Follow the Laws of Branding

Business development staff are CUs’ branding ‘secret weapon.’

March 25, 2013
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Smart credit unions don’t push products, they promote their brands, says Mark Arnold, president of the On the Mark Strategies. And business development staff are credit unions’ “secret weapon” in this process.

Mark Arnold
Mark Arnold addressed the three parts of the branding triangle: Leadership, staff, and members.

Arnold addressed the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference Sunday in Anaheim, Calif.

Branding, he says, is the process of determining your competitive advantages and building them into an institutional culture. A successful brand has three key elements:

1. Clarity. Does everyone in the credit union know exactly what it stands for? Nordstrom’s, for example, is known for its service, and Volvo’s brand is synonymous with safety.

“It’s about who you are as employees, members, and business development professionals,” Arnold says.

2. Consistency. Are your branding efforts consistent through all delivery channels?

3. Constancy—always being in front of the communities you serve.

“You can’t go 24 hours without seeing Coke’s logo,” Arnold explains.

Branding isn’t about getting consumers to pick your products and services over your competitors’, he adds, but as “the only solution to their problem. Smart credit unions don’t push product; they push their brand.”

Following these “branding laws,” Arnold says, will keep credit unions on track:

  • If your branding is wrong, everything else is, too. “You can’t blow that,” he says. “You can’t make a marketing promise you can’t deliver.”
  • Branding isn’t about you, it’s about them—members.
  • Remember that advertising grabs peoples’ minds while branding grabs their hearts.

“Grabbing peoples’ hearts gets their commitment,” Arnold says, citing Harley Davidson as a prime example.

Business development staff play an important role in branding because they have extensive contact with both current and prospective members, providing access to valuable business intelligence.

“The business development area is credit unions’ secret weapon in branding,” Arnold says. “You’re the bridge.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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