Branding expert Chris Collins was quoted in a recent Forbes article as saying “You can’t talk your way out of a brand you behaved yourself into.”
It’s a short quote — but powerful.
It made me think about how credit union branding can apply to an old favorite television show of mine, Leave it to Beaver. You know, the one featuring Ward Cleaver as the sage father, June as his doting wife, Wally as the cool older brother and Beaver as the trouble-prone kid.
While the show featured an assortment of other supporting characters, one of my favorites was always Eddie Haskell. Friend of Wally, Eddie was obnoxious, sneaky, insincere and, to use the word most often associated with him on the show, a real creep. Eddie was famous for saying one thing to adults on the show and entirely different things to the teenagers and kids. He was sweet as sugar to the parents and rotten as garbage to the kids. While he usually got away with it, Eddie was occasionally outted as the real creep he was.
You see, Eddie Haskell professed one brand to one set of people but lived in an entirely different brand to another. And, after time, everyone noticed. Much to his chagrin, Eddie sometimes found himself unable to talk his way out of the brand into which he behaved himself.
Your credit union brand is no different.
Odds are, you’ve spent a lot of time, money and effort creating and nurturing a brand that speaks to the diversity and uniqueness of your credit union and its membership. For example, your brand might speak to the eclectic and quirky nature of the millennial crowd you’re trying to attract. Or, your brand might speak of speed, flexibility and understanding the challenging needs of young families. Whatever and whoever your brand speaks to — it must speak with a sincere and authentic tongue.
Otherwise, just like with Eddie Haskell, eventually people will catch on to your ruse. Nothing can damage your brand more than a credibility gap.
Your brand is the living embodiment of the promise made between a your credit union and its consumers. It is also important to remember that your brand is also what your consumers think about you. And, as with most things in life, perception is reality. If your consumers perceive your brand as authentic, terrific. However, if they see it as a lie, you’re in trouble.
A powerful tool to help avoid the Eddie Haskell brand credibility dilemma is employee brand training. After all, your frontline staff are the ones tasked with living the brand in front of members every day. Sure, it’s up to your executive management team to lead the brand, but all too often I encounter credit unions with terrific brands that fall flat due to a lack of employee buy-in, comprehension and/or training. It’s simply not enough to talk about your brand – you have to train to it, as well.
Ultimately, your staff will only live in love what you teach. Brand engagement training empowers your frontline staff to actively engage with members and live and love your unique brand. If your employees fail to execute the brand on a daily basis, and in front of members, all your branding efforts are for nothing.
People are constantly bombarded with advertising. Consumers are increasingly jaded and crave authenticity. Your members are the same – increasingly jaded and in search of authenticity. For your credit union brand to be something into which they can truly place their faith and trust, it must be authentic. And not the “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver” Eddie Haskell approach to authenticity.