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How You Can Extend Your Brand

I hear a lot of talk about brand extensions these days, from marketing people and CEOs alike. They're becoming the iPod of the credit union marketing world. Lots of people want to do brand extensions because they're trendy, they can be totally customized to the credit union, and they make great lunch conversation.

The good news is, brand extensions that are well conceived and smartly launched are a good move for your credit union. But before you take the leap and start tossing new products on your web page it's important to understand what brand extensions are, and what they are not - a "fix" for poor marketing. Instead, they enhance effective marketing.

What are "brand extensions"? Basically, they are a way of packaging your products and services to appeal to segments of your member and prospective membership base. The packaging-which usually includes a name and icon-ties the extension to your overall brand personality and visual identity. A classic brand extension is Diet Coke.

Before you can have effective brand extensions, you must have a brand. Some small credit unions (and some not-so-small ones) that do not have effective marketing plans sometimes mistake their logo for a brand. That's a little like mistaking a cornerstone for the entire building. You sure need that logo, but it's only one small piece of your brand.

How can you tell if your credit union is ready to benefit from brand extensions? There's not a definitive pre-test, but some good guidelines are:

* Do you have products and services aligned to meet varying member needs? If you only offer one of every product and service type then you need to do some work on stratifying your offerings before you're ready for brand extensions.

* Does your internal culture understand and support your brand identity? Your people must be ready to promote and explain your brand extensions.

* You must have some brand awareness among members and prospective members before brand extensions are relevant.

Once you are ready to use brand extensions to promote products and services tailored to specific segments of your membership there are some clear ways to use brand extensions to your advantage.

1. Brand extensions must make sense to your membership.

2. Use brand extensions sparingly-don't segment every type of service you offer into numerous extensions with clever names and icons. You're trying to make your products and services simpler to understand and select. If you overdo it, you will just confuse everyone. Sometimes less really is more!

3. Don't get too clever. Use names and icons that fit your overall brand image.

4. If a brand extension would not represent your credit union's brand personality standing on its own, then don't do it. For example, you wouldn't create a brand extension for accounts targeted to teens using language unacceptable to your general membership.

What can brand extensions do for your credit union? At their best brand extensions help clarify product and service offerings for your membership in a way that helps "sell" them.

* They should provide specific product and service packages that meet the needs of your key membership segments. Members who use your credit union as their primary financial services provider should reap the benefits of their loyalty with low to no fees and great rates. You can also segment by special needs, such as student accounts.

* Packaging your products and services makes it easier for prospective members to review your offerings and pick the ones that work for them. They don't have to analyze each product and service to decide if your credit union is a good deal for them.

* Brand extensions provide excellent cross selling opportunities. Tie direct deposit to checking and savings packages with beneficial rates, sell credit cards as part of the package, etc.

* If you are marketing each of your products and services independently it's going to be difficult to increase your number of products per member. By not packaging your products you are encouraging members to cherry pick only a great promotional loan rate or other single offering which results in unprofitable accounts.

Intelligent use of brand extensions is necessary to compete in today's sophisticated and cutthroat financial services marketplace. The best brand extensions evolve from the way members naturally select your products and services, and they reflect what your members really want. Listen to them-they can help you grow and prosper.

Paul J. Lucas can be reached at paul<at>pauljlucas.com. Or, for more info, visit www.pauljlucas.com.

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