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Brand is Culture, Culture is Brand

Which is more important: Your credit union staff or its members? This may sound like the quintessential “chicken or egg” question, and you may be right. As astrophysicist and planetary scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has an answer to this metaphoric adjective (it’s the egg), so do we for this important branding question.

It’s your staff.

Not convinced?

Back in 2017, we started working with a Midwest credit union and I knew something was different. I not only fielded calls from the CEO and the VP of Business Development and Marketing, but I was having detailed conversations with the VP of Human Resources/Administration.

From pre-hiring to onboarding, we discussed culture videos, the credit union’s careers page, handbooks and forms, anniversary luncheons and other employee celebrations, employee surveys, swag ideas, and more.

We concentrated on the visualization of the internal brand. At each person’s desk sits a glass bulb filled with six small items outlining the keys to success at the credit union. We created a living emblem that embodies four core values of the credit union’s actions to one another, the membership and the greater community. These values are perpetuated daily in staff meetings and one-on-ones. We also kickstarted a random acts of kindness initiative and a young professionals’ group for employees.

So, when I tell you that this credit union grew 63% over the past four years, from $168.9 million to $275.5 million in total assets, it wasn’t just mad marketing skills. It also wasn’t just about identifying purpose, vision and values. It was about a culture shift throughout the organization. Even today it is their people, thoughts and actions that continue to drive unbelievable numbers for the credit union.

Meanwhile, we have another $55 million credit union in the Northeast that has been doing gangbusters (up 39.8%) in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, growth slowed but was still healthy. Was the answer simply to put the “nose to the grindstone.”

No.

Despite what has gone on in the economy, the CEO recognized the credit union witnessed higher turnover. With the growth of the credit union, preserving a fun and healthy culture proved challenging to staff with the rise of loans and assets. The leadership team began asking, “How can this organization have an engaging member experience if the staff doesn’t fully realize why the credit union exists?”

Today, the credit union is planning for the future and is crafting a new brand story. They have opened the lines of communication to discuss their core values with their staff and are committed to hiring the right people to maintain a healthy culture. They now realize a captivating internal brand will lead to a stronger external brand.

More recently, I was brought in to work on a brand strategy for a New England-based $293 million credit union that welcomed a new CEO less than a year ago. He inherited a leadership team that was used to working in silos. Many were ready to call it quits.

The leadership team, however, is more unified today, and the culture is drastically different than what it was just a few months ago. Now with clear goals and direction, the credit union needs a brand identity to match. And what they’ve learned is what we tell ourselves shapes our beliefs, but it doesn’t end there. It’s not beliefs alone that shape a credit union, it’s behavior.

Are you ready to develop an unbreakable brand culture?

Credit Union Branding

Your Marketing Co. offers experts in credit union branding, marketing and strategic planning. We’re here to answer all your credit union branding questions.

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