10 Best Practices for a Successful Name Change

Mark Arnold
10 Best Practices for a Successful Name Change

Changing your credit union’s or community bank’s name can be as scary as {insert your preferred cuss word here}. However, fear is often the enemy of risk. While making the strategic decision to update your name is bold, it doesn’t have to be filled with apprehension, dread and anxiety.

We’ve helped multiple credit unions and community banks change their name over the years, and through our experience we’ve developed tips and techniques that make the difference between a dream project and one that can turn into a nightmare.

10 Best Practices for a Successful Business Name Change

Here are 10 best practices every credit union and bank should employ when undertaking a name change project:

1. Remove personal biases from decisions.

“That name, color, logo, etc. reminds me of my grandmother’s nursing home.” Those are words you don’t want to hear uttered during a naming workshop. All of us are biased in one way or another—after all, we’re human. But when choosing names, logos, fonts, colors, etc. it’s critical to put on our strategy hat and the hat of the niche audiences we’re trying to reach. We must think of others and not ourselves.

[bctt tweet="When choosing brand names, logos, fonts, colors, etc. it’s critical to put on our strategy hat & the hat of the niche audiences we’re trying to reach.
#branding #creditunions " username="jmarkarnold"]

2. Get board input on the name change, but manage their involvement.

Balancing board direction with board micromanaging is always a bit tricky. One general principle to remember is “let the professionals do their work.” That means executives should drive the key decisions and not the board. Yes, the board needs input and certainly buy-in. However, over involvement (especially by one or two opinionated board members) can derail the entire process.

3. Lead with strategy not creative.

The “cool” part of a new name are the colors, logo and visual elements. However, creative is generally the third step in a successful brand process (research > strategy > creative). When reviewing new name options for our clients we present the names by themselves as standalones (with the strategic reasoning behind it). That way you choose the name on its merits and not it’s creative.

lead with strategy not creative successful name change quote

[bctt tweet="Lead with strategy, not creative.
#brandstrategy #creative #creditunions" username="jmarkarnold"]

4. Build in time and margin?

Depending on multiple variables a typical name change project can run between six and 12 months. The most obvious potential delay is if you formally file to trademark the new name (since then your timeline is at the mercy of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office). Whether you formally file or not, however, with each step your financial institution should allow ample time for each stage. Changing your name is not something you rush.

5. Use an outside partner. Don’t go it alone.

Yes, I’m biased on this point. Whether you use our company or another branding agency, partner with an expert. Changing your financial institution’s name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Don’t leave it to chance, don’t pull a name out of a hat and don’t use the internal committee approach. There are way too many potential pitfalls that could cause you to stumble.

"Your attention to detail, objective perspective and insight during each step in the process allowed us to focus on developing a name and brand that really connects with our entire membership and will successfully carry our credit union through another 60+ years."

--Jeff Thompson, CEO, Blue Eagle Credit Union

6. Use a specialized trademark attorney.

More than likely every credit union and bank has at least one law firm they use on a regular basis. That legal council is critical with collection, H.R. and a myriad of other issues you encounter. However, trademark law is a different animal. It is a specialized field in and requires specialist. We know of one financial institution that used their local attorney rather than a trademark specialist and the results were both disastrous and costly. Don’t make that mistake.

7. Follow a proven, successful name change process.

“Trust the process” is a famous sports quote (mostly used when rebuilding a team). And when it comes to changing your name there is a proven process that works. It is methodical. It is focused. It is guided. And it works. Rather than going with a “throw the pasta against the wall and see what sticks” approach following a proven method will get your desired results. One of our clients noted “You guys played an integral role in our name-change process. We faced challenges with an outdated name that did not match our markets. The new name helped better position us to reach our target audiences.”

8. Avoid cliché names and words.

First. People. Member.

Don't copy, create quote On The Mark Strategies successful name change

Service. Those words are all over-used when it comes to financial institution names (and please note I’m not saying if you have those words in your current name that you’re a loser). One feature you certainly want in your new name is freshness. As Earl Nightingale famously says, “Don’t copy, create.” Never is that quote more applicable than in regards to a successful name change. The most effective names are ones that distinguish themselves from the competition.

9. Involve a team in the name change process.

While you don’t want to take the “committee” name approach—because we all know committees are where real work goes to die—you do want to involve others in the process. Having some type of representation from a cross-section of the credit union or bank ensures employee buy-in. And that engagement is critical when launching your successful name change. The more internal advocates you can have the more likely the new name will succeed.

[bctt tweet="The more internal advocates you have, the more likely your change effort is to be successful.
#brandstrategy #change #creditunions" username="jmarkarnold"]

10. Make the name change process fun.

Finally, it’s critical to a successful name change that the experience is fun. As Bert Beal, president of GO Federal Credit Union said, “On the Mark Strategies provided a genuinely positive and fun experience for our staff and built on our confidence in what we were doing.” If you view the process as a pain or a necessary evil then your final results will reflect that attitude. Fun generates excitement. Excitement generates engagement. And engagement generates results.

When we picked our daughters’ names it was challenging at times—especially because my wife was a teacher. She immediately ruled out some options because the potential names were associated with some of her unruly students. When it comes to choosing your credit union’s or bank’s new name, following the above tips will ensure you won’t encounter naming challenges.

Mark Arnold
Founder and CEO