As we’ve written before, Branding to a company is like reputation to a person. Everything from a logo design to how support answers the phone—branding is the first impression, the ongoing relationship, and essentially every interaction that your current and potential customer experience with your company or product(s).

Marty Neumeier, renowned speaker and author of The Brand Gap, writes,

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.”

The lack of prolific, forward-thinking branding throughout the industry is a tremendous opportunity for savvy credit unions

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. The way people interact with banks and credit unions is rapidly changing. Over 60 percent of the incoming generation of potential members say that they would rather bank with technology providers, such as Apple, than with a credit union or bank. And that number is growing. Credit union brands are often fairly conservative and strongly tied to the community—traits that are often positive and associated with a down-to-earth brand. However, these characteristics can also make a brand seem technophobic and unwilling to adapt. There’s no reason a credit union can’t be tech-friendly and embrace the community and customer service. This means there’s a ton of opportunity for credit union CMO’s who can anticipate the disruption caused by new technologies.

Create a ‘Brand Promise’ that means something

Big banks notice the trends, too. Banks that have embraced innovation and technology as part of their brand have flourished, whereas those slow and resistant to change have suffered. Look no further than Umpqua Bank to find a perfect example of a brand-driven culture that is contagious to members and the community. The marketers at Umpqua created a brand promise, a value proposition, that everyone in the organization understands, believes in, and most importantly, demonstrates each day. Umpqua’s, “neighborhood stores” approach to banking has current and potential members thinking beyond errands and transactions—and financial institutions around the country have taken notice as Umpqua is quickly becoming the largest community bank in the Western United States.

Differentiate or die

What’s everybody else doing? Are you doing the same thing? Does your website look like everyone else’s site? Are your branches indiscernible from those of your competitors or of any generic bank? How about your slogan and logo—a little cookie-cutter? When potential members see that your brand looks like everyone else’s, they start to focus on whatever minute differences they can spot. You want customers to fall in love with your brand and to value the entire banking experience and advice, not nickel and dime the differences in rates and fees.
We get it. Many credit unions see rates, fees, and locations as the only tangible, relevant points of differentiation over their competitors. The truth is, credit unions have a lot of room to differentiate themselves, but it all starts with being nimble—something that isn’t necessarily synonymous with the financial industry.
Umpqua’s executive vice president talks about the risks and benefits of differentiation:

“You have to do new things, try new things because one of them just might stick. And if you try something and it fails? Try again.”

Create a consistent brand experience

Consistency is the key to establishing brand identity and to turning your company’s purpose and mission into a human story. When your customers see and hear a consistent message from your brand, it reinforces your identity and unique selling proposition and eventually, often subconsciously, assigns higher value and trust in your credit union. Think bigger than business cards and letterheads. True brand consistency extends from the branch culture and how you interact with current and potential members to subtle colors and particular language you use in your marketing.