A credit union’s rebranding journey

MERRITT ISLAND, FL (November 13, 2014) — Kennedy Space Center Federal Credit Union ($662 million; 60,573 members; Merritt Island, FL) finished 2013 as one of the strongest credit unions in Florida with a 5-star rating from Bauer Financial, a 12% capital ratio, 7% membership growth and 10% loan growth. Despite the downsizing of Kennedy Space Center from the ending of the shuttle program in 2011, the credit union continued to thrive in part due to a merger in the early 1990s with Halifax Teachers Credit Union resulting in a community charter to serve all of Brevard and Volusia Counties.

Yet the Kennedy Space Center Federal Credit Union name presented challenges moving forward. First, it implied an affiliation with the space center in order to join. Second, it was often confused with its larger neighbor Space Coast Credit Union. Third, it held little meaning for the teachers and educators from Volusia County, or members in south Brevard County. Fourth, at six words the full name was a mouthful and a workable short name remained elusive.

Additionally, with two branches on Kennedy Space Center and 10 branches dispersed throughout Brevard and Volusia Counties, 98% of membership growth and 95% of loan growth derived from non-space center branches. As the credit union continued to grow outside the gates of the space center, a question of branding emerged. Being affiliated with the prestigious and world-renowned Kennedy Space Center was a source of pride for the credit union; however, the space center remained a separate identity which faced challenges in light of the end of the shuttle program, and pending cuts in NASA’s funding.

Upon joining the credit union as President/CEO two years ago, Joe Mirachi began grappling with the question of branding, and the credit union’s long-term future. “The easy answer was to ignore the issue and kick the can down the road,” says Mirachi. However, Mirachi became convinced that protecting the status quo was not in the best interest of the credit union members and the local communities it serves.

“We saw the need to move forward because the member landscape around our credit union was changing,” he says. “We had to make the proper adjustments to match that changing landscape, which would take us to the next level of success and build more value for our member-owners.”

Mirachi recognized the significance of rebranding, and after vetting a number of firms, hired the folks at Raoust+Partners to assist with the credit union’s rebranding effort. Ultimately, this venture included a new and fitting name: Launch Federal Credit Union.

“The challenge with this rebranding campaign is more visible than most,” explains Raoust+Partners’ President Olivier Raoust. “The credit union had so much equity in the Kennedy Space Center name; it was going to be quite impactful initially. But it was something that had to be done because of the changing composition of the membership. Plus, the number of workers at the space center itself was down almost 50% from the peak of the shuttle mission.”

Mirachi admitted it’s tough to change a long-standing and well-received name, adding that many longtime space center employees hated to see the credit union’s name changed. The credit union even lost some members over it which, he states, “was sad to see.”

Launch FCU debuted its new name in June 2014, and according to Mirachi, “Overall the reaction of most members was neutral to positive. Additionally, the warmer “burnt orange” color, redesigned logo and new tagline of “Go Beyond” were well received by most existing and potential members. Our new name was selected to honor our roots on the space center while being more inclusive to others such as teachers who help “launch” the future success of our children.”

“In the end, we learned that for the vast majority of members their connection wasn’t with the name,” Mirachi says. “It was with our people; they enjoy interacting with each other. Members were most concerned with seeing their familiar, friendly staff members. They were also concerned about account numbers being the same, debit cards still working, passwords not changed, etc.”

“The credit union’s name change had to be completely aligned with what they were doing internally,” adds Raoust. “We were very cognizant of that fact, so we focused on their evolving and expanding position within the community because of the demographic shifts occurring.”

Currently the credit union enjoys an average penetration rate of 5% in the two counties it serves although it’s closer to 15% in northern Brevard where the space center is located. “It’s critical for any credit union to grow to be competitive in the marketplace,” Mirachi says. “We have plenty of room to grow over the next 10 years within the two counties we represent today – along with deepening our relationships with established members for long-term growth.”

Mirachi states, “We selected Raoust+Partners to assist with our rebranding effort because they did not take a cookie-cutter approach to branding and selecting a new name. In reviewing their work for other credit unions, it was evident they took time to understand the culture and history of each credit union and the community they served. Their rebranding efforts emerged from that approach. They did not always recommend a name change, and only did so when the reasons to change clearly outweighed the reasons NOT to change the name. The result of the approach by Raoust+Partners was a unique brand identity for each particular credit union. That approach rang true for us.”

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