<p>LAS VEGAS – In a city that is open 24-hours, WestStar has rediscovered its branding groove by going back to its roots. “If I had any message for other credit unions it would be to go back to basics, figure out what your common bond is and brand from there,” said WestStar Marketing/Sales Vice President Keryn Marlatt. “I think we’ve gotten away from this, and it tends to blur the division that sets credit unions apart.” According to Marlatt, until this past year the $107 million state chartered credit union had been suffering an identity crisis. With other credit unions in the area opting to convert to a community charter, the Vegas competition playing field changed virtually overnight. In addition, taking into account Las Vegas’ growth rate of over 6,000 people moving here each month and a Reno market to contend with WestStar had to quickly find “itself”. After all the research and focus groups WestStar’s identity is summed up in two words – service and gaming. “Casino workers must provide excellent service to tourists, hotel/casino guests, and they expect no less from who they do business with so our service had to be the best,” said Marlatt. “Then we formally identified our market as gaming and modified our state charter to allow for employees of any company licensed for gaming in the state of Nevada.” The “gaming” charter proved to be a major coup by positioning WestStar as “the” credit union for casino and hotel workers. Given WestStar’s history since the early days as the Howard Hughes Employees’ Federal Credit Union with Howard Hughes investing in so many casinos including The Desert Inn, The Frontier, The Silver Slipper and The Landmark, Marlatt created a branding statement and modified the logo to include “The Gaming Industry Employees’ Credit Union since 1975.” “That statement plays up our common bond and shows longevity,” said Marlatt. “Let’s face it, in a town where businesses can crumble overnight 25 years is a lifetime in Vegas!” What happened next was nothing less than a media-branding blitz. For the first time WestStar launched an outside media campaign that included television ads, billboards and newspaper ads. In addition, the credit union developed an incentive program and started a massive training effort for the staff to ensure service as its strategic advantage. “We hired a media expert and through surveys and focus groups tested the creative product to ensure that both the positioning statement and identity package communicated the values we wanted to convey,” said Marlatt. “We never assumed we knew everything about our market and that could be why it worked out so well.” That could be an understatement. Only six weeks into the branding campaign and new account volume jumped to 737-almost double from last year’s 450. New accounts from off-site sign-ups also increased by 72%. Twenty percent of the new account volume was directly attributed to the television and billboard advertising while 51% came from referrals, which Marlatt thinks is due to the increased awareness of membership eligibility. “Members just love this campaign,” said Marlatt. “Although we designed everything in-house the marketing agency made sure the billboards were placed in all the major corridors that casino workers headed to or from work will pass.” Marlatt is already coming up with ideas to tweak the campaign drawn from member feedback. “Many marketers are asked `When do you know when you are done with branding?’ The answer is `Never’. Branding is not a project it is a process with a start but no finish,” said Marlatt. “So we will be done with our brand, our identity, our niche when Las Vegas is done growing and changing-never.” [email protected]</p>

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