What’s in a name? And why would I talk about the name when this article’s headline is about brand? Any strategic marketing agency who actually does this for a living will tell you that a credit union, despite the name (full of history and heritage, or new and often with a subtle link that pays homage to its legacy), is as much, if not more, about…yes…wait for it…the credit union’s “brand” than it’s name.

The name is significant for sure. But if you are telling me that members only go to credit unions because of the name on the building, and not because of the people inside – the great staff they have built relationships with, who have helped them in times of need (because that’s what credit unions do, right?), listened to their stories, and helped guide them sometimes more than just financially – well, you need to be in a different line of work.

And then there are those credit unions who have built their brands around their work in the community – with an aspirational brand promise like “Life Matters” or “United We Thrive” that becomes a rallying cry for staff, giving them an energy, renewing their passion for where they work and who they serve. Culture. Yes, your culture. If you are looking for something to set you apart, it’s a great place to not only start, but also continue to build and expand upon as you grow. And it’s more than simply handing them a cute employee handbook or pamphlet when you refresh or create an entirely new brand. It’s about getting your staff involved, asking them questions and making them part of the solution.

The other part of the solution to setting your credit union brand apart, in many instances, can certainly be your name. I’m not saying it needs to be changed. But for some it's a healthy exercise to be evaluated at levels none of us can comprehend from the outside – even seasoned marketers who see a new name and wonder, “Red Canoe Credit Union? Wow. Really?” The challenges credit unions face are daunting. The pressures to gain new, younger members, stabilize and grow capital, increase loans, develop new technologies to foster member wallet share and profitability are at an all time high. Kudos to this industry for meeting those challenges head on, and not burying our heads in the sand, thinking it will all go away and everything will return to normal. Guess what? There is no longer the word “normal” when it comes to who we are and what we do in credit unions.

We need to step up and deal with keeping this industry intact. Names, brands, culture shifts, branch planning and new branch prototype designs that align with target segments, product development and innovation – some credit unions are leading this charge, but not nearly enough of them. And each of these puzzle pieces have a part of your brand built into them that will affect a measurement of success.

So, marketing gurus out there…what if? What if we put our energy into talking about what a great cooperative movement we are all working in, gathering and telling stories about the peoples lives we’ve transformed, the fabulous employee cultures we’ve built to help our members and communities thrive, and continue to focus on growing profitably so we can be around to accomplish more for our members? Does your name help you get there as part of your brand?

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