“We’ll never get another dog.” Those were the words my wife and I shared after our two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels passed away earlier this year. As you can imagine, that pledge lasted less than four months.

After researching, researching and researching some more we are now in possession of a brand new Golden Doodle puppy (named Abbey for “Downton Abbey”). I know: what were we thinking? Sleepless nights, crate training and constant chewing are just a few of the challenges.

And when it comes to your credit union or bank’s brand, you may be feeling some challenges as well: sleepless nights, staff training (no, don’t put your employees in a crate) and constant complaining that branding is too big of an initiative to undertake.

But as my wife and I remind ourselves daily, we need to take a deep breath and remember the big picture when it comes to raising a puppy. And branding is no different.

So how is raising a puppy like branding? Here are five ways you can apply “puppy” lessons to your credit union or bank branding:

  • It takes consistency—One of the three “Cs” to branding is consistency. While I don’t know if there are three “Cs” to training a puppy, consistency certainly should be one of them. I can’t do one thing with our new dog and my wife do something else. We must be on the same page. And your financial institution’s employees must be on the same page when it comes to your brand as well. “Brand puppy tip”: Ask your staff what your credit union or bank is about and compare the answers.


  • It takes outside help—It didn’t take my wife and I long to recognize real quickly we were in over our heads with Abbey. We went from lazy lap dogs to an energetic working dog. By day six of having Abbey we had hired a dog trainer to come to our house and help. Your credit union and bank is no different: when you are focusing on your brand or doing a rebrand you cannot go it alone. No matter how much of a marketing or branding expert you are, you need an outsider’s perspective to guide you through branding. “Brand puppy tip”: Seek an outside partner to guide you with your brand.


  • It takes saying “no”—Hopefully Abbey does not think her name is “Abbey No.” Because at times that’s what it seems I’m calling her on a daily basis. When it comes to your brand you cannot be all things to all people. In other words, you have to say “no” at times. “Brand puppy tip”: Determine your brand’s niches.


  • It takes time—Raising a puppy is not an overnight process. We already love Abbey dearly and know that this first year or two is going to be quite an adventure. It’s going to take time for her to develop into the perfect pet (although my wife swears she’s already the best dog ever). Branding is not an overnight process either. It is going to take time to get your brand right where you want it. You will need to research, strategize, create and train. “Brand puppy tip”: Go through a deliberate and focused brand process rather than rushing it.


  • It takes training—Obviously Abbey needs lots of training, although I think our dog trainer is training us more than she is the dog. We are now spending quite a bit of our time heeling, sitting and fetching. And when you invest in your brand you need to spend quite a bit of your time training your staff to your brand. Your employees must see the link between your brand and their day-to-day jobs. “Brand puppy tip”: Conduct staff brand training.

While having a puppy is a blast, raising a puppy takes work. And while having a brand that resonates and differentiates in your market place is a blast, developing a brand takes work in the form of consistency, outside help, saying no, time and training.