By Jerry Goldstein

Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

As times have changed, so too has your credit union. You may have changed your charter to broaden membership. You have undoubtedly expanded the way in which you communicate with your members, including the channels you use. Maybe you now have a Facebook page or share financial advice via YouTube. Who you target as members has probably grown younger. Maybe your credit union has merged with another. These are all good reasons to consider rebranding.

What Rebranding ISN’T

I can’t tell you how many times I have read or said this, but it bears repeating: Rebranding is NOT just a name change. In fact, only when there is a profound shift in identity is a name change truly necessary:

  • the name ties you to a geographic region or company that is no longer accurate; or
  • your credit union has merged with another.

What Rebranding IS

Rebranding can be as simple as adopting an additional company color, changing the font of your logo, or fine-tuning your tagline.

  • COLOR: While yellow and brown may have been a hip color combination in the ’70s, today, it clearly screams, “I’m outdated. Not cool retro, just old.” Cooler blues, greens and purples are more contemporary. If you want to keep the yellow, consider pairing it with blue or red.
  • FONT: While Time New Roman or Baskerville Old Face may carry the weight needed to say, “Our credit union is serious about financial products and services,” the type is also rigid and unfriendly. Fonts that are san serif or without ornaments, such as Arial or Calibri, are more clean and contemporary.
  • TAGLINE: While your charter may have once restricted your credit union to serving members in a specific geographic area, you no longer want to pigeonhole your current members or turn away potential members. Maybe you no longer “Meet Atlanta’s financial needs,” but instead you “Meet savvy consumers’ financial needs…today and tomorrow.

Do not confuse my writing “simple” at the start of this section with advice to go into a rebrand without strategic planning and methodical execution. Both of those are necessary to be successful. In fact, a change in your credit union’s key messages to employees and members is all that is necessary to technically undergo a rebrand. You may not make any changes to your outward appearance, but you have overhauled your industry positioning.

Announce the Rebrand

Included in rebranding should be a plan to communicate its benefits to employees and members. Your PR team should recommend:

  • a personal note from the CEO, first to employees, then to members;
  • updates to search engine optimization, Google AdWords, etc.; and
  • press outreach.

A Rebranding Example

I enjoyed reading and agree with the insights shared by Anita McLendon, VP/marketing for UMe Federal Credit Union, formerly Burbank Community Federal Credit Union, on the strategy behind her organization’s rebrand. A Q&A with her can be read on The Financial Brand website.

The credit union was also recognized on the 2012 REBRAND 100 Global Awards, the first recognition for repositioned brands. You can see the evolution of the CU’s marketing collateral at http://www.rebrand.com/merit-ume-credit-union.

Rebranding Takes Work

When committing to a brand – slightly tweaked or completely overhauled – it is important that your PR department and entire credit union be clear, consistent and constant – The Three Cs. Without a strong commitment to your brand through the use of company messaging and brand elements, the time, energy and resources you put into rebranding have and will be wasted. A vibrant, new identity will be worth all the effort.

Name Check

Before building your rebrand around a specific name, make sure to:

1) Search online for previous uses of the same name.

2) Examine records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

3) Explore state trademark registrations.

4) Enlist the help of a trademark attorney for search and filing.