Podcast: Social Media Intersecting Brand and Culture

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Podcast: Social Media Intersecting Brand and Culture

I spoke with James Lenz, the Professional Development Manager at the Credit Union Executive Society, about developing social media strategy that reinforces your brand and your corporate culture. We talked about some really practical ways for organizations to drive engagement, develop more interesting and meaningful content, and still keep a handle on the resource commitment to social channels.

The CUES Podcast has listeners in over 15 countries and is available on podcast directories such as iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. It can also be reached at www.cues.org/podcast.

Enjoy!

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Congratulations to our Diamond Award winning clients

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Congratulations to our Diamond Award winning clients

The Diamond Awards recognize outstanding marketing and business development achievements in the credit union industry. The awards are presented by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Marketing & Business Development Council, a national network comprised of over 1,200 credit union marketing and business development professionals. Awards are given in each of 30 categories ranging from advertising to community events and beyond.

Several of our clients took home Diamond Awards this year:

Allegacy Federal Credit Union:

  1. Complete Campaign

Ardent Credit Union:

  1. Point of Sale Display & Retail Merchandising

Ent Credit Union:

  1. Complete Campaign
  2. Complete Campaign
  3. Commercial Video

Firefly Credit Union:

  1. Video
  2. Plastic Access Card Design
  3. Website Redesign

Fortera Credit Union:

  1. Logo

Leaders credit union:

  1. Logo

OnPoint Community Credit Union:

  1. Commercial Video
  2. Complete Campaign

San Mateo Credit Union:

  1. Point Of Sale Display & Retail Merchandising

Tidemark Credit Union:

  1. Logo

Award winners were recognized at the council’s 24th annual conference held March 29-April 1 in San Antonio, Texas. For more information on the Diamond Awards or to view the entire list of winners, click here.  

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7 must have skills to elevate the strategic role of credit union marketers

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7 must have skills to elevate the strategic role of credit union marketers

There is a rapid evolution occurring in the world of credit union marketing and branding—a series of fortunate events, if you will, that is elevating the strategic role and presence of marketing professionals.

In the not-too-distant past, if you’d given your marketing efforts a consistent brand look and feel, you’d done your job. Now, marketing priorities have broadened to place emphasis on integrating brand with culture and the execution of marketing strategies in a complex, dynamic and rapidly changing digital world.

The inextricable connection between brand and culture requires marketers to have an increased role organization wide, connecting all functions from operations to sales to product development to member experience.

The performance bar is at new heights. Marketers are expected to deliver well-crafted, comprehensive campaigns that generate a return on investment, create exceptional user experiences and maximize delivery channels. By necessity, the advanced knowledge and sophisticated skills required to be successful include:

  1. The ability to think strategically and back up ideas with execution;
  2. Deep, broad knowledge of financial services, consumer behavior and profitability drivers;
  3. Highly developed collaboration skills to help instill brand tenets, support cultural values and work to break down silos that get in the way of being a high-performing credit union;
  4. Marketing intelligence and ability to adapt proactively to impactful trends;
  5. Becoming more digitally focused, interpreting data and applying analytics, particularly to develop segmentation strategies to attract and retain profitable members;
  6. The ability to draw on experts, such as agencies, to fill specialized needs and manage a variety of roles and relationships; and
  7. Competency in all facets of digital marketing.

Unfortunately, many credit unions have not yet embraced the evolution of the strategic marketing profession. Leaders often question why, when their organization is successful, do they have to change so much? The answer is simple: What has helped them be successful in the past may not be the same thing that will work in the future. Undervaluing marketing may be a costly mistake. Credit unions with marketing efforts aligned to brand and culture find they drive efficiency and simplify their focus. That alone is worth elevating marketers to a higher profile, more strategic, executive-level role within their organizations.

Original article published on CUES Skybox Blog.


Karen McGaughey is VP Client Services and a Principal at Weber Marketing Group. She has over 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and branding and has earned the role of trusted advisor to many financial institution executives, having expertly guided their teams and Boards of Directors successfully through name and brand transformations, and marketing execution.

Join McGaughey and more thought-leaders in financial services marketing at  CUES School of Strategic Marketing™ I, July 17 – 19 and CUES School of Strategic Marketing™ II, July 20 – 21, both in Seattle. Attendees will take home knowledge and skills to share with their teams and lead organizational transformation.

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How to use company culture as an organizational catalyst for brand transformation

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How to use company culture as an organizational catalyst for brand transformation

Branding is everything when it comes to earning customers’ trust, and bad press can seriously damage a company’s reputation. But the root of the problem isn’t the branding or press — it’s the company’s culture.

Take Wells Fargo, for example. The company had to pay $185 million in fines after its employees allegedly opened millions of new accounts that customers may not have authorized in their haste to meet lofty sales goals.

The allegations don’t help the banking industry’s image, either. Two out of three consumers believe “all banks care about are their own interests.” And after the economic downturn of 2008, many consumers believe that all banks are the same. J.P. Morgan, for example, hired around 13,000 employees in the compliance area since 2012, yet 41-46 percent of consumers still see little difference between banks.

After the Wells Fargo fiasco, the company’s executives hired a third-party firm to examine its practices and help reform the culture that led its employees to create the fake accounts.

Focus on Values, Not Profits

Every great company knows that success and culture go hand in hand. A company that provides great service but is a miserable place to work won’t be successful for long. Wells Fargo focused on sales goals and profits instead of its employees, which only bolstered public perception that banks are only focused on their own interests.

Since 2008, banks and financial institutions have spent tens of millions of dollars on new initiatives that attempt to prove these organizations are resolving their harmful, profit-hungry culture problem. But with Wells Fargo-sized scandals occurring, it seems that most of these efforts have been superficial attempts to convince people they’ve changed their ways.

How, then, do financial leaders create sustainable (and legitimate) company cultures that can also improve their brand image?

Put People First

Business leaders must recognize that culture is the lifeblood of every organization. It strengthens a company, and a strong culture can help separate the top performers from the rest of the pack. We also learn about culture quickly from those around us, discovering what it takes to be successful based on what others do.

That’s why establishing a “sales culture” can be dangerous. When sales are prioritized over ethics and values, employees quickly learn that making money is the most important factor in becoming successful.

Sales incentives are not necessarily a bad thing. They can motivate employees to work harder to reach goals, after all. But if they’re poorly designed or overused, they can lead to greed, unethical behavior, and dishonesty. True employee motivation should be intrinsic and not solely focused on monetary goals, especially as younger employees want more than ever to find meaningful work.

Financial leaders should realize that culture is more than just a mission statement. It requires time, focus, and commitment. And it needs to be managed — after all, your company will always have a culture whether you cultivate it or not. Most companies, though, spend more time focusing on measurable, data-driven analysis than culture because culture is difficult to understand, implement, and measure.

Companies Doing It Right

Sometimes the best way to discover how to establish your own company’s culture is to look at other companies that are doing it well. One such financial institution is The World Bank, a United Nations-created institution that held down the No. 2 spot in Glassdoor’s “Best Financial Institutions to Work For” survey.

The World Bank has two goals: “End extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to no more than 3 percent,” and “Promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40 percent for every country.” The goals aren’t sales-related, but they do motivate employees to work hard so they make a difference in the lives of others.

The company also places a strong focus on keeping employees happy with a wide variety of perks besides a hefty paycheck.

“Employees are well-compensated and receive a very nice retirement package,” one The World Bank manager explained. “There is opportunity to travel to bank sites in 180 countries around the world. It is fascinating to speak with others about their experiences growing up in very diverse environments.”

The World Bank isn’t the only financial institution striving for a meaning-focused company culture. One banking company in Asia, for example, created a “culture-led evolution program” that was intended to entirely revamp the business’s practices.

The CEO and leadership team focused on three basic behaviors: going the extra mile to delight customers, prioritizing performance over seniority, and supporting one another. The executive team found ways to implement each of these three behaviors throughout every department of the business — encouraging frontline staff to collaborate with other employees to solve customer problems, for example, as a way to keep customers delighted — and recognized employees who made a strong effort.

Building a Culture to Last

If your organization needs to overhaul its company culture from the ground up, the task can seem daunting, to say the least. But it’s not impossible. There are a few simple things to keep in mind as you begin building a cultural foundation that will help your company flourish.

1. Define Your Current Culture

Before you can start making changes to your company’s culture that will help it improve, you have to define it. Edgar Schein, professor emeritus at MIT Sloan School of Management and author of several books on organizational and cultural development, identified three core culture areas to address.

The first is the artifacts of your organization: the tangible or verbally identifiable elements that make up your company. Office design, dress code, and interactions can all signify to observers who are not affiliated with the company what the culture is like.

The second area is the espoused values of the company. What are your stated values and rules of behavior? What is your written mission? What policies and values do you enforce? Items like past HR surveys, exit interviews, company handbooks, and customer surveys can all provide a strong lens into your company’s culture. Assess whether so-called legacy culture hangovers are still relevant to your day-to-day operations and expectations. If the documented culture is largely outdated, assemble a cross-departmental team to determine which values are important to your company and what they say about your brand.

Finally, identify your company’s shared basic assumptions. These deeply embedded behaviors are usually unconscious indicators of the very essence of your culture. Conduct strategic interviews with cross-section of your organization to best understand the unwritten rules of how your culture operates.

Together, these uncovered artifacts, espoused values, and assumptions allow you to craft a picture of the current state of your organization’s culture so you can bridge to the desired future state. Get into the habit of conducting culture audits and surveys at least once a year if possible.

2. Go on a Fact-Finding Mission

Identify which areas of employee performance are rewarded, what incentives your organization uses to motivate team members, and what managers are measuring when it comes to performance reviews. You’ll also need to consider what actions are cause for discipline, what you’re teaching through praise and acknowledgment, and what policies you have spelled out in the employee handbook.

It’s often difficult to get a clear view of your own culture from within the organization, so it can be helpful to bring in an outside consultant who can give you a fresh perspective.

It’s also important to engage senior leadership and middle managers. They must be ready and willing to make changes and prepared to proactively support and reinforce the brand’s new cultural standards. Conduct interviews to get their perspective on unwritten rules and behaviors to get a true sense of your company’s cultural ecosystem because they’re likely to have a better view of what really happens when high-level decisions are made.

3. Establish a New Culture — and Keep Tabs on It

Creating new cultural boundaries and then sitting back and letting the chips fall where they may isn’t enough; you’ll need to consistently check in to ensure everything is still running as smoothly as planned.

Conduct culture audits and surveys at least once a year, and create a culture development road map that will outline how you intend to maintain and reinforce the culture you worked so hard to establish. You’ll also need to consistently provide the resources and tools that employees need to be successful. As a leader, you’re responsible for teaching staff about culture rather than just hoping they’ll pick up on the changes on their own.

Because culture is the current that keeps your organization running, it’s the most important aspect of the hiring process for employees. Make sure both new and established employees know what is expected of them in terms of culture, and hold the company and team members at every level accountable.

It may sound like a lot of work for something that’s difficult to define and measure, but in a world where consumers are increasingly skeptical of companies’ values — especially in the financial services industry — that work will pay off. Consumers’ trust is crucial for success, and establishing a healthy company culture is the best way to accomplish that.

Original article published March 21, 2017 on International Banker.


Karen McGaughey, VP Client Services | Principal, Weber Marketing Group

Karen McGaughey has over 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and branding. She has earned the role of trusted advisor to many financial institution executives, having expertly guided their teams and Boards of Directors successfully through name and brand transformations, and marketing execution. Read more...

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First Merchants Bank: Designed for Inspiration

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First Merchants Bank: Designed for Inspiration

Inspiration can be a powerful tool. But it doesn't happen by accident.

With almost 6,000 U.S. banks (not including the 6,200 credit unions), operating nearly 100,000 financial branches, there is generally very little difference in their design, operations, or customer experiences. It is easy for consumers to get lost in the sea of financial brand “sameness.” Only rarely do consumers find a bold and modern branch experience as branded or well designed as an Apple Store or a boutique hotel.

The dated branch model poses a huge competitive growth challenge for community banks attempting to stand out among well-funded megabanks like Wells, Chase and Citi, and even strong regional banks like US Bank and PNC.

For one community bank, First Merchants Bank, the second largest financial services holding company in Indiana, their leaders decided to step up and take on the challenge of competing for brand distinction — and even inspiring employees head on. First Merchants President and CEO Mike Rechin shared, “our goal was to go from a fairly traditional bank branch toward a vision of community banking where customers, neighborhood business owners and community partners get the support and guidance they need to flourish financially, aligned with today’s technology and digital banking habits. We knew this differentiated approach would require a strong brand partner to help us design a completely distinctive experience.”

So how does a bank take on the challenge of attracting customers?

When people hear the word ‘bank’ today, many have a well-defined perception of a very traditional brick and mortar branch with long teller lines. And who wants to spend one extra minute waiting inside a branch?

That’s exactly the stigma the $7 billion First Merchants wanted to alter. The First Merchants team reached out to national financial brand experts Weber Marketing Group of Seattle, WA. They wanted to shatter the perceptions of a boring bank by finding fresh inspiration and brand relevance in the design of a brand new prototype branch: one that looked more like 2020 than 1980.

We knew this differentiated approach would require a strong brand partner to help us design a completely distinctive experience.
— Mike Rechin, President & CEO, First Merchants Bank
A cross-functional design team collaborated with the Weber team to create a distinctive new branch prototype.

A cross-functional design team collaborated with the Weber team to create a distinctive new branch prototype.

Their journey first took them on the road to a series of Weber-led Seattle experience tours to explore brand leaders. From Starbucks new flagship Roastery prototype, to REI, Umpqua Bank, Pike Place Market, and finally the world’s largest foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it was the first step in their Prototype Visioning Process to create an experience completely unique to their Indiana bank brand.

Finding brand inspiration in unlikely places.

When you think of non-profit organizations, rarely do you think of world-class architecture, an 11,000 sq ft curated visitors center filled with life-changing stories, hands-on activities, global partner features and videos of real-life community struggles.

Bank leaders found their inspiration in the halls of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center, during their brand tours in Seattle, WA. They heard compelling stories and inspiring conversations that help support a paradigm shift  in their approach to creating a differentiated banking experience. 

But why inspire? This is a bank, after all. There are financial targets to hit, customers to retain, new customers to attract. What can inspiration do to help increase performance or growth?

First Merchants Bank’s First Vice President, Retail Banking, Deborah Robinson shared, “we began to realize we had to answer the question of ‘why’ first. It was even more important than ‘what’ we were trying to do with a new prototype. For us, The Gates Visitor Center humanized hundreds of global poverty obstacles they tackle daily by sharing why they are motivated to improve lives.” It struck a huge chord from a community bank perspective and provided affirmation that doing things differently – delivering a truly differentiated experience – could in fact make a positive impact in the quality of our customers’ lives and their own communities.”

The Gates Visitor Center features brand engaging storytelling and displays to inspire corporate and personal philanthropy.

The Gates Visitor Center features brand engaging storytelling and displays to inspire corporate and personal philanthropy.

“Action might be what we care about, but inspiration will lead us there. Inspiration is a tool, not just a byproduct that must be managed if you hope to attract new customers,” says Josh Streufert, Creative Director, Principal at Weber Marketing.

From those early Seattle brand tours and ensuing Visioning sessions and personal storytelling, came the inspirational goal to fuse old and new technologies into key design focal points to be seen throughout the new Broad Ripple branch prototype. 

Targeting a dynamic & competitive urban market.

In a small Indianapolis neighborhood known for its artsy vibe, innovators, and unique entrepreneurial ways of thinking, First Merchants decided to take on the challenge of tackling a hip, urban market called Broad Ripple. Market research revealed three key audience lifestyle targets to which this new experience would likely appeal. In addition to focusing on the young professionals and small business owners with tech- savvy habits, First Merchants wanted to spark conversations, provide engagement opportunities and shake up status quo banking in the market.

“We used bold language to challenge the status quo of banking and inspire a partnership, like “What can we build together?” said Weber’s Streufert.

Inspiring customers and leveraging positive culture shifts with a welcoming vibe.

It is important to grow inspiration not only from the people in front of the counter but also behind it. To the First Merchants team this meant creating a branch that inspired positive interactions, not only with staff and customers, but with smart phones, personal social media content and tablet technologies. 

A bank, like home isn’t just about the physical space, but the people inside it. First Merchants values their employees as their greatest asset, and thoughtfully sought employees who were willing to bring their authentic self to work. They sought individuals who wanted to engage and interact with customers and people in the community, not just monotonously going to a job at a bank.

From the locally roasted coffee bar, to conversation starting visual messaging, every detail of the prototype is tailored to the brand experience.

From the locally roasted coffee bar, to conversation starting visual messaging, every detail of the prototype is tailored to the brand experience.

The Weber Marketing team worked very closely with a hand-picked team of cross- functional leaders at First Merchants to help develop an inspiration-rich environment. Together, they created a space that tapped the most meaningful desires and life needs of the Broad Ripple community: a first child; a new home or a move; or funding for a growing small business.

In an effort to focus on the uber-local centric nature of the Broad Ripple community, First Merchants sourced local products for all of the branch features, down to the locally roasted coffee beans for their coffee bar and local artists whose work was showcased on digital displays and offices. 

This new branch prototype ‘brings a fresh and inspiring perspective to the future of preserving and growing wealth, as well as inspiring entrepreneurs far beyond just their money,’ according to Ruth Kapcia, Director of Retail Experience at Weber Marketing.

The inspiring new brand vision for First Merchants is realised in every detail.
— Deborah Robinson, First Vice President, Retail Banking

Building an innovative mobile & social interactive channel "first". 

In banking today, mobile technology is reshaping consumer experiences with highly developed smart phones, apps, and social media. There are vast ways to connect people that banks have not yet learned to fully tap.

Weber and First Merchants set out to develop a new mobile application for their customers that would inspire “social conversations” around what was important in their lives, and the causes and local non- profits they most cared about.

So Weber Marketing turned to their digital partner Codigo to help create a “first to market” Omni-channel “Social Media Wall.” It updates in real time, smart phone user comments that are simultaneously uploaded in the branch and on social sites.

Guests are invited to be part of the branch experience. With a mobile app and interactive social wall, their photos and stories are easily shared.

Guests are invited to be part of the branch experience. With a mobile app and interactive social wall, their photos and stories are easily shared.

The custom designed Social Wall gives customers a voice in community impact by uploading mobile user content to social media sites.
— Josh Streufert, Creative Director, Weber Marketing Group

The inspiring new brand vision for First Merchants is realized in every detail of the branch, from local artifacts, to workspaces open to the community for hosting meetings or talking through financial options from a banking specialist. The bold colors, graphics and inspiring quotes resonate with the eclectic Broad Ripple community. Robinson added, “people almost can’t believe it’s a bank branch, but we’ve seen people inspired to move their banking relationships to a place that defines how they want to be treated and recognizes and celebrates the uniqueness of their community. The banking center is additive to Broad Ripple. Our goal was to recognize, serve and celebrate what makes them unique.”

Showcased to a sold out house at BAI retail deliverY 2015.

The new branch prototype was showcased during a panel presentation featuring First Merchants’ Robinson and Weber Marketing’s Streufert at the 2015 BAI Retail Delivery Conference.

The standing room only crowd was hungry to learn how a branch prototype might transform a typical transaction relationship into a differentiated experience that inspires customers, employees, and communities alike.

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Branch photography used by permission of First Merchants Bank.

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Josh Streufert to speak on branding at CUES Execu/Summit

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Josh Streufert to speak on branding at CUES Execu/Summit

weber marketing group's creative director josh streufert is speaking on branding at the cues execu/summit in march at the westin snowmass resort in snowmass village, colorado.


"Fire and rust"

Friday, March 10th, 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Josh Streufert, Creative Director & Principal, Weber Marketing Group

Josh Streufert, Creative Director & Principal, Weber Marketing Group

The world’s top CEOs lead their organizations from a brand-first perspective. At the most basic level, brand is how you are perceived by the market. Jeff Bezos said that, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It's foundational to affinity, loyalty and consumer choice. In that sense, brand is the most valuable asset that any institution possesses—a complex mix of culture, actions, identity, and marketing.

In this session, we’ll explore why some brands fuel massive growth, while others may unwittingly keep their organizations from reaching their full potential. We’ll tackle questions of strategy, structure, and examine the critical factors to building a brand on fire, versus one that simply rusts away.


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Weber Marketing Group announces three promotions.

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Weber Marketing Group announces three promotions.

We're excited to announce that Ruth Kapcia, Matt DeVries and Charlotte Boutz have all been promoted for their outstanding contributions to the agency.

Ruth Kapcia Headshot 2017 (Square)

Ruth Kapcia

DIRECTOR OF RETAIL EXPERIENCE

Ruth has over 25 years of experience in retail design and visual merchandising. At Weber, Ruth designs, plans, and develops some of the most innovative retail financial prototypes in North America, including a new branch model for Canada’s largest credit union, Vancity. 

Ruth has worked at some of the nations top brand and retail companies, including Starbucks, Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma. Her knowledge and expertise in retail merchandising, POS displays, interior environments and branding helps clients set themselves completely apart from their competition. Read more...

Matt DeVries

Director of finance

Matt has 30+ years of experience in finance and accounting, spread between a variety of middle-market private and publicly traded manufacturing, service and technology companies. He brings a passion for solving complex finance, accounting and operational problems to our team. A Chicago native, Matt now resides in Seattle with his wife and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Charlotte Boutz-CONNELL

Director of Client Experience

Charlotte brings over 12 years of experience in account management, brand strategy, and consumer insights development to guide positive outcomes for clients. She is passionate about storytelling to connect brands with audiences.

Charlotte has worked across industries from global enterprise initiatives to local business startups. Her experience includes traditional advertising, social media strategies, brand building and product design innovation. Read more...

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Mark Weber Speaking at Washington Banker's Marketing Conference in March

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Mark Weber Speaking at Washington Banker's Marketing Conference in March

Weber Marketing group's CEO Mark Weber is speaking on data analytics and strategy at the washington bankers assocation marketing conference in SeaTac, Washington in March.


Aligning Data Analytics & Strategy to Transform Branch Experiences, Brand Performance & Prototype Modeling

Tuesday, March 21st, 11:15am-12:15pm

Mark Weber, CEO, Weber Marketing Group

Mark Weber, CEO, Weber Marketing Group

In a dynamically shifting market, your corporate strategic branch initiatives must be fully linked to your future channel evolution, market growth strategy, internal culture and brand experiences. But how often does the process start with data analytics, local market analysis, lifestyle segment differences and future-focused strategies to first define a 2021 Growth Road Map right for your market?

In the first part of this session, you’ll learn how banks can define their future segmentation targets and develop highly targeted 2021 Branch Network Plans using powerful data analytics and market scoring methods to reduce ineffective branches and target ideal growth opportunities.

Once your branch business objectives and market growth strategy are aligned, you’re ready to “reimagine banking: and design a new “2021 Branch Prototype Business Model,” supported by new technologies, brand and cultural initiatives and profitable products to drive new experiences and higher performance. We’ll share a best practice collaborative team process using bank case studies on how to realign and redesign your operations, processes, staffing model, branding and touch points to simplify and boost user brand experiences — and find competitive advantage.


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Redwood Credit Union feels the love.

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Redwood Credit Union feels the love.

It's not everyday a client hires us to leave their brand alone.

As one of the top credit unions in the country, what do you do when you already have a solid brand (but not communicated well), a flourishing business, and increasingly meaningful competition in your market? You figure out the answer to the critical question: how do we stay on top?

Redwood Credit Union (RCU), of Santa Rosa, CA, knew they had a strong brand, though a bit dated visually, and didn’t want to limit its growth by simply refreshing it for the sake of change. The problem was a lack of clarity in how to fully express the brand and talk about it in a consistent and differentiating way across the organization. They wanted to continue on their consistent path to success, but weren’t exactly sure how to shape their brand and maintain it. The credit union’s brand had so much potential; all it needed was a boost in the right direction. 

We weren’t looking to rebrand. We were looking for a way to articulate our brand that captured the real essence of who we were and what made us special.
— Brett Martinez, CEO, Redwood Credit Union

The credit union had remained financially strong, and was steadily onboarding new members. RCU was already a consistent winner as one of the best places to work in the North Bay Area. But does a great business slow down when they’ve accomplished so much on their way to the top? Absolutely not. It is the responsibility of the employees and stakeholders to help ensure it continues to grow. So, Redwood management reached out to Weber Marketing Group in hopes of more clearly defining their brand and amplifying their already thriving organization. 

Sometimes all you need to do is reflect, redefine and refresh.

Sometimes all you need to do is reflect, redefine and refresh.

Competing for more than member growth.

As a leading competitor in the financial sector in the North Bay Area, RCU was competing well against big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. But they needed to find a unique way to stand out more clearly in relevant ways to new and younger audiences. A er taking inventory of the current status of the brand with an extensive quantitative and qualitative market research process across three regional areas, Weber Marketing Group then moved on to define the credit union’s target audiences.

Using an array of sophisticated lifestyle segmentation tools, a geo-demographic analysis program and actual market demand/potential metrics for selected products, RCU’s overall target audience was defined as ‘Enhancement Seekers’, or those who have higher incomes, more education, are extremely active, and are goal-oriented people.

Finding the right brand identity to differentiate the credit union for enhancement seekers started first by looking at its current members, then looking to the future and the new members RCU expected to bring in. A newly articulated brand would need to gel with both current and future members, as the credit union stepped outside its normal comfort zones to communicate its values. But in order to do all this, they needed a new foundation to work from, and a new outlook to share with all staff  and members.

Interpreting employee understanding of the brand.

The team at Weber Marketing Group began an internal review on the current status of RCU’s culture with an extensive qualitative and quantitative research process. Robin McKenzie, SVP Marketing and Communications noted: “Many employees could describe facets of RCU’s brand, but could not consistently articulate the key brand essence or promise. Not boiling that promise down was holding us back from taking our brand to the next level.”

Is it possible to fall in love with a credit union?

Research found the name Redwood was well entrenched in the community. With strong awareness, a stellar image, a reputation for competitive pricing and a long-standing connection with its members, RCU discovered early on that their name was a major asset. They chose to forgo a name-change many credit unions take looking for a fresh start. Instead, they wanted to leverage their name by articulating and expressing the essence of the brand for more robust and relevant storytelling.

The mission was clear. Uncover Redwood Credit Union’s unique DNA and bring it to life.
— John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy, Weber Marketing Group
Dimensional in-branch office displays bring together the personal and the product with an approachable voice and authentic imagery.

Dimensional in-branch office displays bring together the personal and the product with an approachable voice and authentic imagery.

Everywhere Weber Marketing Group turned they encountered a deep a affinity for RCU, almost a love a air, something totally unheard of for a financial institution. Most people view banking as a chore, like going to the dry cleaners. Rarely is banking viewed as an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

For RCU, there was no denying the love for the organization that every employee and member expressed. Time and time again, research revealed members and employees alike had tremendous love for the credit union and its passion, culture, and commitment to serving its members. Weber Marketing Group determined that ‘love’ — a word not often used for a financial institution — was a differentiating brand attribute.

“Let me count the ways...”

The concept of building a brand around the idea of ‘love’ was a challenging proposition because the concept could easily venture into territories not appropriate for a financial institution.

Weber Marketing Group needed to capture the idea of ‘love’ for RCU in a relevant, motivating, and differentiating way that created an emotional and personal relationship with the consumers.

So, Weber Marketing Group took the base idea of love as RCU’s brand essence (the ‘why’ they do what they do) and crafted a home run of a brand promise: “We love to help you succeed.”

There's an energy created when you do what you love and love what you do.

There's an energy created when you do what you love and love what you do.

We love to help you succeed’ became the perfect expression of the RCU brand. It drives and motivates the entire organization’s passion to help members and certainly sets it vastly apart from the financial institutions RCU competes with.

Further development led to a brand tagline, that captures the promise and resonates with everyone in a personal way... ‘For all that you love.’

Conceptualized ideas come to life.

Everyone associated with RCU loves (pun intended) the newly articulated brand. It’s concise, clear, refreshing, and perfectly captures the DNA of the organization.

The first step in communicating an enterprise-wide strategic brand shift  is to bring all employees on board for a thorough understanding of the organization’s objectives. Weber Marketing Group designed a custom brand-training program implemented in a series of Brand Camps across the RCU network. Every single RCU associate graduated from the Camp and every new hire is onboarded through a video version of the training. The outcome is that the entire organization knows why ‘We love to help you succeed’ is the promise RCU makes and can articulate it accurately with consistency, actions, and shared storytelling.

Redwood's multi-faceted approach to meeting members' needs is reflected in the high-impact brand wall.

Redwood's multi-faceted approach to meeting members' needs is reflected in the high-impact brand wall.

Branding experiences.

With the internal branding complete, Weber Marketing Group turned to the outward expression of the brand. A key component is the experience a member receives in the branch.

Cynthia Negri, EVP, Chief Operating Officer explained, “As we worked to evolve our retail branch experiences, we linked our new segmentation model into a branch network strategy to identify our future growth markets. Then we used our brand and the Weber team to help us navigate a process of branch prototype design and new branded merchandising elements.”

A complete overhaul of the communication and merchandising within the branches now conveys fresh messaging that is relevant, motivating, informative and most importantly, establishes a unique engagement specific to RCU. The expression of ‘love’ comes alive with environmental design, digital messaging, interactive community outreach, product features, promotions and overall imaging.

An interactive community space allows members to share stories, goals, what they love about RCU, or just say 'hi'.

An interactive community space allows members to share stories, goals, what they love about RCU, or just say 'hi'.

All other consumer contact points have been infused with the brand articulation. From the responsive website to the mobile platform, to advertising and communication. Weber Marketing Group continues to create external campaigns backed by television radio, print, direct mail, digital and more.

The result of the credit union’s brand transformation is reflective in the expanded reach of its newly developed brand, creative campaigns, branch messaging, and staff cultural training. In 2015, total assets increased by 14 percent to $2.8 billion, and through the first nine months of 2016 they have grown over 15% to $3.15 billion. Net income in 2015 grew by 2.2% reaching more than $48 million. Net income for 2016 is forecasted at $55 million, an ROA of 1.84%. The credit union’s member base grew almost 6 percent in 2015 and is tracking at 7.5% growth in 2016. As California’s 11th largest credit union, Redwood saw growth in loans, up by 14 percent to $2.1 billion and is forecasted at a 20% increase for 2016.

In 2015, total assets grew by 14%

Loans increased by 14%

Membership grew by 6% in the same period.

 

In May 2015, independent consulting group, Glatt Consulting, named RCU the “Healthiest Credit Union in the Nation,” out of approximately 6,100 credit unions. The ranking was based on 11 areas of criteria, including net worth, return on assets, loan charge-o s, deposit growth, and ratio of loans to deposits.

In February 2016, Redwood received four Diamond Awards at the 2016 Credit Union National Association. In addition to their Corporate Identity, Brand Articulation, Electronic Marketing Campaign, and Business Services video winning awards, the standout winner was their Investment Services Geo- Targeted Campaign, which was named a ‘Category Best’ winner. The CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Awards “recognize creative excellence and out- standing results in credit union marketing.”

From social media and SEM to statement inserts, Redwood spreads the love across all channels.

From social media and SEM to statement inserts, Redwood spreads the love across all channels.

Simple, clean design with clear, concise messaging.

Simple, clean design with clear, concise messaging.

We love a good challenge.

Weber Marketing Group didn’t rebrand Redwood Credit Union. It led a research- based and staff  engaged process that uncovered the essence of Redwood’s personality and articulated the brand in a way that differentiates it and makes it relevant for many years to come. “There’s an energy created when you do what you love and you love what you do. This energy fuels our credit union’s endless care and devotion to passionately serve the best interests of our members, employees, and our communities,” said Robin McKenzie, SVP Marketing and Communications.

For any financial institution, big or small, a well-defined brand strategy is essential to finding a competitive difference that can lead to new levels of success for the organization. For many, their identity is built upon a foundation that may no longer exist or sparsely exists today. Other times, credit unions may have simply lost their way pursuing a community charter hoping that alone would characterize the credit union’s brand and personality. By articulating and defining the brand, the credit union is able to establish a renewed foundation from which to build the brand and dive deeper into opportunities for growth and expansion. 

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The Doney Memorial Pet Clinic

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The Doney Memorial Pet Clinic

This past month, Weber Marketing Group came together on behalf of The Doney Memorial Pet Clinic, which provides Seattle’s homeless and low-income pet stewards with free and low-cost veterinary services. Nearly a dozen Weber employees and vendors — some pictured here — gathered food, toys, and supplies to distribute during upcoming clinics at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.

Doney’s clients face hardship all year round, and the help they get from holiday drives like these is a similarly year-round benefit. Best of all, as a service run entirely on volunteer energy, there’s very little administration to get between donors and recipients. The goodwill is real, immediate, and palpable.

Warm beds, new toys, nutritious food, harnesses, leashes and other necessities collected during WMG’s holiday food drive. (l-r) Joshua Law, Ruth Kapcia, Amy Morales, Barbara Glenn. Not pictured: Randy Schultz, Bruce Northey, Dana Northey, Ben Stangland, Mark Weber, Kory Davidson, Jamie Layton from Weber print parter Imagine Visual Service.

Warm beds, new toys, nutritious food, harnesses, leashes and other necessities collected during WMG’s holiday food drive. (l-r) Joshua Law, Ruth Kapcia, Amy Morales, Barbara Glenn. Not pictured: Randy Schultz, Bruce Northey, Dana Northey, Ben Stangland, Mark Weber, Kory Davidson, Jamie Layton from Weber print parter Imagine Visual Service.

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Arkansas Federal Credit Union is building community by getting everyone onboard.

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Arkansas Federal Credit Union is building community by getting everyone onboard.

With a new brand, and focus, AFCU is ready to share their success story.

AFCU was looking for a way to engage their current members and spur growth in their community, so we developed a launch campaign to connect with both. With smart financial tools and guidance built for their community, AFCU is ready to get to work. 


“Handle Bars”

Objective: AFCU offers great lending options to help you find success at whatever you set out to do. This 30 second commercial spotlights how AFCU helps members reach their goals with affordable, flexible financing.


“Cones”

Objective: AFCU is dedicated to helping their community thrive—and they love to show it. This 30 second commercial highlights AFCU’s values and their continued commitment to their community and members. 

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What's Apple's "biggest product?" The store.

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What's Apple's "biggest product?" The store.

Yes, you read that right.

If you were actually answering that question, you might have said the iPhone. Maybe even the iPad, MacBook, Apple TV or Apple Watch… but I doubt you would have answered it with “the store”. Yet that’s exactly what Apple’s Retail Chief, Angela Ahrendts, told Fortune Magazine at a recent conference.

Apple stores are being redesigned to feature a Town Square that connects each location to the community it serves. Anchoring the space is a “huge” digital screen that defines the forum area. Customer needs are handled by roaming staff dubbed “creative pros” who are solely available to teach customers skills such as how to take better pictures with their iPhone’s camera or how to use photography apps. They also help with downloading Apple Music, gaming and art apps. 

What does all of this sound like? Well if you’re familiar with Weber Marketing Group’s retail design services, we hope you would say it sounds like the vision and model that we craft for many of our retail financial services clients all across North America.

Connected to the community? Check.

Universal associates educating clients on products and services? Check.

Engagement space for events, seminars and clinics? Check.

Self-serve automation for transactions monitored by fewer FTEs? Check.

Several years ago we used to hold the Apple Store and the Genius Bar up as the gold standard of retail design. Everyone would fawn over the coolness factor of the space. Well now it appears that Apple is heeding the advice that we often dispense to our clients when it comes to retail modeling…. it’s not the design. It’s your brand experience and business model that should be driving strategic decisions about how the space unfolds and connects. And a big part of that strategy usually involves an integrated community component.

Apple acknowledges that retail, and the communities it serves, is a vital component of their delivery. Check.

What’s the state of your brick & mortar network? Should we be working on a solution to integrate it into the communities you serve with a differentiated brand experience? If you check this statement, maybe you should check out Weber Marketing Group.

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Consumer research insights steer 102-year-old Workers Credit Union into a brand transformation while keeping their name intact.

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Consumer research insights steer 102-year-old Workers Credit Union into a brand transformation while keeping their name intact.

When your credit union’s logo conjures up associations with Waste Management, the trash people, you know you may be in need of a brand makeover.

Actually, the senior leadership team at $1.4 billion Workers Credit Union (WCU) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, already knew they were due for a brand refresh. They just didn’t know how far and wide they should take the 100-year-old brand or name. In fact, they didn’t really even know how to get started. So, they called in financial brand experts Weber Marketing Group of Seattle, WA to get a fresh perspective, research and an assessment on the state of their brand and name equity.

WMG launched a multi-prong, 360-degree view and evaluation of WCU’s name, brand, marketing, advertising, digital and retail experiences. This evaluation provided WCU with enough strategic data to make what is arguably every organizations most important decision: the direction, care, handling and guidance of their brand, name and logo in order to remain relevant, appealing, motivating and differentiated in the commoditized world of financial services retailing.

Engaging all stakeholders on a journey of brand equity discovery.

Members, non-members, employees, senior leadership team and the board of directors were all engaged to provide a meaningful articulation of varying brand, name, cultural and member experience perceptions. Each provided their perspective on how WCU was perceived in the marketplace and how well they were delivering on products, service, access, advice and helping members manage their money.

For the most part, Workers received high marks. WCU was seen as a great value and a trusted place for people’s financial needs. After all, you don’t grow into a $1.4 billion credit union without delivering what members want. Yet there were several key areas where the brand experience and image was not as effective as it could be.

The comprehensive brand audit examined every facet of marketing and provided observations and recommendations. Advertising messages, collateral, point-of-sale communication, digital, mobile and retail merchandising channels were all analyzed and presented in a detailed “State of the Brand” report.  This assessment report, combined with the learning from external and internal market research, became the ultimate decision tool that the senior leadership and the board needed to help them make the right brand, name and marketing choices moving forward.

Is a name change the lever of repositioning needed...or a mistake?

Before the engagement, many of Worker’s internal stakeholders and decision makers felt a name change was badly needed. Often credit union industry names are tied 50+ years of past history or former legacy sponsor organizations. Many younger consumers are often confused by even the concept of what a credit union is.

In the case of Workers Credit Union, research showed the name compounded the confusion in the marketplace and provided some barriers to soliciting new member growth. Workers Credit Union. Those three words: all contained some confusing or even negative connotations among non-members. It was a formula for a name change, right? Well, not so fast.

The voice of the consumer needed to be included in this conversation. Through an array of market focus groups, results found members loved their credit union name. Not surprisingly, they didn’t want it to change. Non-member prospects were also well aware of Workers credit union -- and thought highly of its reputation. Everyone was aware of some of their highly popular programs like “Give Back,” where Workers shares a cash dividend once a year with members. Workers was at the top of their game - and the name did not prove to be a major barrier to joining. 

Will expansion into new markets create brand confusion?

Workers Credit Union wanted to expand into the western fringes of the Boston metropolitan area: a region where they have low awareness and no branch presence. How would the Workers name and brand play there? The success of their expansion would hinge on attracting new members in a Boston commuter land that was predominantly Mass Affluent: with advanced degrees, high-tech jobs, dual incomes and high discretionary spending. Would they be attracted to an organization with a name as basic and potentially blue-collar sounding as Workers Credit Union?

As it turns out, research revealed, yes they would. The name resonated with many because everyone is a worker – unless you were born with a silver spoon or you won the lottery. The name was not a barrier and in fact had some character. It’s a real word, but it’s also one that is hard to trademark and protect.

The problem consumers revealed was not the name. It was the dated brand image, messaging and style. It was old, stodgy and unappealing. Remember the trash company logo reference? People didn’t give the credit union a second thought because the logo and marketing looked dated, uninviting and “not relevant to them”. The brand was in need of a total identity transformation if it hoped to appeal to this wider audience of potential members: especially more affluent ones.

The brand team at Weber recommended Workers CU retain its name, surprising management and the board. Well, mostly. WMG did recommend that Workers drop the confusing apostrophe (it was originally spelled Workers’) for the plural version of a worker… Workers Credit Union.  This was to even further communicate an emotional connection that it was for every worker. The apostrophe suggested, “a credit union belonging to workers”. Without it, it became “ a credit union of and for workers”. The apostrophe also created confusion and SEO challenges in WCU’s website URL.

The first step in the identity journey was to update the logo, mark and color palette (from Waste Management’s green and yellow), to an arresting blue and orange, unique among their financial competitors. A striking logo mark was developed with a stylized “W” anchoring a brush stroke symbol with three vertical components. The goal of the new icon was to make sure it translated well across all online, mobile and digital screen devices.

Concurrently with the logo redesign, the crafting of the strategic Brand Platform was underway. It’s the engine that drives the credit union towards consistency and a common language and focus. WCU’s brand was distilled down to “high performance banking,” and this essence became the compass of its brand differentiator. From the research and high Net Promoter Scores, it was clear they needed to lean deeper into their relationship pricing value proposition even deeper in their brand messaging.

The new brand essence of “high performance” was further defined with the new brand promise: “We’ll work hard for your financial success.” This promise was culled from member research and high loyalty member comments like this:

“I rate them a 10 due to low fees/no fees, good rates on checking and their cash back program. All my accounts are now with Workers because they outperform all my other accounts at other banks.” 

With a well-defined new brand platform, and a bold new logo and identity package, it was time to design the new brand identity and look & feel. WMG’s bold visual and tone of voice concepts gave the high performance banking it’s distinctive personality and style that now appeals to their mass affluent targets. The brand promise of “We’ll work hard for your financial success,” combined with their name Workers, was translated into a memorable, external brand tagline of simply: “Banking that works.”

When the new identity was unveiled in mid-2016, CEO Doug Peterson remarked, “this change isn’t just about logo or colors… it is much more. We have a strong history of providing a great value for our members and this is about making that commitment and experience clear, simple and appealing.”

The Weber Marketing retail team helped audit, renovate and update their 14 branches to reflect the brand program and bold new identity. New signage, brand paint colors and a robust interior messaging and merchandising system richly expresses the brand image in a fresh, and consistent new experience. The brand has now come to life and clearly differentiates Workers from their bank competitors.

Chief Operating Officer Sandra Sagehorn-Elliot said the branch changes are to “modernize” the credit union so that its image “matches what we provide in terms of value, energy and high performance experiences to our members.” Other member touchpoints were rebranded, including launching Apple Pay, new smartwatch apps and a refreshed mobile app to simplify members’ financial lives.

Although Weber Marketing has successfully renamed over 65 financial institutions, the Workers CU story shows why retaining a name with solid equity and rebranding the image and experiences can be just as powerful a growth strategy. 

“The key to brand and name decisions, is to involve the voice of the consumer,” says John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy for WMG. “Sometimes a name change is clearly called for. But when you have a strong, viable and protectable name, it suggests diving deeper into the reasons your brand is confused or not yet well-articulated, that’s stifling growth goals. Evaluating changing the name of an organization requires careful examination of your equity, growth strategies and as many strategic data points as possible.”

“Weber’s logical and pragmatic approach to brand development made so much sense to everyone, even the non-marketing people which is so important to making it successful,” said John Doyle, SVP/Retail Services at Workers Credit Union. “Their guidance was immeasurable to keep me and the entire brand team on track and committed to making this transition happen.”

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Ent is all about empowerment and their new spots prove it.

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Ent is all about empowerment and their new spots prove it.

When it comes to introductions, highlighting what you do is as important as who you are.

Ent needed help introducing their new brand while building awareness about their great product offerings, so we helped them develop a series of TV commercials to highlight the role Ent plays in helping member reach their goals.

Achievement—it’s an Ent thing.


auto spot

Objective: On top of great auto loans, Ent offers members more savings and convenience. Create a 30 second commercial highlighting how affordable and flexible financing your car with an Ent can be. 


business spot

Objective: Ent helps business owners accomplish their goals by making their banking easier with Free Business Checking. Tell a 30 second story showcasing the relationship Ent builds with business members.


checking spot

Objective: Ent Free Checking makes banking and staying connected easier, because members have better things to do with their time. Highlight the convenience and flexibility of banking with Ent in a 30 second commercial. 


mortgage spot

Objective: Ent Mortgage pre-approvals enable members to act quickly and confidently when they find their dream home. Show how Ent makes home buying easier in a 30 second spot. 


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