Don’t You Dare Utter ‘Not on Brand’


When you find yourself saying, “it’s not on brand,” do you understand why you are saying it?

Uttering these words should prompt us to question whether we truly grasp the essence of our brand identity and what it represents. It’s not merely a matter of adhering to a color palette or logo; it encompasses the entire attitude and personality of our brand.

If you are getting hung up on visual identity alone, something is wrong. Let me explain: Too many credit unions view their brand guides as law. Despite the term “guide” in the name, most follow strict, rigid, and literal interpretations, which harms their brand. And honestly, most of these guides involve design standards, not actual brand standards.

I remember one credit union that came to Your Marketing Co. after undergoing a rebrand elsewhere. It was like trying to give therapy to cult survivors. What they had been taught actually discouraged critical thinking. They would point to words in their guide such as “mold,” “make,” and “execute,” which they were told must be included in their messaging.

Here’s the deal: Yes, you need guide rails. Absolutely, they are important. But if those standards hinder your creative messaging and tone with your target audience, it’s time to reevaluate your overarching brand strategy.

Take, for example, Heinz, the market leader in ketchup in the United States. I want you to watch these four spots from 1979, 2013, 2018, and 2024.

1979 – “Anticipation”

2013 – “Last Drop”

2018 – “At Last”

2024 – “The Wait”

What are your first impressions? You might think it shows a “sign of the times,” and you’d be correct. Indeed, a lot has changed in 45 years. Yet, there is consistency among all four messages. Each one positions Heinz’s ketchup as a “must-have.”

You may have noticed that the “At Last” spot from 2018 seems a bit different from the rest. But is it “off-brand”? No! Just because it doesn’t include people dining doesn’t mean it is off-brand compared to the other three. It adheres to the same central theme as the rest, and the singer holding a note for nearly 10 seconds certainly commands our attention.

What’s great about Heinz’s latest campaign, “The Wait,” is that it taps more into our human emotions. Without any words, we’ve all been there, waving down a waitress for some ketchup for our naked fries – unless you are one of those unusual people who use mayonnaise. Eww.

This brings me back to what should be in your brand standards: real audience insights. Understanding your target audience is the cornerstone of effective branding. Prioritize consumers’ needs, preferences, and behavior, and don’t be overly rigid about your guidelines. Remember: they are guidelines, not rules.

What are the consumers’ attitudes toward borrowing? How do they make financial decisions? Why do they hesitate before applying for a loan or opening an account? What pain points are they facing?

Of course, I realize you can’t ignore sales completely, and I’m not advocating for that either! This is where we often see credit unions focusing only on immediate sales promotions, resulting in the use of overused and unoriginal stock photos, such as piggy banks, women strangely dangling keys, or diverse groups of people with creepy smiles. Ugh.

The bottom line is this: if your brand standards – or your fallible interpretation of those standards – are holding your credit union back from effectively targeting, change them today.

As Vice President of Brand Experience for Your Marketing Co., Frank Allgood works with credit unions to develop strong leaders, create effective training programs, and build powerful brands. Want to connect? Call 864.326.8740 or email

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Reh Harvey

Vice President of Digital Strategy

Reh Harvey, our Vice President of Digital Strategy, leads with diligence and fervor. Having previously been a member of Team YMC, he is excited to return to such an amazing culture and even more amazing people (his words)! Through his experience in the marketing world, he’s found the key to success is to stay on the cutting edge and to always keep evolving.
Although originally drawn to marketing for its lack of math, Reh now finds himself doing more math than he would’ve bargained for. But his self discipline and positive attitude make it easy for him to laugh and take it in stride. Hoping to one day visit Japan and enjoy some premium Sushi, Reh lives life by his creed: Be a good human. Do good work. And above all, just keep going.

Hailey Madej

Graphic Designer

As YMC’s in-house Graphic Designer, Hailey possesses an eye for detail and a drive to innovate. It’s no surprise though since being creative runs in the family! Inspired from an early age by her mom’s work as a Graphic Designer, Hailey is a seasoned expert whose talents bring vitality and accessibility to every project. As a UX/UI designer, she expertly blends the intuitive and the creative for all to enjoy.
In addition to the occasional freelance project, Hailey also lends her abilities to supporting art initiatives within her community, such as the Belleville Mural Project. Her favorite aspect of joining the YMC team is the friendly, uplifting culture and breadth of design tasks. When it comes to marketing, she believes in pushing boundaries and maybe breaking some rules to capture her audience’s attention. Her advice to those just starting out? “Always seek quality over quantity.”

Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Living life by his motto to “Do good even if the world is unfair,” Dexter would also advise his younger self, “It’s hard, but you’re doing good!” Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche


Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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