In the constant bid for growth, it may help to work on building and reinforcing a strong foundation before chasing the next new thing.
That’s one of the findings from a new CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council white paper, “Designing an Integrated Brand Approach.” Part of that foundation mix means integrated branding.
“Your brand isn’t brochures or statement inserts,” said Mark Arnold, president of Dallas-based On the Mark Strategies, a marketing consulting firm, and author of the white paper. “It’s how every employee interacts with every member every day. Building a consistent, lasting, monitored, upheld, and delivered brand is the only way you can slice through the din of everyone else’s messages and hope to be heard.”
Your brand is a promise to consumers, added Amy Davis, vice president of marketing at the $594 million Red Canoe Credit Union in Longview, Wash.
“That promise has to be consistent through every touch point and interaction,” she said.
The promise Red Canoe strives to deliver on is to make banking easier and the experience enjoyable, according to Davis. It’s the filter through which everything is viewed and analyzed, from culture and recruiting talent to products and services offered.
“We’re not perfect but we continue to try our best,” Davis said. “We were very fortunate that we’ve always had a strong brand and internal culture, so our name change to Red Canoe in 2007 wasn’t about changing the core essence of who we are and what we stand for.”
As a result, the credit union’s brand has been evolving for decades and is a well-defined, strong one, Davis noted, adding in 2007, Red Canoe recognized that the packaging just needed to change.
In the white paper, a markeitingprofs.com survey revealed that those practicing integrated branding, reported increased impressions, better customer satisfaction scores and an increase in return on marketing investment.
“From the vision and values statements, brand then evolves from your credit union’s strategic plan,” Arnold said. “The importance of having and living a strategic plan (tied to your brand) is critical to success.”
To be successful, the brand must be owned by everyone, not just the marketing department, but staffers, members and potential members alike, Arnold explained.
“The best case scenario is to serve as an active shepherd of that brand, guiding it,” he said.
Success is then tied not only through marketing and public relations interactions, but also to a credit union’s website and social media presence, business development and community relations and front line staff, according to the paper.
With some 200 employees and seven branches at Red Canoe, Davis said ensuring consistency starts from the top down.
“It has to come from the CEO, board and leadership team, be ingrained in the culture or it’s impossible to have an integrated brand. Everyone here has to want to get it right for the member and each other,” said Davis.
For instance, Red Canoe has a team of people who get it and truly believe in the brand, she noted. There’s a great sense of pride and accountability and that buy-in is essential, Davis said.
“It’s not about being some enforcer, but a sounding board to ensure our deliverables are the best they can be as a team effort,” Davis said. “If I’m just walking around slapping wrists, that’s not helping deliver a consistent experience.”
In addition to the integrated banding initiative being championed by the CEO, Davis said credit unions must also conduct brutally honest evaluations of not only what their brand is and stands for, but also what changes need to be made and why.
“Is it that something isn’t working? Are you not reaching your target market? Are you hiring the right talent? Is the culture really one that supports living the brand? What’s brought you to this point to question your current brand approach,” said Davis.
Be willing to find out and really hear how your credit union is coming across in the communities you serve, she advised.
For instance, Red Canoe constantly looks at everything, gets input from its members and all areas across the organization to better deliver on its promise to make banking easier for members, Davis said.
“We’re not perfect but we step back, and every decision or process change goes back to ‘does this fit our brand of simplicity and being easy to use’? If it doesn’t then why are we doing it? It’s about never losing sight of our brand. It’s an ongoing commitment that evolves.”