Five Keys to Crafting a High-Functioning Brand

five keys on red background
By Josh Streufert

2 minutes

Brand success comes down to how well leaders use tools and culture-building to shape perceptions, attitudes and experiences for members and staff.

Sponsored by Strum

We all know brands that stand out, tap emotional connections and build legions of raving fans. Differentiation for them seems almost effortless. They often define their category—or even create a new one.

We refer to such brands as high-functioning. However, what seems effortless on the outside actually requires incredible focus, detailed execution and an openness to adaptation that keeps these brands relevant and thriving.

What Is Brand?

Brands are the perceptions and expectations people have about you—whether they’ve purchased your products or used your services or not. Therefore, every organization has a brand. Some are high-functioning, some are lower-functioning, some are stumbling and in need of rehabilitation.

For financial services organizations, brand is the whole ballgame. In a highly regulated industry, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate with products. If your checking account is radically different from all the others, you’re probably losing money or breaking the law.

There are so many tactics today to deploy in modern branding: social media, websites, videos, SMS, experience design, and on and on. You must be able to execute on so many levels just to keep pace with the rising expectations and media fragmentation.

Success with branding comes down to how well leaders use tools and culture-building to shape perceptions, attitudes and experiences—for both their customers and their internal teams.

What Credit Unions Can Do

Here are five keys to crafting a high-performing brand at your credit union:

  1. Think holistically about your brand. It’s not a specific layout or your logo. Your brand is about how you make people feel, and design is a power tool for crafting this.
  2. Have a strong point of view about your distinction. If your brand feels safe and comfortable, you’re in the middle of the pack and not commanding the attention you need to grow.
  3. Align your culture consistently around it. Brand and culture are intrinsically linked and should intentionally reflect each other. This requires ongoing investment and attention.
  4. Narrow your focus around a clear set of audience targets. Just as jokes are funnier when they are more specific, brands work better the more personalized they feel.
  5. Don’t underestimate being likable. People make decisions with emotions and later rationalize them, so positive feelings are … positive. We’ve also called this the beer rule of branding.

If any of these elements are missing at your credit union, it’s time to reinvest in your brand and the cultural alignment around it. When these elements are all working together, organizations can increase team buy-in, inspire higher brand loyalty, spark growth and elevate their brands to “high functioning” status.

Josh Streufert is creative director/principal with Strum, a CUES Supplier member based in Seattle. Streufert directs a diverse and talented group of designers and writers in bringing brands to life. His extraordinary conceptual skills in branding and advertising have garnered hundreds of national awards. More importantly, they fuel growth and profitability for Strum’s clients.

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