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For months the old Communications Family Credit Union of Saginaw, Mich., was on the hunt for a provocative new name to reach a more youthful audience and draw attention. The new name, “Wildfire,” has been successful in producing the desired effect-plenty of local and national buzz. “We wanted to come up with a short, distinctive name that shows passion and energy and Wildfire seems to work out nicely,” explained Linda McGee, vice president of marketing for $223 million central Michigan credit union. Some members, she said, did express puzzlement at a name “describing a devastating event,” but it also denotes “rebirth and growth,” a message the CU seeks to spread as it expands into two more central Michigan communities, Midland and Bay City. The 31,000-member CU which formally released the name last month has been running a TV/newspaper ad blitz promoting the name switch with the campaign slated to end by Nov. 30. The CU’s vendor on the name change, Weber Marketing Group of Seattle, said the moniker was selected, in part, to appeal to a college-age crowd demonstrating vigor and excitement. “We think ‘wildfire’ is as unique as the ‘red canoe’ and that has produced big membership gains for that credit union,” said Mark Weber, president, in touting his firm’s success with a well- publicized Washington State 2007 name switch involving Weyerhaeuser Employees CU of Longview becoming Red Canoe CU, reportedly witnessing 12% growth. For the Michigan CU, the Communications Family name was as much a mouthful as Weyerhaeuser “and it always took a long time to write it all out,” quipped McGee. Weber maintains the Wildfire name “is highly memorable and progressive” and helps the CU “stand apart from the crowd.” Names like iQ, Red Canoe and Copperfin “may seem odd at first blush, but names and brands are never won or lost based on a handful of vocal first impressions. Names take time to get used to and are supported by a well-positioned brand identity and personality that generate feelings,” concluded Weber. Tim Benecke, the president/CEO of Wildfire, said the CU has been careful about communicating the new name to members for fear of a negative reaction. “We made sure we kept our members informed, communicating the name change through a letter stating that we were going to change even before we announced what the new name would be,” said Benecke. Information was also contained on its Web site, Facebook and Twitter, said Benecke noting also “we utilized the media and had excellent coverage on television, radio and in newspapers. We have also been very active in the community.” –[email protected]

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