Considerations for Renaming and Rebranding Your Credit Union

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Credit unions in high-growth modes often find themselves faced with an important question – is it time for a renaming and rebranding? Recent studies indicate that 20% of banks and credit unions in the U.S. have removed geographic indicators from their brand names in the past decade – a trend expected to continue. In this article, we’ll explore important considerations for if, when, and how, to remove geographic or initial SEG (Select Employee Group) qualifiers from your credit union’s brand name.

Why are credit unions considering renaming and rebranding?

Credit unions are defined by and tied to the communities they serve, so many find themselves with SEG-specific or geographic qualifiers as part of their brand name. These names were initially a reflection of community connection, intended to build trust and loyalty with the members they serve.

This strategy presents challenges, too. As credit unions expand, the brand name may no longer accurately reflect or resonate with the growing membership base. As the merger and acquisitions activity heats up for credit unions and community banks, the local identity becomes less central to the brand. According to Statista, the number of credit unions dropped from close to 7,000 in 2013 to just below 5,000 in 2022. Through these mergers, many members may come to a credit union from outside of an initial SEG or community charter.

If your credit union is wrestling with whether a renaming makes sense, Chartwell Agency shares the top questions to guide your process.

Is there value in the current credit union brand?

Before you jump headfirst into a renaming and rebranding effort, evaluate the value of your current name. Your name may have significant brand equity, especially if it’s been around for a long time. Assess what your brand – and name – mean to your community and membership. Conduct surveys, focus groups, and other research methods to gauge your members’ sentiments towards the current name. This feedback will help you determine the value of your name, and gauge potential response to a change. If there’s significant affinity with the brand name, there may be ways to modify or supplement it with a tagline that reflects the broader reach of your membership.

What name better resonates with my enhanced membership or aligns to growth goals?

If your research indicates that your current name has little value or it no longer aligns with your credit unions strategic goals, it’s time to consider new name options. Define your credit union’s unique selling proposition and highlight what sets you apart from other financial partners in the market. Consider your members, too. What creates the sense of community so central to the credit union experience? Use these insights to brainstorm options that capture your credit union’s unique value proposition, and align with your core values and brand personality.

How do I vet a new brand name?

When you have a list of potential names, consider vetting each through a list of questions like:

  • Does the name position the credit union uniquely in the market? Is there potential for any brand confusion or trademark issues?
  • Is it digitally available? (Are there intuitive URLs, social media platform names, etc. available aligned to the new name.)
  • Is it memorable and easy to pronounce?
  • Does it feel familiar and aligned with our membership?
  • Does it accommodate our future growth plans?

The answers to these questions will allow your best options to rise to the top.

How do I launch our credit union’s new name and brand?

After working so hard on the rebranding effort, the credit union marketing team is more than ready to see it launch. However, it’s important to remember that your team has had time to reflect on and embrace the change. Your membership will be taking in this change for the first time, and some may have concerns about what impact, if any, this rebranding will have on their relationship with the credit union. Be prepared to address common questions like, “Are you being acquired?” “Will my locations be changed?” and “Does this impact my products or service?” Change – even an exciting one – is difficult for most people. A thoughtful brand rollout strategy is an important step.

In your rollout communications, balance the needs of your current members with the desire to attract new ones. Share with your current members the reasons for the renaming and rebranding and how it aligns with the credit union’s mission and vision. Emphasize what changes and benefits they can expect. Provide members with a clear timeline of the rebranding process, including any changes to signage, the website, and other materials. Build excitement about the future, and make sure members feel invested in that vision.

And like all your communications, incorporate multiple digital and traditional channels including digital and environmental advertising, email, social media, and direct mail.

A rose by any other name…

Renaming or rebranding can be an exciting and challenging process for credit unions. However, by considering the value of the current name, evaluating new name options, and launching the new brand in a way that builds excitement and enthusiasm, credit union marketing teams can navigate the process successfully. The key is to balance the perceptions and needs of current members while appealing to new ones and creating a brand that reflects your credit union’s unique place in the communities you serve.

Need help with a rebranding project? Give us a call; we’d love to support your process.