Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, once said, “one of the things we recognized about 10 or 12 years ago was that probably of all the assets on our balance sheet, none was more important than the brand, even though it wasn’t capitalized at all.” Your credit union or bank’s brand is critical to your growth. If you don’t invest in your brand, you wont’ grow.

Over time, it’s easy for your brand to lose its effectiveness. It can grow stale. It can become irrelevant. It can move in the wrong direction. There is a real danger is brand degradation. Below are four things that can degrade your brand.

(1) Staff: The biggest threats to your brand come from within. You are not just competing with all the other financial institutions in your area. You are competing with internal apathy. If your staff does not
buy into and live your brand—every day—then your brand will degrade. One solution: give your staff brand training.

(2) Inconsistency: One of the three “Cs” to a strong brand is consistency (the others are constancy and clarity). How many ways is your logo used? Do all your branches look and feel similar? Do your branches look like your website? One solution: put all your marketing material (and pictures of your branches) on a table and examine them for inconsistencies.

(3) Lack of commitment: If branding is so important (see Fred Smith’s quote above) then why do we not give it the proper resources it needs? In tight times, the first thing that gets cut is the marketing budget. That’s an easy short-term fix but the long-term ramifications are dangerous. Don’t say branding is so important and then not invest resources (time, money, staff, etc.) to its development. One solution: review your marketing budget.

(4) No user experience: Branding is not advertising. It’s more than a logo, a tagline, or a commercial. The most successful brands today are the ones that are engaging their customers: those that offer a true user experience (think Apple, Starbucks, etc.). You must make your brand interactive (easy to say, hard to do). One solution: conduct mystery shops on your branches and website; see how easy it is to get a product (loan, checking account, etc.) and what the experience is like.

We all want strong brands. But the reality is it’s easier for a brand to grow weak rather than strong. Addressing the four items above ensures your brand grows rather than degrades.