Burning your branding ships

There’s an interesting story that goes along with Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and his exploration of the New World. According to a mix of history and legend, Cortes decided to squash any ideas of mutiny or sailing back to Spain by burning his ships on the beach. While accounts are contradictory (it is also quite possible Cortes scuttled his ships rather than burning them) the message to modern readers is still strong — once you commit to something, commit to it with your whole heart.

This lesson applies directly to credit unions looking to discover or reinvigorate their brand. In working with many clients, all too often there is a misconception that branding is simply a new name, logo or colors. While these elements are slices of the branding pie, they are nowhere near the whole thing. The same applies to branding commitment. When a credit union’s executive management team and board of directors decides to go all in on branding, that’s exactly what it must be — all in.

There’s no such thing is halfway-branding. Successful branding requires the absolute commitment and dedication of everyone on your credit union staff, from senior management to back office and front-line employees.

In the spirit of Cortes’ example, here are three ways you can ensure your credit union is fully dedicated to the branding process.

  1. Burning your ships — Consistency. Once you launch a new brand, you must stay consistent with it and insist all staff follow this lead. Odds are you didn’t invest all this time and energy in a new brand only to see it come apart like a frayed shoelace. Do your main office and branches all have a similar look and feel? What about your website and marketing materials? Is there a new script or a production which you expect employees to visit with members? If so, you must ensure everyone is doing his or her part to promote brand integrity. Letting a few small things starts unraveling your hard work in branding.
  2. Burning your ships – Commitment. Credit unions often have a hard time with this one. We’re great about coming out of strategic planning and branding sessions with new ideas and goals. Where we fail, however, is in allotting sufficient manpower and money to make it happen. If you’re not willing to feed and water the branding flower, it will eventually wilt and die. It’s going to take time, money and energy. Unless you bring all three simultaneously, don’t expect much in the way of positive results.
  3. Burning your ships — Staff. This is one of the hardest parts of the branding process. The biggest threat to your brand comes from within. If your staff does not fully buy into and live the brand, every day, it’s a recipe for disaster. The obvious solution is brand training for your staff. And for those that don’t fully buy in after the brand training? It’s hard to say, but perhaps it’s best that they find a new place to work.

In the end, Cortes and his conquistadors were successful in exploring and subduing the New World. However, if his men had felt they always had the backup option of just leaving when the going got tough, one cannot say for sure what history might have recorded. The same holds true with your credit unions branding efforts. If you’re going to do it then do it. Be brave and bold. Burn your branding ships on the shore. Embrace the New World and don’t give a thought to returning to the old.

Jeff Kjoller

Jeff Kjoller

Jeff has extensive experience in branding, art direction and graphic design, having served employers and clients in a creative capacity for more than twenty-five years. After graduating from the University ... Web: www.loudthought.biz Details