An organization's logo is arguably one of the most important elements of its existence. From the logo comes the aesthetic of the entire brand – from the colors to the creative assets they use at their office, on social media and in their advertising.

For credit unions, this concept is no different. You want your members to recognize your logo instantly, to pick you out in a crowd and feel a sense of pride when they see their credit union represented by a beautiful brand mark.

As logos become so recognizable, the process of changing that mark or rebranding can be incredibly difficult in terms of maintaining member trust and loyalty, and even retaining your credit union's recognition.

I recently went through my own experience of rebranding our credit union association. As a CEO, it was one of the most challenging things I have faced and it taught me some valuable lessons that I'd like to share with other credit union professionals.

Know Your Market

Knowing how effective your current brand image is with both your members and non-members is a key component in deciding if a rebrand is necessary. As Gap learned from its failed logo redesign, if you have a mark that's already incredibly well known, or a brand that is established with no real need for a rebranded aesthetic, it's best to leave it alone.

Maybe you're hoping to attract a new demographic of members with an updated look, or would like to position your credit union as a more modern and forward-thinking financial institution. First, take steps to decide if the money spent on a rebrand would benefit your organization in the long run. The potential outcome must outweigh the financial commitment and effort involved.

I believe it's especially important to stay current and have a brand image that reflects a company's corporate culture, which is why I wanted to be ahead of the curve with MCU's branding. Moreover, our old logo wasn't exactly recognizable or attractive, so the rebrand was a no-brainer for us.

Decide What You Want Your Brand to Represent

Knowing the underlying message of your credit union will help with the design of your new logo. Images translate subtly, but powerfully, into words and meanings, so thinking of the core credit union values, like the credit union difference, and other principles your organization holds will help a designer to represent that within the mark.

Cisco's logo is a great example of this. The blue lines in their logo depict electromagnetic waves, a reference to the technology and communication field. The waves are in the shape of a bridge – a certain Golden Gate Bridge, which pays homage to the company's birthplace of San Francisco.

We wanted our new logo to embody the intertwined, helpful nature of credit unions and to represent our cooperative relationship. We were also keen to weave in our ties to Montana and the credit union members that we represent.

Get Help With the Designing Process

The old logo for Montana's Credit Unions.

Unless you're a graphic design whiz, I would recommend enlisting the help of a designer or selecting a creative agency that can help with the entire process of rebranding: From ideas for the mark design to revamping your company stationery and business cards.

We're a talented bunch at MCU, but unfortunately that doesn't extend to any form of graphic art proficiency, so we enlisted The Summit Group, an advertising agency based in Salt Lake City, Utah, to take the lead on our rebrand.

Without a doubt, the most challenging part of this process was finding the right mark. Finding a logo that really speaks to the collaboration and interconnectedness of the credit union system yet still clearly states who we are, was a journey. Our agency did a great job of offering us a lot of choices from fairly traditional marks to more contemporary ones. We went through several designs, however once we saw it, we knew it was the one. What we chose, I believe, will stand the test of time.

If your business isn't in a position to hire an agency to assist with your rebrand, sites like Fiverr, Carbonmade and Upwork are useful for finding freelance designers.

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