Tomato, Tomato

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Tomato, Tomato

Millennials aren’t always so different.

When I moved to Seattle in 2012, the craft beer scene was well established, but in the years since, it has really boomed. Small breweries have popped up all over town. They open shop around the corner from competitors. They cram into spaces so small, you couldn’t park a car in them. But, on any random weekend afternoon, they’re all busy—really busy. We’re talking lines out the door.

It seems like every new brewery is a big success. I mean, people like beer. And in a densely populated city, one that’s growing by 1000+ people every week, each new brewery immediately becomes a new neighborhood hot spot. Maybe one day Seattle will get oversaturated with craft beer, but it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. Back to beer in a minute.

I recently read a Business Insider article in which the author presents the idea that Millennials, as a generation, are “psychologically scarred” by their experience having come of age during The Great Recession. And, that because of their experience, Millennials have unique consumer preferences that sometimes have severely negative impacts on well-established American companies and industries. You’ve probably heard it all before. But what caught my attention was that the author comes to the conclusion that Millennials aren’t responsible for their industry-killing ways, but that it’s actually their Baby Boomer parents who created the conditions they grew out of.

The Business Insider article focuses on the question, why do Millennials kill established businesses? To me that question is less about intent and more about outcome. Do Millennials and their unique consumer habits kill established business? Yes. Do they do it on purpose? Of course not. The onus really falls on the businesses themselves.

Like a lot of Millennials, I grew up in a suburb. My parents did, too. And also like a lot of Millennials, I moved to a city for work after college. It’s a trend that’s been written about quite a bit around the country: Millennials moving back into cities that previous generations left for suburbs. But, just like the generations before us, we care about convenience and community, too.

We frequent the businesses that make themselves a part of our lives. Businesses that open up on the streets we take to work or the restaurants around the corner from where we live— exactly like the small local breweries I mentioned earlier.

With every new brewery opening, or other small business for that matter, a neighborhood gets new life. Neighbors get a more local option. And people from outside your community come to visit to see what it’s got going on. Resulting in more businesses setting up shop. And more people moving in.

In my mind, Millennials aren’t industry-killers. We’re industry-definers. Our selective consumer habits define how businesses should adapt in order to remain successful and appealing.

In the same way that big box stores and chain dining followed the generations before us out of cities and into strip malls, the successful companies and small businesses of today must adapt to serve a growing generation of urbanites. 


Jake Cann, Copywriter Weber Marketing Group

Jake Cann, Copywriter

Weber Marketing Group

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CUES and John Mathes talk Effective Branding Principles

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CUES and John Mathes talk Effective Branding Principles

I was interviewed by CUES in their ongoing CUES Podcast series. In my episode, James Lenz and I talk about identifying your return on marketing objectives, defining exactly what is a brand, and explore the driving forces behind branding, including target audience segmentation. The episode is a great precursor to the CUES Strategic School of Marketing. I hope you’re attending if you’ve never been… and it’s not too late to sign up for this year’s school. Click HERE to find out more about it.

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Pen Air Credit Union respects their past by honoring their future.

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Pen Air Credit Union respects their past by honoring their future.

Regaining control: Helping a thinly stretched credit union reign in and firmly define its identity

When a credit union needs to step outside the boundaries of its historically rooted name to reach new markets where it is not known, how can it still maintain its brand personality, history and sense of local community?

For Northwest Florida’s oldest credit union, Pen Air Federal Credit Union, founded in 1936, this was the struggle they faced in 2014. Despite a 2011 rebranding and new corporate identity (with a four jet logo), the $1.2 billion financial institution was losing members and loan growth was stagnant. But the biggest challenge of all was overcoming the confusing community perceptions of who or what Pen Air was all about.

Stu Ramsey, Pen Air Federal Credit Union CEO, said, “Pen Air was financially successful when I got here and was known in the community, but we weren’t very consistent in our brand, or what our volunteerism looked like. When I talked to staff about who we were, I’d get 350 different answers. There was no clear message for who we were, or where we were going. And when the people in your communities aren’t even aware they can join your credit union, you’ve got a problem.” 

Pam Hatt, Pen Air Federal Credit Union Director of Marketing, said “I talked with Stu about recent ideas I had learned of doing a complete organization-wide ‘transformational rebrand.’ When we looked at our advertising and messaging, we realized there was no personality and no true identity. We were trying to be all things to all people.”

Searching for a strategic branding partner

For Pen Air’s Hatt, their brand selection process started with looking for a skilled partner in the major journey they knew awaited them. Hatt said, “There were many reasons why we selected Weber Marketing Group, even though they were 2,000 miles away in Seattle. In addition to an extensive selection process, we wanted a partner, not a vendor, that had well-documented, successful experience and big results partnering with larger financial institutions. We had learned the hard way a new logo and a ‘look and feel’ did not help our growth challenges. We needed someone to take a hard look at our challenges, our confusing market image: and connect the dots with research, staff  engagement, robust brand and cultural processes, and really be a true partner on this journey.” Pen Air hired Weber Marketing in hopes of reviving its dwindling brand.

Focusing in on the right target

With a diverse target market in the surrounding Pensacola, FL and Mobile, AL communities, Pen Air was struggling to define exactly who they wanted to reach through their marketing efforts that would be attracted to a credit union.

The steady loss of members and brand confusion was outweighing the need to simply appeal to a younger millennial audience. With a dated military style logo and little expression of any brand personality or internal culture, Pen Air desperately needed to find their focus ahead.

We were trying to be all things to all people.
— Pam Hatt, Director of Marketing, Pen Air FCU

What's in a name?

The first focus of the rebrand discovery process included a combination of quantitative and qualitative market research to uncover their name and brand equity both internally and externally. Weber Marketing engaged the entire staff through internal focus groups and stakeholder surveys to first to uncover perceptions, attitudes and feelings towards Pen Air’s brand, culture, operations and member experiences. Secondly, the Weber team helped identify which brand differences should be evolved to the next level. Following internal research, Weber then partnered with Goldman Consulting & Strategy to determine the credit union’s external market brand and name equity – and challenges, including the organization’s name awareness and reputation.

The research provided valuable feedback on the confusing perceptions of Pen Air’s military focus, which had shifted years earlier to a community charter. Yet this caused even more confusion for who could join. Ramsey noted, “Our heart & soul were rooted in the military and yet only 10% of our membership fit that demographic. People saw our jet fighter logo and assumed you either had to be military, or had to work for an airline.”

Research revealed that the Pen Air name held positive historical significance and positive impact on local communities. Yet, most local residents were totally unaware of their eligibility for membership. By combining the internal and external research and building a new brand strategy for the future, Weber Marketing determined that a new brand with the existing name would help build upon this rich history. But the Pen Air logo with four flying jets tested poorly among all audiences and needed serious modernization to avoid market confusion.

Establishing brand focus and clarity from the inside out

Internally, the Pen Air brand had no focus, brand promise or cohesive storytelling for staff  to rally behind. “We knew no matter what we did on the outside, it wasn’t going to be successful on the inside without a strong brand culture.” said Ramsey.

Following the brand workshops, sta surveys and focus groups, the focus became to define a new brand promise, personality and a set of brand actions that everyone could rally around. “During the whole process, a word kept coming up. We were hearing it from everyone inside and outside the organization. With the Weber team’s guidance, “Respect” became the foundation of our brand essence,” said Hatt.

The brand essence was then fused into a new internal brand promise: ‘We Promise to Respect and Value the Trust You Place in Us.’ Weber Marketing then built a brand identity, personality and key themes that would resonate with the newly defined target audience and be something the Pen Air staff  could proudly share.

It wasn’t going to be successful on the inside without a strong brand culture.
— Stu Ramsey, CEO, Pen Air FCU
A colorful, eye-catching billboard speaks to Pen Air's focus on doing what's best for their members.

A colorful, eye-catching billboard speaks to Pen Air's focus on doing what's best for their members.

A brand wall prominently features Pen Air's brand promise in all branches.

A brand wall prominently features Pen Air's brand promise in all branches.

Aligning the missing pieces 

In order to facilitate growth and promote increased member loyalty, Weber Marketing helped align all aspects of the new credit union brand around an immersive member experience that could be implemented across all channels and messaging. This platform was tightly integrated into a revamped mission, core values, and vision.

A new logo was designed to better reflect the diverse, but tightly connected markets around Pen Air. The new logo pays a natural, yet mild tribute to the history and heritage connection to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, while becoming more contemporary. For those in the community, it defines Pen Air’s “shared circle of commitment.” Everyone helping each other, out of trust and respect to make good happen in other people’s lives, both internally and externally. The different colors of the logo pay homage to the diversity of families, ethnic cultures and communities throughout the Pensacola area.

From an innovative brand experience to a new brand essence, Weber Marketing was reconstructing a bold new identity for Pen Air, helping differentiate the credit union from the competition from top to bottom. The credit union was slowly beginning to find its unique personality and reclaim its unique position in the market. 

Logo Before

Logo Before

Logo After

Logo After

"Blending out"

An organizational mantra of ‘Blending Out’ became the new counter-cultural status quo for the credit union. This meant creating bold and distinctive new marketing materials and bringing the credit union’s new identity and personality, as well as transforming internally through staff  interactions with members and each other. It meant living out boldly and publicly their commitment to improve the community around them. 

The new brand is focused on the importance of living out the four pillars of the credit union through their brand actions:

  1. Serve First: Members and our co- workers come first, plain and simple.
  2. Solution Seekers: We value innovation and creativity.
  3. Communerosity: Generosity and a sense of community are two qualities we value highly and why together they become our volunteer rallying cry of Communerosity!
  4. ProKnows: We are dependable, honest, professional and knowledgeable. 

Out of these pillars, one in particular stood out to be more deeply embraced as a true distinctive action: Communerosity.

Pen Air's TV spots showcase their values with authentic moments featuring real members from the Pensacola community.

When credit union values and community collide

What is Communerosity? Pen Air created the idea out of a desire to serve its community with a bold heart of generosity. The idea had existed within the organization for quite some time but just needed to be named. It was coined by a Pen Air employee during an employee ‘brandstorming’ session. Hatt, the driving force behind the program, began to see “a huge employee groundswell in the Communerosity arena following the rebrand. Our team has really bought into this idea and everyone has been jumping on board,” she said, “we are seeing positive cultural momentum in the right direction.”

Following the launch of the program, the credit union saw sta volunteer activity increase in the community by 78%. The reflection of their values and actions in the community solidified the importance of firmly defined principles guiding the foundation of respect on which the newly articulated brand was built.

And with this renewed focus, the new brand was almost ready to launch to market. There was only one hurdle to overcome. How does everyone — 350 staff, the leadership team, and volunteers — get on board with living out the new brand?

We invite them to Brand Camp! 

Camp isn't just for kids

The Pen Air staff  was engaged in a full-day brand learning workshop led by Weber Marketing Group to learn how to live
the brand with consistent actions and behaviors at work, with members, and out in the community with confidence and consistency.

It’s not often people have a special story to answer the question ‘Why join our credit union?’ When you can connect a relevant story to the “why” question, you’ve gained a true and lasting competitive advantage.

“Brand Camp is much more than a brand reveal party to show o your new look and feel, said Randy Schultz, VP Marketing at Weber, “It’s the first time many employees are seeing the new logo, colors, website. But more importantly, they are learning new skills and behaviors to better interact consistently with members and each other with shared key messages, fresh ideas, rich storytelling and renewed passion.”

As part of a team building brand exercise, the staff  built 50 kids bicycles together. Their surprise later that day was that it wasn’t just an exercise: 50 kids rushed in from the local Boys and Girls Club for a group photo with Pen Air staff  as they presented the bikes to the kids live.

“Needless to say, there were a lot of joyful tears as they realized they got to be part of a real experience of Communerosity,” Hatt stated. Almost a year later our staff  still talk about that day. It’s such a great example now when people ask them ‘Why should I join Pen Air?”

“I can’t reiterate enough how you want to time this brand rollout and not just rush through the process,” said Ramsey. “We knew it would be important not just for our staff  to go through the Brand Camp training, but give their own input as to how we were going to live it, communicate it, and what we were going to do everyday for our members and our internal employees to experience our brand.”

Staff present bikes they hand built to kids from the local Boys and Girls Club.

Staff present bikes they hand built to kids from the local Boys and Girls Club.

Creating new brand experiences

Once the staff  was ready to live out the new Pen Air brand, the next step was rolling the brand consistently across an outdated and widespread 15-branch network. Weber Marketing created a unique and distinctive branch merchandising system and new digital technology displays to communicate the new brand values, messaging and product solutions, while totally differentiating the new Pen Air brand experience.

Weber designed a bold new Community Wall to actively engage members in sharing what they think would make their local community a better place to live. This direct member feedback gives Pen Air authentic examples of how they are affecting their members’ lives and their communities positively. The cards also o en give members a chance to voice what they think the credit union could do better.

Hatt said, “We have learned through this process that our members are really our best brand storytellers. The community wall ensures their voices are heard and acted on.”

The proof is in the numbers

Following several years of stagnant market growth, the results and bottom line impact of this enterprise-wide brand transformation at Pen Air has been staggering across the board. In the first year following the brand rollout, the impacts of the brand investment have led to the most dramatic growth in the credit union’s history:

  • 22.30% growth in total loans
  • 20.00% increase in Mortgage & HELOC loans
  • 27.48% increase in Consumer Loans
  • 11%+ growth in mobile banking, eStatements, and bill pay users
  • 0.83% growth in new membership • 3.19% increase in overall assets

With a goal to attract a tech-savvy and younger millennial target, Pen Air’s Social Media Initiative was born and communicated so that staff  and member involvement in the community did not go unnoticed. In addition to the new branding and a robust responsive website upgrade, the social program helped grab the attention of many: Google Analytics results showed a 100%+ increase in web traffic a year a er the brand launch.

What comes next?

Every aspect of the Pen Air brand was transformed and integrated culturally and operationally in order to live the mantra of “standing out,” not blending in. This was vital to fully reshape community perceptions of who Pen Air is, what they stand for amidst a sea of aggressive financial competitors, and why people should join.

The Pen Air rebranding successes and huge results did not go unnoticed in the financial and advertising industry either. Pen Air received four Addy Awards including Brand Story, Brand Web Ads, :30 Auto TV spot and Brand Integrated Campaign. The brand program also earned national attention earning four CUNA Diamond Awards and four MAC Awards.

“The management team learned the initiative was about much more than their brand identity, website or a new logo. This transformational brand process revitalized the Pen Air business model enterprise- wide, as any viable strategic branding initiative should,” Schultz added. “Creating transformation that drives bottom-line results is a journey of continuous improvement. And this first wave looks incredibly promising.” 

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2017 MAC Awards

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2017 MAC Awards

We're honored and excited to announce that eight of our clients won MAC Awards in 2017.

The MAC Awards recognize outstanding marketing, branding and business development achievements in the credit union industry. 

The Marketing Association of Credit Unions (MAC) recognized the award winners at their annual marketing conference held May 30th-June 2nd in Austin, Texas.

The following Weber Marketing Group clients received MAC Awards:

  • Allegacy Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem, NC
  • Ardent Credit Union in Philadelphia, PA
  • Ent Credit Union in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Firefly Credit Union in Burnsville, MN
  • Fortera Credit Union in Clarksville, TN
  • Leaders Credit Union in Jackson, TN
  • OnPoint Community Credit Union in Portland, OR
  • San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, CA

For more information on the MAC Awards or to view the entire list of winners, click here.

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MAC Conference Breakout Session: Turning Staff Into Brand Champions

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MAC Conference Breakout Session: Turning Staff Into Brand Champions

The 2017 MAC Conference is coming up on May 30th in Austin, Texas.

Randy Schultz, VP Marketing at Weber Marketing Group, and Dr. Neil Goldman, of Goldman Consulting & Strategy, lead an invaluable breakout session on how to turn your staff into brand champions.


Date: Thursday, June 1st
Time: 1:15pm, and again at 2:30pm
Location: The Westin Austin Downtown

Marketers speak to their brand every day, and many of those discussions are held internally as they talk social media strategies, product marketing and more. The roadblock is that most staff members don’t know:

  1. What their brand is all about
  2. Their role in the credit union's brand
  3. The organization's expectations of a differentiated experience that staff should be practicing on an everyday basis to separate you from the financial clutter. 

This interactive program pulls in the marketers themselves to talk about their pain points and success stories along with giving them practical tools they can take back to their organization to help turn their staff into Brand Champions.

Randy Schultz, VP Marketing, Weber Marketing Group

Randy Schultz, VP Marketing, Weber Marketing Group

Dr. Neil Goldman, GCS Consulting & Strategy

Dr. Neil Goldman, GCS Consulting & Strategy


Don't miss this session and everything else the MAC Conference has to offer.

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Three tactics to best utilize data and behavioral analytics

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Three tactics to best utilize data and behavioral analytics

Financial services organizations have access to some of the richest data and behavioral analytics around.

They know how people bank, borrow, save, transact and live their financial lives. But most organizations have limited ideas about how to harness that data, build strategies around it and use it to shape future performance. 

Thus more than ever, it pays to focus on this truth: Data and analytics generated by the customer provide a valuable blueprint for how to engage that customer in the future.

While creating a highly personalized digital experience occupies the minds of all financial services leaders, data analytics and application to drive performance can prove a game changer. Investing in data analytics technology, warehousing or marketing automation only mark the first steps. Banks also need the right people, processes and strategy to move data from interesting side notes to true business intelligence, strategy and profit-driving execution.

Most banks have data collection and storage systems, but often not linked. Many banks fail to cultivate specific ideas or strategies to collect what they want from the data—and determine how it can reshape customer experiences and performance. As the customer landscape continues to shift amid a digital and mobile revolution, banks must figure out how to use data to define growth strategies, create easier and simpler consumer engagement and ultimately grow wallet and market share.

Quantity, quality, strategy

Future growth with a demanding consumer audience depends on innovation, with enhanced customer experiences driving Net Promoter Scores and healthy referrals. Financial leaders need to use their data to identify their ideal existing target audience behaviors and patterns. This not only leads to better customer retention: It helps the organization grow.

Learning how to capture, cultivate and utilize the right data can help organizations marry qualitative knowledge and quantitative insights. This approach provides a wealth of data and opens the door for informed decisions, market analysis and modeling to create bold new growth strategies. 

Providers, privacy, products

Many insurance providers have made major strides with data analytics. They use algorithms to identify web-shopping patterns and build innovative models such as online policy price comparisons—while traditional banking providers have lagged in their use of data modeling. Because financial services organizations gather sensitive and confidential data, part of the challenge rests with addressing internal concerns over the balance of online privacy with delivering more innovative services.

That fear does not hold back a barrage of new online disruptive FinTech players—such as Acorns, Simple and Venmo—from creating rich new apps to make banking, payments, saving and investing simpler and more engaging.

One growing digital success story comes from Citigroup. As one of the world’s largest financial services organizations, Citigroup has adopted a robust, data-driven approach to provide simpler banking services and to grow market share. The company uses model testing to deconstruct its customer data analytics and to better understand how to engage with customers.

Financial services organizations can use analytics to mine their data and find new insights, which can reduce process complexity, improve customer channel experiences and bolster product performance strategies by reaching customers at the exact moment of need.

Here, then, are three tactics for making the best use of data:

1. Evaluate patterns, trends and triggers

Financial services organizations should focus on customers’ preferences, needs and behaviors to facilitate the organization’s growth. But first, determine what these are. Collect data and analyze trends using a strategic process to define customer behaviors and channel usage to help build future predictive models.

Organized data provides vital insights to sets of patterns, trends and triggers that define the customers’ choices and where the organization has succeeded (or failed) at responding to those moments. This can help define future digital actions and growth strategies.

2. Strategize your growth rise

This should start with identifying the most committed, productive and profitable customers. While financial services leaders know that not all customer relationships are equal in value, few can quantify which customer segments fall into the ideal 10 or 20 percent of users by product, profit generation and recency—and then find those segments in the general population to grow more of them. 

Conducting client and market analysis based on rich psychographic and lifestyle segmentation adds incredible value to data and market analytics. Lifestyle segmentation allows you to focus on laser targeting strategies well beyond basic demographics or vague clusters such as Millennials. By geocoding customer household data and tying it to market financial analytics and big data, we can now understand behaviors and market share, as well as forecast growth and predict performance trends.

When organizations can pinpoint future targeted growth segments and market performance, the profitability of each, and their growth in market population, they can better understand their market and how to best reach customers to optimize growth. Then it’s time to utilize behavioral data to identify patterns of actions for targeting.

3. Prioritize through models

By ranking and weighting specific tailored growth criteria, financial services leaders can build customized market algorithms that model future priorities. This can help pinpoint underperforming locations and future growth markets, increasing performance as a result. By leveraging data analytics, forecasting and market scoring, banks can model growth strategies out five years to target the most lucrative real estate opportunities. 

As for the present, financial services organizations sit on a wealth of data analytics and information, but do they use it to its fullest potential?

Start with the right process of defining growth plans, profitable products, distinctive brand experiences and value proposition. Then build the right data model and long-range growth strategy and performance model that will set the organization up for success. After all, nothing beats crunching the data that results from a stellar uptick in performance.

Original article published May 9, 2017 on BAI Banking Strategies.


Mark Weber, Founder & CEO, Weber Marketing Group

Mark Weber, Founder & CEO, Weber Marketing Group

Mark Weber is a marketing analyst, brand strategy consultant, and financial services industry expert. He advises clients on strategic brand and growth initiatives. He is a national speaker and author, and blogs on branding, branch prototyping, emerging technologies, and consumer behavior trends. Read more.

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Forum Breakout Session: Harnessing the Power of Data Analytics to Achieve Strategic Brand Alignment

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Forum Breakout Session: Harnessing the Power of Data Analytics to Achieve Strategic Brand Alignment

The 2017 financial brand forum in Las Vegas is the biggest financial marketing conference in the world.

Weber Marketing CEO, Mark Weber, and Firefly Credit Union CMO, Marty Kelly, lead an invaluable breakout session on leveraging data analytics to achieve strategic brand alignment.

Date: Thursday, May 18th
Time: 9:30am, and again at 11:00am
Location: The Cosmopolitan 

In a dynamically shifting world, it’s critical that your institution’s overarching strategic plan align everything together — your growth goals, the evolution of your retail delivery channels, your internal culture and your external brand experiences. If you’re not using the power of data analytics to drive these decisions and tie your strategy together, you’re behind the curve.

In this session, you’ll learn how leading financial institutions are leveraging insights gleaned through data analytics to achieve strategic clarity and improve their marketing ROI.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How data-driven insights will help you build alignment among key stakeholders for your institution’s strategic plan and future vision
  • How to leverage data analytics to align your brand strategy with business objectives, redefine your customer experience, and create a clear roadmap for future technology and branch plans
  • How to integrate psychographic modeling, lifestyle segmentation and heat map scoring into your marketing and growth plans
  • How a $1 billion financial institution uses data to bring renewed focus to their corporate growth initiatives
Martin Kelly, SVP/CMO, Firefly Credit Union

Martin Kelly, SVP/CMO, Firefly Credit Union

Mark Weber, CEO & Founder, Weber Marketing Group

Mark Weber, CEO & Founder, Weber Marketing Group


Don't miss this breakout session from the brightest minds in banking. To learn more and to register for the Financial Brand Forum, click here.

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World Vision Global 6k for Water

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World Vision Global 6k for Water

Kathy Karner, Traffic & Production Manager at Weber Marketing Group, is participating in the World Vision Global 6k for Water worldwide event on Saturday, May 6th.

People around the world will be walking/running/skipping 6k on May 6th. The 6k distance echoes the 6k average distance that people in developing countries, most often women and children, must walk daily to find drinking water. Often when they do, the water is dirty and unsafe. With World Vision’s help in these areas, $50 (the entrance fee for the event, also a target amount for fundraising) provides clean, close water to one child FOR LIFE. The price of 10 lattes can bring clean water to someone from here on out, a life-changing event.

Kathy's race bib has a picture of a boy named Belo, from Mozambique, who will benefit from this walk. He is also available for child sponsorship, which will help bring him and his village resources they would otherwise not have in health, education, training and services. 

Kathy Karner, Traffic & Production Manager, Weber Marketing Group

Kathy Karner, Traffic & Production Manager, Weber Marketing Group

I am excited to partner with World Vision in my goal to raise $500, or clean drinking water for 10 people. Can’t wait to walk 6k for water on Saturday, May 6th!!!
— Kathy Karner

Kathy is a passionate supporter of World Vision’s work in the world. She sponsors a child, Kavya, as well as emergency feet-on-the-ground services during crises. World Vision runs in when others are running out.

For more information, and to donate or register, click here.

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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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