"We've taken the middle ground among military-oriented credit unions in sticking to our name but working to alter perceptions that you don't have to be a member of the military to join," explained Gail DeBoer, president/CEO.
The Bellevue, Neb., community CU, which has roots on-base from the Strategic Air Command, debuted its new logo and new marketing materials on TV, billboards and online recently, including a special microsite for young people. This was its first major rebranding campaign in 20 years.
Overall, SAC's ads stress the differences between CUs and banks and also touch on the ease in joining the CU. As part of the rebranding, SAC replaced its old slogan, "Your Financial Partner for Life" with "Better Banking" and "People Helping People."
SAC stressed that the makeover is not part of any reorganization and that only the brand imagery is changing, reassuring members that "SAC FCU remains strong."
"We decided the SAC name is too well identified in the community and has too much goodwill to ever abandon," said DeBoer, noting that the CU has never before invested so much in marketing.
"We are spending $900,000 for the year-long campaign, and I think the most we ever spent in a single year was $300,000, but it reflects our need to pursue aggressive growth," she said. Current conditions make such an expansion appropriate, DeBoer added.
The new logo and identity were created by OBI Creative, an Omaha agency that has done work for Gateway computers. In taking on the SAC account, the firm revamped all of the CU's marketing vehicles from signs to product literature to rid the CU of what it called a "dated, military-only look."
In redirecting the message, OBI said SAC has targeted those who do not already bank at CUs, those who "didn't generally know how credit unions are different from banks, why they would want to bank at a credit union, or that they could even join," OBI's Web site, www.obicreative.com, said.
"We wanted SAC's identity to appeal to a wider, more progressive audience without abandoning its heritage entirely," said OBI.
To get the most out of the ads, OBI said SAC is targeting the 70% or so of people not using a credit union. They're the best candidates for new membership because they have much to gain: "better rates, lower fees, greater stability, and a volunteer board of directors looking out for them."
DeBoer said SAC's own surveys showed that 51% of the public believes you have to be in the military to join, so management felt it had its work cut out in a remake without "losing identity."
"We did study the experience of some other military credit unions like Grow [Financial FCU, formerly MacDill FCU] in Florida, which did drop the base name, and while they have done well, we decided against it," said DeBoer.
As one other element of the rebranding promotion, the SAC has purchased a Mini Cooper as a kind of traveling billboard in parades and at community events. In addition, SAC last week conducted a direct mail promotion distributed to more than 8,000 graduating high school seniors in the metro area inviting them to join SAC.