusion, they elect to combat that with differentiation and clarity through brand positioning.
In other words, they find a unique and authentic way to stand out from the crowd as the preferred consumer choice in their area.
Often this is (initially) accomplished through elements like brand vision statements, employee messages and taglines. While these are vital components of building a brand, they fall short if the effort is left there. The question then becomes: does our brand actually touch our members?
Can and do your members see your brand in action? Do they witness it, see it, hear it and (hopefully) share it? Vision statements, employee messages and taglines are well and good but do they live beyond the paper upon which they are printed?
For a brand to leap from paper to life, your credit union must operationalize it. This is best accomplished via a full-fledged journey mapping process. In journey mapping, your credit union’s leadership team (typically with the assistance of an outside facilitator) puts the words and spirit of your brand to paper, detailing exactly what the member experience will be from start to finish, in person, on the phone, in the drive-through, via email, etc. The journey mapping experience, once complete, leads to a hands-on member engagement program, unique to your credit union, its culture, membership, staff and community. Often, the member engagement program is given a unique name to help better position it in the eyes of credit union staff.
Journey mapping is a rigorous process and similar to branding requires an “all hands on deck” approach. Your leadership team must come to the journey mapping table ready to honestly and aggressively tackle tough questions that can go to the very core of your credit union’s member philosophy. More importantly, once voices are aired, discussions had and a consensus reached, your leadership team must leave the journey mapping process fully committed to the plan and ready to actively support it. Any member engagement plan risks fraying if its leaders are not committed and other staff see this, tell co-workers and similarly fail to commit.
Once in place, your credit union must then actively and without fail train staff to its member engagement program. Failure to effectively train over the long-term runs the risk of delegitimizing the member engagement program in the eyes of staff and, in turn, for your members.
As the natural evolution of a branding effort, the commitment to journey mapping and creating a member engagement program successfully operationalizes your brand, elevating it from the qualitative art of wordsmithing to the quantitative science of measurable member interaction. Your brand, once the inhabitant of paper, leaps to life for your members and potential members to touch, witness and remember.