03 Feb Bringing Your Credit Union’s Brand to Life
We recently connected with Matt Purvis, the brains behind Purvis Management, a branding agency that focuses on delivering tangible action to brand theories and ideas. Matt shared how he helps credit unions do more than polish their logo, but change their entire culture to reflect the desired brand image.
Q. Why is brand important for a credit union to be successful?
Matt: The first step is to understand what we mean by brand and how brand works in the modern age to transform consumer understanding of the organization. We define brand as the sum of consumer thoughts and feelings about the credit union. From this perspective we can start to think strategically about what we do every day that creates member (and non-member) understanding of our credit unions. The logo, graphics, tag line, fonts, colors etc., cannot be counted on to make deep and lasting impressions on the public.
Q. What are some common brand problems or hurdles you find within the credit union space?
Matt: Successful brands are not the result of clever communication plans or a function of marketing. Brand must be owned by the executive team. A brand will not thrive if it is not intimately linked with the organization’s strategy. We actually consider brand and strategy as completely intertwined and inseparable! Too many still believe that branding is something that can be outsourced and assembled–a project that can be implemented and checked off the to-do list. It would be a beautiful thing if we could simply hire creatives to truly re-brand our institutions. But it just doesn’t work that way. Today, brand is a direct reflection of your culture. Repackaging your existing culture in new art, with more “compelling” brand promises is more likely to widen the authenticity gap than to improve the way the public feels about your organization.
Q. Is there a disconnect between a rebrand and a noticeable change to members? If so, what is it?
Matt: Yes! Today, mission-based organizations, like credit unions, already have compelling brand positions and promises that are starkly different than their competitors. But the public cannot “see” these distinctions. Traditionally, the response has been to try new language, more marketing, new marketing channels… rebranding! None of these approaches address the underlying issue. The obligation of every brand that aspires to matter is to create ways to demonstrate its unique position and promises in unforgettable ways. At Purvis we call this process Brand Animation™.
Q. What should small- to medium-sized credit unions consider in order for their brands stand out?
Matt: Just what all great businesses do, never lose sight of Harvard Professor Michael Porter’s advice: “Strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than your rivals do.” When we consider the implications of this simple statement, it becomes clear why alternatives to the large, national financial institutions—one example being credit unions—need to find ways to demonstrate their differences.
Q. Regardless of industry, what are some brand examples credit unions should look to for inspiration?
Matt: Look at leaders in other, highly competitive, commodity-based industries. Here in the Northwest, Les Schwab Tires is a great example. They sell car and truck tires; an interchangeable product. In fact, Les Schwab doesn’t even sell branded tires. They only sell Les Schwab products. Like all consumer/retail businesses they talk passionately about the importance of their customer. But they do more than talk. They demonstrate their commitment by running to serve customers at all of their retail locations. This simple activity—running—makes deep and lasting impressions on the public and elevates the business above their competitors.
Southwest Airlines is a great, national example. Part of their mission is a “fun-loving attitude.” Rather than simply printing that phrase on seat backs, they allow and encourage staff to “animate” that brand through funny and even outrageous behavior. Nearly everyone who has flown Southwest has a distinctive, fun and funny memory of flying on a Southwest flight. By “performing their activities differently than their rivals,” Southwest has the most powerful brand in the industry and they are the only airline that has made a profit quarter after quarter for more than 10 years!
Transformation—and consumer understanding—come from brand and strategy inextricably linked and driven through the whole organization. If large, regional and national organizations can animate their brands, so can credit unions!
Brand vision and action are huge for our role at LT Public Relations. We can’t successfully tell the story until it exists both on paper and throughout the organization’s culture.
We want to thank Matt for sharing some insights from Purvis Management and we hope they’ve been helpful.
How well does your organization present a unified brand?