AUSTIN, Texas — IBMTEXAS Employees Federal Credit Union has taken branding to the next level with just one word–AMPLIFY.

Developed over the course of two years in-house, in keeping with the informal local slogan of “Keep Austin Weird” the new name intentionally veers away from any “labels.” Operating on the basic criteria that the new name had to reflect the credit union’s roots in technology and innovation; its ability to serve a broader range of people; and its commitment to provide members service with no boundaries–AMPLIFY was born.

“For what we wanted to accomplish neither credit union or bank was good enough to describe this new experience,” said AMPLIFY Vice President of Marketing Kent White. “One of our key focuses was to really break down the barriers between ourselves and both existing members and potential members–in perception and in reality.”

The credit union has not only changed its brand name to AMPLIFY, but as its tagline, Go Beyond Banking, suggests the credit union is breaking out of the traditional banking rut and blazing a new trail in its branches as well. After all, how many people think of their credit union when they want to play video games or listen to a local musician?

“This is not just another high tech makeover,” said White. “This is two years of carefully putting together the best of all worlds to better connect the unique lifestyle here with banking and in looking at the traditional credit union and bank model we wanted to look and feel different.”

Physically embodying the cooperative credit union spirit, the AMPLIFY retail branches are very member driven White says and even existing branches have been retrofitted to incorporate key elements that reinforce the new brand. “Our members have pushed us to innovate so no velvet ropes–you don’t have to line up for us, we line up for you,” said AMPLIFY CEO Paul Trylko about the new facilities.

The open branch includes such features as a smart bar, where members have the option of hooking up their laptop and getting instant information on their finances; a hospitality kiosk complete with coffee and a refrigerator stocked with branded beverages; a switch kit kiosk to help make it easier for members to switch their accounts over to the credit union; Wi-Fi hotspots; flat-panel televisions and a member area for video conferencing specialists for everything from mortgages to investments. To further reinforce a personalized service experience, staffers take their laptops over to members. All the branch elements are designed with an eye on creating a warm, mobile environment. So with the exception of the smart bar, all the chairs and furniture can be easily moved out of the way and reconfigured to accommodate not only seminars, but also the popular Xbox gaming sessions hosted by AMPLIFY.

Part of the new experience also gives the staffers an opportunity to demonstrate the convenience AMPLIFY provides. For example, the new branches have a rolling stand that has an assortment of cell phones pre-programmed with the wireless version of the credit union’s home banking service.

“We can show members how simple it is to do their banking and sell them these already preloaded Internet-enabled Sprint phones,” said White. “It is about creating a whole new experience, with the Wi-Fi hotspots members can go where they want on the Web, small business owners could even meet their clients here if they want, it is up to them. We’re really trying to deliver the best banking experience to people based on how they want it in a comfortable environment.”

With Austin’s reputation as the live music capital of the U.S.–there are some 185 live music venues here–either local music or the music inspired by locals is playing in every branch. There is even a section in some branches to showcase local artists’ CDs.

Focusing on a soft launch more geared toward existing members through the end of 2006, to tease members about the upcoming name change the credit union launched www.gobeyondbanking.com that talks up the advantages of membership–from “the choices you make matter” to “more time for you.” AMPLIFY even tapped local musician Adam Garner to compose a piece for the flash movie teaser. A broader brand awareness campaign is slated for next year.

“We’re lucky we get to incorporate all that we love about Austin into what we do everyday,” said White. –mdigiovanni@cutimes.com