Note: This article originally ran on Credit Union Insight

Nothing you can make that can’t be made …
No one you can save that can’t be saved …
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time …
It’s easy.
All you need is love …

I must admit up front — All You Need Is Love isn’t of my favorite Beatles tunes. I mostly enjoy their early, youth-euphoric hits right up until about the time of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The last time I heard this particular song, the refrain above really resonated. When you think about it, there is very little in credit union marketing and advertising that hasn’t already been done. Sure, every once in a while somebody will come up with a new idea (Kasasa, anyone?). But it doesn’t take long for the competition to catch up, modify or downright copy and steal fresh ideas.

That’s where the “… nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time” line comes into play. I doubt John Lennon was thinking directly about branding when he penned these lyrics, but it certainly does apply.

That really is the essence of branding. Not trying to copy the competition; rather – discovering who your credit union is and what your credit union is about during a series of deep-dive brand identity exercises. Rate-matching won’t do it. Running a new car promotion every May just because the bank down the street is doing it won’t work. Even coming up with something brand-new (an unlikely event) won’t work because, as noted above, somebody else will eventually copy you.

No – the answer to successful differentiation for credit unions in today’s hyper-competitive financial services marketplace is simply “learn how to be you in time.” Branding is not an overnight thing. When done correctly, the branding journey is a months-long process with dips, speed bumps, u-turns and a few straightaways. And it really is all about you being you. What sets you apart from the competition (and please don’t say service or people — those are simply not strategy differentiation models any longer). What is your credit union good at doing? What is your credit union not good at doing? What demographic sets of the population do you serve well and, just as importantly, which demographic targets are simply not the right match for your credit union and its finite marketing dollars?

Once you establish your authentic brand, it becomes a question of practice and training for your staff to get on-board. I’m pretty sure the Beatles probably rehearsed All You Need Is Love a few times before laying down the studio track. The same principle applies to your brand and staff. Your credit union can’t invest in creating and launching a brand only to let it fall flat on his face due to lack of staff training. Staff training leads to staff buy-in and loyalty. Without a proper introduction to the brand, including all its subtle nuances and unique characteristics, your staff can hardly be expected to live it in front of each other, let alone in front of your members.

Whether it’s a Beatles classic song or even the Bible in Ecclesiastes 1:9 (“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”) the message is the same — it’s pretty hard to come up with something strikingly new in credit union marketing and advertising these days. What is new, what is authentic and what is extremely difficult to duplicate is your own unique brand. Getting there is not an easy journey, but the rewards are worth it. When you own your brand, you own space in which you stand. And no one can take that away from you.