MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to branding it comes from the inside out says Brand Tool Box President Karl D. Speak.
"It is not just about a new name, look or ad campaign," said Speak. "It is about how you strategically relate to members. The brands are built from the inside out not outside in and with internal branding the leadership team and employees are clear on how their credit union is different from the competitors in a language that is concise and on the terms of the member not the institution."
Speak has been delivering this message since he founded Brand Tool Box Ltd., 24 years ago and has combined his branding expertise with organizational development best practices to help organizations improve their brand-building competency.
Speak said internal brand building should be member-centric and comes with creating enthusiastic, engaged employees who deliver the distinctive value of the organization on a consistent basis.
"It is an organizational development tool that provides a clear indication of how employees fit in and how they can contribute. It helps each employee understand their personal brand and the organization's brand vision and how they work together to deliver their credit union's unique value proposition to the member," said Speak.
It starts with a brand discovery process that is comprised of a communications audit, a strategic business review, internal executive interviews, external brand assessment and internal brand assessment. He said the simplest way is to look both internally at products, services, key messages, credit union strengths and weaknesses, and externally at other financial institutions in markets served examining everything from sales collateral to Web site captures. It's about defining what the credit union believes in and how they are different, Speak explained, and having a clear understanding of what people inside the organization, from the leadership team to tellers, believe in. Then out of that, there is a clear picture of the possibilities, its distinctive value and a sense of forward direction.
-"Start with a brand vision, which is a five-year look at how the unique qualities of your credit union make a difference for your members, and then be sure the core values in your credit union support the behavior of that vision," said Speak. "Create a brand position that is a sentence long that defines your unique position and then make it approachable by all employees--that is key."
He also said it is vital to communicate with employees the impressions they have to leave with every member.
"Member relationships aren't built on what we say but how others perceive us," said Speak. "Where most companies go awry is they say here is my tagline, but they sound too commercial, general or too disingenuous. Boil the brand promise down to 10 words or less that employees can use. So at end of the day it is one thing they remember about brand platform or the organization."
He added that employees developing their personal brand helps not only boost morale but aids with retention, particularly with the younger generation that wants to be part of an organization that makes a difference.
"The best way it works is if the fundamental understanding is built from the bottom up and inspired from the top down to share the brand leadership," said Speak. "It engages employees and by developing their personal brand they learn how to be more effective in all the relationships in their lives and apply it at work. They understand what they have in common with the credit union and discover what they do is more of who they are not less so they go that extra mile for the member for their own reasons. There is also a clear sense of purpose that helps recruitment become more effective."
He added that the opportunities don't end there as credit unions have an edge on the competition in terms of brand character.
"If the brand promise is the short story then the brand character is the novel. It adds richness and emotional connection with its fundamental value proposition," said Speak. "Our experience with credit unions has been that few articulate their value proposition and brand platform focusing instead on something like lower rates, which are not big loyalty drivers. Credit unions are unlike any other financial institution--their member affinity and genuine higher purpose to help members are the two most fundamental drivers of any strong brand."