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The Ugly Truth About Rebranding From Inside Credit Union Land

For some reason in Credit Union Land we've decided to pick this moment in time to all figure out what we want to be when we grow up. I know here in the Richmond, Va. area, most, if not all, the credit unions have or are in the process of rebranding. It seems to be our magic eraser, a chance to start over, and make our old, stale brands fresh and new in the minds of our members and potential members.

But behind those beautiful new logos lies an ugly truth. You say you want to rebrand your credit union. I say go get a big package of Rolaids from Costco. Seriously, you are going to need it. Here's what I've learned from my many episodes of heartburn along the way:

Rebranding exposes your credit union on all levels. It brings to the surface the deep dark secrets that are uncomfortable to talk about. Are you ready to open the closet door and free the skeletons? To rebrand effectively you have to be willing to talk about your weaknesses as an organization.

Rebranding brings out passion in your employees. There are few things I'm passionate about, but the future of my credit union ignites a fire in me that most would rather put out. Unfortunately, not everyone I work with shares my strong enthusiasm. Want to butt heads and become unpopular with your management team and board members? Rebrand your credit union! You will find out very quickly when the going gets tough who is committed and driven to take your organization to a new level.

Rebranding is emotional. If you've spent any time at your credit union you'll find that change is hard for most. It's especially hard for those that have been with your organization for a long time. Most of the time it's the messenger that gets sacrificed. People were committed to your organization's past; the challenge is getting them excited about your future.

Rebranding takes an "outside-in" approach. You're too close to your organization to really see what needs to be changed. As the old observation goes, you can't sit among the trees and see the size of the forest. You have to stand at a distance to see the whole thing. Hire experts to sit on the mountaintops and look in.

Rebranding is shocking at first. You've always associated your CU with the old logo and colors. Seeing it in a new image takes a little time to digest. Those that have creative vision may see the potential immediately, but be patient with those that don't share the idea that brown is the new black.

Rebranding effectively takes a village of experts. For some reason when you rebrand, everyone in your organization suddenly becomes an expert in logo design, even accountants. Let creative people do what you hired them to do. Remember that just because you don't love something doesn't mean your members and potential members won't. Whatever you do, don't water down your brand. If everyone likes it, there's a good chance no one absolutely loves it. The goal should be a following of members that are as loyal as rock-star groupies.

Rebranding starts with your staff. If you just want a new logo, go ahead, but that's not rebranding. The heart and soul of rebranding starts with getting your staff jazzed about working for the greatest financial institution in the world. And if you don't believe that last statement yourself, stop right here.

Rebranding takes an iron-clad commitment. If you are going to go through the time, expense and hassle of rebranding, by all means-do it right. With each touch point, think, "How can I kick it up a notch Emeril style?"

So for those of you that decide to embark on the exciting, gut-wrenching journey of rebranding-kudos! You're in for quite a ride! If you ever need to pick up the phone, call someone and just scream-my direct phone number is 804-274-1213. Just give me some warning so I can hold the phone away from my ear.

Kelley Parks is VP of marketing and business development with Call FCU, Richmond, Va. and She can also be reached at kparks<at>callfcu.org.

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