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.