CU Branding 101: What do we believe about credit union brands?

Since we call our blog the CU Brand Blog, I feel I should do a few posts on Currency's credit union brand beliefs and branding process. I'll title and tag these posts 'CU Branding 101.'

Before I get into some real meat in future posts, let me communicate 10 of our basic beliefs about branding for credit unions:

  1. Successful credit union branding is about revealing and promoting an easily understood, authentic difference over an extended period of time.
  2. A successful credit union brand must be fundamentally differentiated from competitive offerings.
  3. Your credit union's difference must be extremely compelling to a defined group of people.
  4. A credit union's products and services are inherently not different than any of their competitors. Therefore creating a unique brand for a credit union is harder than doing so for almost any other type of organization.
  5. Your credit union simply doing something better does not make it different. I recently read a post by Jeff Stephens on his The Story blog that articulates and supports this notion.
  6. Expanding your credit union's geographic footprint and broadening its field of membership makes your brand less compelling. It may defy logic, but the bigger your credit union gets the more differentiated it must be.
  7. A new name is not a silver bullet for success. There are many reasons to change your credit union's name, but don't be led to believe that a new name will miraculously have new members running through the doors. A new name must be backed by a highly differentiated brand strategy. It can take years for your new name to surpass the brand equity you had in your original name.
  8. The built-in credit union difference is no longer readily understood and even when it is understood it is not compelling. Essentially, being local, community minded and member owned are all great, but on their own they no longer compel prospective members to action.
  9. Building a differentiated credit union brand requires a special process. Not to knock our competition, but when a generalist marketing and branding agency employs its brand-building process to a credit union it does not come out with a differentiated brand. These processes are meant to extract what makes a brand different, but the problem is all credit unions are basically the same. We believe that a credit union must actually decide on their difference, make fundamental changes to support that decision and grow into their brand over time.
  10. Despite the first nine points, we believe building a successful, differentiated credit union brand is not only possible, but can be a lot of fun in the process.

This post sets the stage for upcoming CU Branding 101 posts. My intent is to unseat some long-held beliefs on credit union branding and push credit unions to step up and identify and claim their difference.

Tim