One key challenge facing many credit union executive leaders is maintaining the momentum of their unique brand culture. A way to address this issue comes from the following key brand tenet: “your brand requires a long-term view and uncompromising values.”
Let’s focus on the “long-term view” portion of this edict. For many banks and credit unions still working on the old-school “marketing calendar flavor of the month” promotion-based culture this is a challenge.
Branding, when done well, blows away the traditional marketing calendar in favor of promoting your credit union brand culture over products and services (the logic here being that, if all staff does a terrific job living the brand, members and potential members will come to you for that outstanding retail experience regardless).
However, old habits die hard (trust me, after spending many years working inside credit unions in marketing roles, I understand this first-hand). When a credit union transitions from a promotion-based culture to a brand-based experience, it can feel a little scary. After all, your marketing staff may have run essentially the same calendar and/or promotions for many years and with familiarity comes comfort. Branding, with all its immense potential for deeper and more meaningful relationships, is a change from the old school and requires adaptability.
A brand culture is not a promotion. You do not start branding one day and then finish it a month or six weeks later. Your credit union’s brand, once clearly defined, trained to staff and launched to the public, is evergreen. As the brand tenet above indicates, your credit union brand requires a long-term view. That means you stick to the brand, including every single granular detail of it, as a team. The brand is also unlike a promotion in that it is not meant as a “shot in the arm” to the bottom line like a promotion is typically viewed. Your brand is a long-term investment in the strength of your credit union culture and its ability to weather the storms of business change such as new products and services, new competitors, new technology, etc. Your brand, with a degree of adaptability, will weather these changes whereas a promotion is simply meant for a specific time or season.
Not every day in branding is easy. You’ll likely have to make tough decisions and enforce brand policies and guidelines that may not prove popular with every person and/or department. But stick to it you must. Staff must also fully understand (and this is best expressed in initial and ongoing brand training) that your credit union brand culture isn’t going away and isn’t just another “bee in the bonnet” the leadership team is currently hot-to-trot about. Of course, if your credit union is just rolling out a new brand culture, you cannot expect all staff to live it perfectly immediately. You must give them time and training in order to get online with the new brand (and express the opportunity for this learning curve during your initial all-staff brand training).
Your brand is not a promotion. It’s not a jug of milk with an expiration date or coupon good only till the end of the month. Your brand is a promise, your brand is a culture and your brand is an experience that staff and members must live every day, in every way. If you treat your brand like a long-term relationship instead of a weekend fling, it has a much better chance of taking root and flourishing in the hearts and minds of your members.