As credit unions, we spend countless hours and large sums of money discovering, nurturing and promoting brands. Our brands are the essence of whom and what we are as credit unions, our DNA and our image in the communities we serve.
Given all that goes into our brands, doesn’t it make sense to protect them? We talk a lot about external threats to our brands, such as competitors, negative word of mouth and consumer indifference. While these are important and bear watching, we should also pay closer attention to internal brand threats. The biggest threats to your brand aren’t from external competitors. The biggest threats to your brand come from within.
What are some potential internal brand threats? Consider the following:
1) The employee factor. Perhaps the most obvious internal threat to your brand is also its most lethal. Employee damage to the brand can be intentional (poor member service, bad behavior in the community) or more subtle (employees not well-versed in the brand or those that choose not to actively engage in living the brand). In either case, brand training can help alleviate the threat. Ensure all employees know what the brand is and their vital role in protecting and promoting it.
2) Think outside marketing. The role of brand ambassador far exceeds the boundaries of the marketing office. If every department of your credit union isn’t brand-focused, a potential threat exists. For example, HR must be brand-minded in its hiring, training and policy practices. IT must consider the brand when implementing procedural or technology-centered changes that could adversely (if only temporarily) affect the overall member experience. When you get right down to it, having flowerbeds full of dead flowers in your parking area represents (poorly) your brand image, so you must learn to consider something as seemingly remote as your landscaping provider as a potential internal brand threat.
3) Social media and the brand. While you may have little control about what external people say about your credit union using social media, the internal voice must be ironclad. Your credit union must have a solid social media plan in place that clearly spells out who can speak for the credit union and in what ways when using social media. Social media is not simply about posting messages (and there are plenty of examples of individuals hurting both their individual and corporate brand by poor use of social media). Social media is an ongoing conversation with your members and potential members that has a profound and immediate effect on your brand. As the guardian of your credit union’s brand, you cannot allow it to be hurt, tarnished or undermined by rogue internal voices. Make sure all staff knows who can speak for the credit union using social media (even with their personal accounts) and the consequences of neglecting this policy.
Threats to your credit union’s brand come from every direction. As a brand champion, it’s your job to guard that dearly-earned identity at all costs. While focus is often on external threats, don’t forget about potentially devastating internal ones.