MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – It’s not changing its name to evolve into something different, it’s changing its name to reflect what the credit union has become. That’s the message Hughes Aircraft Employees FCU wants its members to get loud and clear. After 61 years with the Hughes name, the credit union has changed its name to Kinecta Federal Credit Union. “We wanted something that connoted community and family, something talking about tomorrow, something unique in the credit union industry and unique in the financial services industry,” said Teresa Freeborn, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Kinecta FCU. This name change didn’t happen overnight. The CU started working on it about three years ago, with the intense final push starting in about March of last year. The credit union contracted with branding powerhouse Landor, San Francisco, to create the name and logo. Landor’s clients include the likes of Microsoft, Lucent, Morgan Stanley, FedEx, etc. Landor came up with about 1,200 possible names. The credit union’s leadership team – made up of senior management and board members – and its name change task force, eventually narrowed the list to three. “Community and family; those are the kinds of things our members came up with. They didn’t think the big banks had that. Names like Bank of America don’t reflect that,” said Freeborn. Freeborn said the specific attributes the CU wanted to get across were not only community and family, but also a name that had a local feel and a global scope and reflected a sophisticated financial services firm. During the entire process, the $2.35 billion CU, with 220,000 members and 550 employees, was trying to achieve the herculean task of keeping the name change secret. The CU hired a local advertising firm to help it conduct in-person focus groups with about 500 members and nonmembers. Sounding like something straight out of NYPD Blue, CU leaders were present behind two-way glass listening to participants’ responses during the focus group sessions. The participants were told that there were CU reps behind the glass, but they weren’t told that it was Hughes that was changing its name. They were only told that a credit union was considering changing its name. “We didn’t tell them it was Hughes Aircraft Employees FCU because we aren’t naive, we know our members have several credit union relationships. We just wanted to know how they felt about a credit union changing its name and what kind of things they like,” said Freeborn. Hughes broke down the focus group participants into three categories: members who consider Hughes their primary financial institution, secondary members who have weaker relationships with the CU, and nonmembers who have absolutely nothing to do with Hughes. Other than family and community, the focus group participants also were looking for a high-energy, forward moving credit union. The “kin” part of the Kinecta name reflects the family, with the full name playing on “kinetic” energy and “connecting” with members, said Freeborn. As the Hughes Company began divesting some of its businesses in the `90s, a name change for the CU started to look like a necessity, said Kinecta FCU Board Chairman Paul James. “As Tom (Graham, president/CEO) and I conducted our sponsor relation visits with sponsor groups we got specific feedback, for instance from Raytheon, that they were less than comfortable with Hughes emblazoned on our branches on their sites. That was a clear example of how it was time for a change,” said James. “Over the last five years, Hughes has made a number of divestitures. That’s part of the reason why members and sponsors thought a new name was appropriate,” said James. Currently the CU’s larger SEGs include Raytheon, Hughes, and Boeing. Hughes sold its satellite business to Boeing and its defense electronics business to Raytheon. Direct TV, which is part of Hughes, is also a key base of employees for the CU. All of the work leading up to the name change cost Hughes in the neighborhood of $1 million. The transformation of all of its collateral material (signage, letterhead, brochures, etc.) will cost another $1 million. “We’d love to do this (change the material) overnight, but we can’t. We will have signage in all our locations changed by Sept. 1. We’re also going to have the brochures, posters, and other materials changed by Sept. 1. Then there’s 300 forms to change,” said Freeborn. Even with the $2 million price tag, James said the board was united on the change. “Everyone knew it had to be done,” said James. A new logo is also being rolled out with the new name (shown on this page). Freeborn said the logo, which the CU’s leaders call the “Fab Four”, is supposed to represent four people reaching out with open arms. The red figure at the very bottom of the logo represents “someone shepherding everyone into the future,” said Freeborn. “The arms opened are very approachable.” Freeborn said the Fab Four represents the diversity of the CU’s membership and of the CU’s 190-plus SEGs. “We wanted something easy to remember, easy to work with on the marketing side, and something that reflected well on all of our SEGs,” said Freeborn. Russ Meyer, executive director strategic services for Landor, and who spent over two years working on the Kinecta name change, said the key to branding is to keep it simple, recognizable, and relevant. “Short names are good. Names with less than three syllables are more recognizable and more memorable. You have to be clear on who your target is, that your message is clear to them, and at the end of the day you have to deliver. A brand is nothing more than a promise,” said Meyer. Meyer said organizations should have a real-world reason for changing their branding. “I think often times folks think short term strategy when it comes to branding. Building a brand is a long-term game. Making changes to the brand, because you’re bored with the brand isn’t wise. Getting rid of Jolly Green Giant when it’s still relevant doesn’t help your brand,” said Meyer. A lot of thought went into the Kinecta logo, but Meyer said it’s naive to think consumers are going to be thinking about family and all the other things the credit union was thinking when it selected the logo. “That’s not credible to think that way, but does it evoke emotion? Is it memorable? Does it create a story?” The new name was revealed to the CU’s 550 employees on May 23, with a wave of laughter erupting from the employees when Graham asked employees to keep it a secret. “They did it. They’ve kept it a secret, all 550 of them. What was important was that our members hear it first,” said Nancy Tack, vice president of communications for Kinecta. “We’ve been teasing members with signs in our service centers saying we’ll be changing our name.” [email protected]

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