“What’s in a name?”—a famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—can actually apply to many financial institutions. While several banks and credit unions have descriptive names that clearly articulate who they serve or what they are, several names are just vague and generic. And in many cases the existing name causes confusion.

That was certainly the case with one credit union that recently changed their name from Washington Community Federal Credit Union to Chrome.

“There was a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” says Amanda Lunger, vice president and chief brand officer for Chrome. “Consumers would come to us thinking we were one of our competitors because many of them have the word ‘Washington’ in their name. Plus, the old name was a mouthful to say.”

Changing the name was not a quick, overnight fix. The entire process actually took over a year and began with a strategic planning session focused on culture, values and how the old banking model was changing. Once the strategy was in place, then the credit union spent a lot of time choosing the right partner to assist them with changing their name.

“We went with a local firm that could leverage our size and create something truly unique,” Lunger said. They partnered with Wall to Wall Studios, a full-service integrated brand design agency. “We started by developing our brand platform, which included our vision, mission, values and target markets.”

They also focused on their roots. Originally founded as Washington Steel Credit Union they had a foundation in the steel industry. And since chromium is a hard white metal used in stainless steel there is a natural tie-in to “Chrome.” Plus, the Greek word for color is chroma. So naturally their new tagline is “banking that shines.”

So what would Lunger recommend to a financial institution considering a name change? Here are a few quick tips she offered:

  • Wait until the time is right
  • Put research in place
  • Remember branding is everything
  • Take your time
  • Make a real investment in branding
  • Focus on corporate culture and training

“Whether you change your name or not, ultimately, you need to give your brand a hug,” Lunger adds. They are currently spending a great deal of time ensuring the staff buys into the brand. “Every marketing dollar you spend is wasted if your staff is not living your brand,” she says.

How have members responded to the new name and a brand hug? “When we explain the name, their eyes light up,” Lunger says. “We are also communicating that these significant changes mean a higher level of service.”

And a great deal more clarity.