On Branding: A Big Lesson In Branding From A Small CU In A Small Market

As members file into Guadalupe Credit Union’s 60th annual meeting it feels like a joyous family reunion. The setting is the school cafeteria at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community Church, just 50 yards behind the church itself. It is late February immediately following 12 o’clock mass with the temperature hovering at 47 degrees. Whole families are intermingling; hugging, laughing and greeting each other. A Mariachi band plays as children run with balloons and enjoy punch and snacks, anticipating the New Mexico style buffet lunch with amazing homemade contributions.

One family enters with four generations of members. Think about it–four generations. Guadalupe Credit Union is an important force in this community that is the oldest state capital in the country. Santa Fe is 7,320 feet in altitude; a high desert jewel with 73,000 people tucked into the foothills of the surrounding snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains. When I think of this magnificent small city one word comes to mind: “light.” No matter where you look you see different views, hues and shades of color and light. And that light also describes the warmth and welcoming nature of Santa Fe’s people.

Guadalupe Credit Union was founded by Father McCarthy in 1948 and named after Our Lady of Guadalupe. I could write 10,000 words about a credit union, its staff, members, board and executives whom I am fortunate to know well, and the city of Santa Fe. Guadalupe CU embodies the core essence of what every credit union wishes it could be–a true family that helps members secure their financial futures, and a positive force in the community.

One of the most vital factors in making a credit union brand great is “connecting” with your members. Guadalupe CU is truly all about family and service. Most of their members are second-and even third-generation participants in the credit union. Personally, I’m a nut about product and service penetration percentages, and typically I would use any opportunity, and certainly an annual meeting, to bang away at product and service awareness. But at GCU’s annual meeting products and services aren’t on anyone’s mind. Instead, it’s the impact those products and services have on the lives of the members. It’s about members who care about each other and whose lives are interwoven within their community, and in part by shared membership in the credit union.

When your annual meeting is truly a family reunion there is no question that the credit union is not only connected to its members, but also helping members connect with each other. This 60th annual meeting showed that Guadalupe CU has built a family heritage of brand loyalty that no mere marketing plan could ever achieve. It happens every day as the credit union shows respect for each member and for the Santa Fe community. CEO Winona Nava and the staff feel privileged to be the caretakers of this institution that belongs to its members and to Santa Fe.

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment and it is absolutely one of my favorite places in all the 48 states I’ve traveled to. No wonder the readers of Conde Nast travel magazines routinely select Santa Fe as one of the best travel destinations! In the winter beams of sunlight streak through from the low cloud cover making a wondrous display of color: steel blue-grays, white mist, brown earth tones and the dark green vegetation. In every direction you take in a different light experience. It’s a special place with special people; I hope you’re able to visit Santa Fe and if you do, stop in and visit a branch and see what family service is all about.

Paul J Lucas is a national marketing and branding consultant. For more information log on to www.PaulJLucas.com or email paul<at>pauljlucas.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com