In one of my favorite scenes from Star Trek: The Next Generation (nerd alert) the character Q warns Captain Picard “If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it’s not for the timid.”

The same thing applies to your bank or credit union and its expeditions into branding.

An authentic journey into branding, whether it’s your first time or a re-branding effort, is not for the faint of heart. Done correctly, branding digs deeply into the DNA of your bank or credit union. We’re talking culture, staff, marketing collateral, philosophy – all of that. You also find out what consumers think about you. And the answers are not always pleasant. Sometimes, they are completely at odds with what your executive management team and Board of Directors thought they would hear.

But a branding journey is not the time to whitewash unpleasant information. In order to launch and nurture a successful brand, your bank or credit union must embrace whatever data is unearthed and use it to its advantage.

For example, you may have thought for many years that your financial institution had a great reputation in the community for stellar consumer service. Interviews and surveys with consumers, however, might turn up a very different reality. Or, you might feel confident that your marketing materials are hip, effective and vibrant. An in-depth marketing audit can potentially unearth cracks in this armor — cracks that you must find a way to repair for the sake of your brand.

These are just a few of the reasons why an in-depth marketing audit is such a powerful tool for any bank or credit union launching a branding voyage. To truly maximize your brand and marketing results, a marketing audit is a must-have. It gives you suggestions for overall improvement, money-saving ideas and an invaluable outsider’s view of your marketing. And again, while the results may be a little difficult to swallow, it is critical that you do so in order to move the branding ball down the field. For example, we recently completed a marketing audit for a client that uncovered a number of potential changes they could make to improve their overall brand. One of those was moving from the use of a local printer for collateral design work to a more professional, design-focused firm. While the credit union in this example had a good working relationship with the local printer, the quality of the design work just was not up to scratch with the image they had in mind for their brand. Moving over to a design-focused marketing firm posed a few initial challenges, but in the end was well worth it given the greatly improved nature of future marketing collateral.

The year is still young. Now is a great time to consider a marketing audit for your bank or credit union. And while it is not for the timid, courageous marketers and members of your executive management team will embrace it as a positive tool for change.