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MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – In 2001, Kinecta Federal Credit Union, formerly known as Hughes Aircraft Employees FCU, launched one of the most successful, effective credit union name and brand changes. Not satisfied with resting on past success, execs here are counting on the latest brand evolution to take the credit union to the next level. “Our feelings at the time and based on research were that people didn’t really know what a credit union was back then so we focused on establishing ourselves as a credit union,” said Kinecta Senior Vice President of Marketing/Communications Teresa Freeborn. “Mid-year 2005 we talked about what we can do to evolve our brand and get out of the CU advertising to now start talking about Kinecta as a very deliverable brand.” Freeborn says continuous, ongoing member research over the years revealed a few truths to build the brand on: the credit union stands out from the pack, people needed an emotionally compelling rationale to leave their existing financial institution and switch to Kinecta, and existing members are really passionate about the credit union. The findings, Freeborn says, sparked the development of a new dynamic message based on the whole attitude of a club. “If you think about all the things that come to mind about a club is people like the sense of belonging,” said Freeborn. “What makes doing this bold is that while showing people that credit unions are not some closed club that no one can join, we are using that and exploit that as our point of difference. It flies in the face of what is logical and we started to figure out how to make it come alive.” Ironically, Freeborn says once they put their finger on the club theme it guided everything from internal culture and training to retail merchandising to branch layout. “Purely and simply put we are special here – members know it and if you think about a club you don’t put a sign out on the door saying we’re different,” said Freeborn. “A club is a place where family and community connect and it has sense of humor. Like the In & Out restaurants here, it is a cult thing to locals if you are on the inside you know the secret menu and want to tell friends about it.” According to Mel Calloway, Kinecta vice president of retail services, achieving the club focus required a shift in how the credit union does business with a focus on building entire relationships more than a strong sales culture. From new titles and job descriptions to corporate apparel and training programs, every aspect was revamped to create a new experience for members when they walked into a member service center. The brand evolution also resulted in a new interview process. “We’ve changed everything and it is about finding the right people who are personable, excited about the job and excited about Kinecta,” said Calloway. “So we now include `auditions or role plays’ to see if they can think on their feet. We want members greeted as soon as they come in, and the personal financial advisor, who is the former `new accounts’ person using their names and keeping member anniversary dates, graduation dates, birthdays etc. in the member profile to help further reinforce the idea that every interaction they have with a member is an opportunity to build and expand on that relationship.” To kick off the evolution, a pilot program was launched at a new Westminster member service center. Kinecta Vice President of Retail Operations Charmaine Velez says the prototype branch created a club atmosphere and feeling of welcome and comfort by turning away from the traditional banking look. Wanting to appeal to younger, educated consumers with growing families who are savvy, bold eye-popping colors were used throughout the open space. Instead of a waiting area there is a member lounge, there are also relationship transaction counters, a kids area and branch walls that “speak”. “Traditionally when you walk into a financial institution it is to do some transactions, so we tried to make that an experience and encourage movement throughout the retail space- it doesn’t end when you complete your transaction rather it expands to some different areas,” said Velez. The credit union tapped Seattle-based Weber Marketing Group to help express the club philosophy. “We looked at how you feel in your favorite bookstore, restaurant or store and we came up with this edgy, somewhat cheeky copy in unexpected places,” said Kinecta Communications Vice President Nancy Tack. For example instead of designating an area as the online financial center the sign above it says “What would you do with an extra 15 minutes?” Under a “You gotta love this place!” sign, color coded service brochures are categorized by words like stash, borrow, plan, perks and tools. “With the collateral we saw existing centers had lots of paper and brochures but we weren’t sure if members were picking it up. We had an auto loan brochure then three pieces of paper about promotions,” said Tack. The “club” look will also be in Kinecta’s new Irvine Member Service Center that is due to open in the second quarter. The credit union will slowly be integrating the brand look, with all the new collateral and merchandising, into the existing member service center throughout the rest of 2006. “We spent a great deal of time on strategy and evolving our brand to the next level so we stay healthy and growing,” said Toni Daniels, senior vice president of member service and administration at Kinecta. “One member told me she came into our Westminster branch just to cash a check and ended up staying for an hour and getting a home equity loan. She said she’d never stay in a bank that long and to me if our members have that same feeling of not wanting to leave even a portion of the time then we’ve succeeded in our differentiation.” [email protected]

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