Brands are a little like that terrific new car smell you notice once you hop inside your ride. Everything is fresh and unblemished. With time, however, that new car and “new brand” smell fades. A variety of factors, from market changes to new competition can lead to a point where you must ask, “is it time to rebrand your credit union?”
History offers examples of corporate entities that were forced to rebrand to survive. Examples of this include AT&T (after the breakup of the Baby Bells) and ValuJet (renamed from AirTran after a deadly plane crash). Other name and brand changes are more gradual and represent a response to changing times. Examples of this include Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC, British Petroleum to BP and Philip Morris to Altria. A prime credit union example is StarTrust FCU, which evolved from Enron Federal Credit Union after Enron’s financial implosion. Other examples of recent name changes include Blue Eagle CU and GO FCU.
As your credit union grows and evolves, its leadership must always keep a keen eye on its brand. Brand awareness and worth are the lifeblood of your credit union. Allowing it to fade, tarnish and fail to keep up with the times is devastating to your future growth and expansion. Left alone, a credit union brand will lose its value over time, just like that new car smell that starts to fade.
While there are many reasons why it may be time to take a closer look at your credit union’s brand, here are three of the more obvious ones to consider.
- Time has simply passed. How long has it been since your revamped your brand? Five years? Ten years? Never? The gradual erosion of brand equity by time is a slow yet constant given. As a rule of thumb, if it’s more than five years since your last brand review, it’s time to do another one.
- Part of your brand doesn’t make sense anymore. This could be the credit union name, tagline or logo. Is it hopelessly outdated? Obviously tied to a certain era in time? Has your membership base changed in such a way as to render the brand dead in the water? If so, roll up your branding sleeves. It’s time to get to work.
- Your brand impedes growth. Think back to the Enron example. While this is an extreme situation, its lesson to credit union branding is invaluable. Do you think they were going to do very well as a credit union with that albatross of a name around their neck? Of course not and neither will your credit union if something similar (albeit less dramatic) limits growth. Examples of this include single-sponsor credit unions whose main corporate entity goes out of business (or has changed names) and credit unions with a significant change in their eligible membership base (such as switching to a community charter).
In order to help keep your credit union brand fresh, you will have to learn to see it as a living, breathing entity. It is either healthy and thriving, stagnant and flat-lined or past its prime and decaying. To help avoid this, examine where your credit union brand is now and where it needs to go. Keeping up with this constant change is a challenge, but it is one you must embrace in order to ensure the continued vitality and relevance of your credit union now and in the future.