The Five Fundamentals of a Community Bank or Credit Union Brand

Sean Galli
The Five Fundamentals of a Community Bank or Credit Union Brand

In the last part of this blog series, you learned about five key tricks to an incredible strategic plan. Let’s look at branding this time.

Before you jump into brand essentials, it’s important to have the right definition of “brand” as a philosophical starting point. The number one thing to remember is…your brand is not a logo and color palette. Your brand is who you are. It’s your identity and personality that makes you distinctly you.

Visuals are brand components, not brand building blocks. Always craft a brand that leads with strategy and follows with visuals.

And abide by the brand triangle. Leaders spearhead the brand, employees live the brand and (assuming those first two parts go well) consumers love the brand.

Now that there’s a baseline definition to work from, here are five fundamentals of a community bank or credit union brand.


1. Niches Lead to Riches


A recent Jack Henry report says 90% of financial institutions plan to serve a niche market over the next two years. There’s a good reason for that!

As Donald Miller states, “Niches lead to riches.” Your community bank or credit union brand can’t be all things to all people. A brand should be distinct, and distinctiveness is impossible while targeting everyone. Attempting to appeal to all groups makes you bland and unappealing to all of them.

Discover what three-to-five target niches you want to home in on and know those niches better than anyone else. And yes, that means learning more than they have a car, some kids and a house.

Ask yourself:

  • What are this group’s pain points?
  • What are their fears/worries?
  • What are their dreams?

Get past the demographic data and truly know your niches to have a successful brand.


2. Clear Messaging


Consumers don’t read your content; they skim your content.

You probably already know that tidbit, but don’t think it makes words meaningless. Quite the opposite. If anything, words are more powerful because you should use less of them. Writing brand messaging requires careful curation.

That’s where clarity comes in for your community bank or credit union brand messaging.

Can you describe your core brand message in six words or less? Is it still coherent? Can you leave out the words people, community and service?

Think about Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places” or McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” brand messaging. It’s short, simple, easily understood and instantly recognizable. Craft your own distinct, clear brand messaging.


3. Culture Over Collateral


Your brand is far more cultural than collateral. This harkens back to the point made at the beginning of the article: branding is who you are.

But it’s not just your external personality…it’s also your internal characteristics.

How you treat team members. What you see in the world. Why you get out of bed each day. Your brand answers these vital questions. And your consumer-facing brand will never exceed the quality of your internal brand. 

Your institution’s values are an important part of your brand. They shouldn’t be corporate or manufactured; they must already exist among the staff’s behaviors. Uncover these preexisting values and bring them to light. Define them in an intriguing away, avoiding “golden retriever words” like integrity or dependability. Make your values a rallying cry unique to your organization. 

This all sounds a bit fluffy, but it has very real impacts on performance. According to the Harvard Business Review, teams who live out strong collective values do 17% better than teams who don’t.

So, don’t discount internal brand culture. Your bank or credit union brand must be great within to be great without.


4. Behaviors Reflect Brand


This point ties into the previous one but is more external. A brand is a collection of behaviors consistently performed and exemplified to consumers.

In other words, your consumer experience is the operationalization of your brand. It’s your brand standards translated into tangible actions. And your employee often equals the experience (which means they personify the brand).

What does that mean?

Let’s say a member phones your credit union’s call center. When your representative answers, she puts the member on hold for a while. After the hold, the representative is short and chilly with the member.

It doesn’t matter how much your marketing espouses your local, friendly brand. The member experienced the brand as cold and annoyed; they now see your marketing messages as pretty lies.

Remember: your bank or credit union brand is more about what you do than what you say.


5. Small Details Matter


Your brand matters from the boardroom to the breakroom to the bathroom.

Just ask Buc-ee’s. Their marketing proudly advertises exceptionally clean bathrooms, prompting travelers to “potty like a rockstar.” This separates Buc-ee’s from the scores of convenience stores that don’t care about restroom hygiene.

Your bathroom reflects your brand too. So do your in-branch wait times. And the litter in the parking lot. People notice the little things and (fair or not) use them to form opinions about you.

Don’t miss out on business because your community bank or credit union brand neglected the tiny details.


These five fundamentals are vital whether you are performing maintenance on your current brand or completely rebranding. And you don’t have to go it alone. Book a free consultation with On The Mark Strategies and get guidance on your rebrand today.

Sean Galli
Marketing Coordinator
Sean Galli
Remember to Link Bank or Credit Union Vision to Action

Remember to Link Bank or Credit Union Vision to Action

Link your bank or credit union vision to real impact with this On The Mark Strategies article. Use onboarding and storytelling to create something memorable.