And lunch. And dinner. And snack time. You get the idea.
Any credit union attempting to either create a new brand or revise a struggling brand faces this titular challenge. And until they come to look at brand as culture, they will continue to do so.
Your credit union brand is your culture. Not the other way around. Your credit union leadership team can labor and invest in branding until the cows come home but if you drop it in polluted cultural waters, you may as well be dangling a white mouse, by the tail, into a tank full of hungry culture piranha. Within a few moments, your existing negative culture will chew that pretty new brand right down to the bone.
To see your brand thrive and gain both cultural and market share, it must have the right culture in which to flourish. There are three key drivers of this cultural mix.
- Your credit union leadership team. This includes all your C-Suite folks. Everyone on this team must not only buy into the brand but fully support it. After all, their direct reports will look to them for leadership and a brand example. If your leadership team provides this, they set the bar for brand excellence and adherence. If they don’t, try not to act surprised when your brand implodes.
- Your credit union staff. This is everyone else, front office, back office, every branch, every department, every staff member from collections to facilities. In branding, there is no differentiation between positions. Everyone is directly accountable to the brand. While your leadership team must indeed lead the brand, it is up to staff to live it.
- Your credit union membership. Obviously, this is where your brand must have the most impact. The math is fairly simple. If you have a brand-driven culture with a leadership team that leads and a staff that lives brand, your membership will come to love the brand. And, yes, members can certainly come to love something as seemingly unemotional and unsexy as a credit union brand. Here, the important thing is to remember that your brand is not simply your products and services; rather, your brand is the embodiment of your credit union’s vision and purpose as exemplified in the thoughts, actions, words, deeds and dreams of all staff. Members placed a great deal of emotional importance on their personal finances and your brand will benefit greatly from a realizing and acting upon this.
Developing a nurturing culture for your credit union brand in which to flourish is a bit like gardening. You wouldn’t expect beautiful flowers or vegetables to spring from ground cracked from drought, overgrown with weeds or lacking in nutrients. Similarly, your credit union brand requires a culture/environment that is led, lived and loved. If all these things don’t occur at every step, much like a young seed struggling to sprout, your brand is quickly consumed by its negative surrounding culture.