Webinar: Why and how financial institutions are rebranding now

Webinar: Why and how financial institutions are rebranding now

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Thursday, May 13, 2021 | BrandActive

The turbulence of the past year has affected financial consumers’ behavior and attitudes, in both new and positive ways. Some banks are accelerating digital transformation, others are rethinking retail banking all together, and many are considering M&A activity and new partnerships. These factors are driving large-scale brand changes at banks and credit unions of every size.

Our panel of senior marketing executives covered why they decided on brand change in the first place, how they prepared to make the rebrand implementation process as efficient as possible, and what they would do differently in the future.

Our expert panel:

  • Sarah Szilagyi, SVP, Experience Operations and Chief of Staff, CO-OP Financial Services
  • Chad Langford, VP of Marketing, Gesa Credit Union
  • Nicole Kemp, Practice Lead, Brand & Marketing Operations, BrandActive
  • Moderated by Jim Marous, Co-Publisher, The Financial Brand

Full transcript below.

Lee Rose:

Hello everyone. This is Lee Rose with Banking Transformed Webinars. We want to thank everyone for joining us today for this webinar from BrandActive. Rebrand in this economy? A look at why and how financial service companies are rebranding. The recording of this webinar will be emailed to you shortly after we’ve concluded, and we will be doing a live Q&A, so please feel free to utilize that questions panel on the dashboard. Now it’s my pleasure to introduce Nicole Kemp, Practice Lead of Brand and Marketing Operations at BrandActive, Chad Langford, VP of Marketing at Gesa Credit Union, Sarah Szilagyi, SVP Experience Operations and Chief of Staff at CO-OP Financial Services, and Jim Marous, Co-Publisher of The Financial Brand and owner of the Digital Banking Report. Jim, I’ll let you go ahead and take it from here please.

Jim Marous:

Well, I’m really happy that everybody could make it to the podcast today. It’s really interesting. As we look at what’s going on in the marketplace right now, there is so much going on. Honestly, the marketing team is at the forefront of everything that’s going on. They’re in the spotlight more than ever. Why don’t we start off with a poll question? The poll question is, “What are the most common mistakes that marketers make when rebranding?” We want to get your impression of what you think the most common mistakes will be.

Jim Marous:

Number one, not enough research, KPI setting, or post-launch tracking. Not high enough rebranding strategy created early in the process. In other words, we don’t really have any place that we set up to go. Not securing the right level of funding for the impression, the lack of senior executive buy-in, or an inconsistent brand experience or delays in the rollout. If you can, if you can post your answers in just a minute we’ll look at the answers to give us a level sense as to where we are today.

Jim Marous:

Interesting. What is interesting is it’s really looking like the foundational issues are the biggest. But we look at not enough research, maybe setting up in the beginning, no high level rebranding strategy, and inconsistent brand experience. It’s good to know that funds are not a problem. Lack of senior management consent and buy-in is not the problem. We’re going to ask our panel a number of questions, but before we do, let’s talk a little bit about these and why we worry right now.

Jim Marous:

First of all, we have never been in an environment like this before, as I’ve mentioned. More importantly, we have found in our research at the Digital Banking Report, we have situations that we didn’t expect. For instance, branding and setting up a new brand was a real high rating in our trends and predictions report. We didn’t expect that to get a high rating given all the other things going on. What we found out was if you don’t have a strong brand, if you don’t show commitment to the community, to your customers, to your members, you’re not going to be successful.

Jim Marous:

A lot of organizations have taken this time to transition to at least significantly adjust their brands or do a complete rebranding, which is amazing when you consider the fact we’re doing this all remotely. Now, I really give a lot of credit to the organizations that have accomplished this and have tried this, because I think that with so many moving parts, to think that you could add one more, one more big element to this, which is can we make it so all of our organizations can be really centralized over a brand new paradigm, a change in the marketplace at a time when everything else is changing?

Jim Marous:

However, when we think about this we also have to remember that consumers never look at us the same way. They’ve never looked at us as being so important in their lives. Everybody’s under financial stress. They’re looking for organizations that know them, understand them, and will reward them. That isn’t just with price or products, but it’s really are you going to be positioned in a way that I’d want to call you my financial institution? Are you out for me or for you?

Jim Marous:

Before the pandemic, many of us took a lot of effort to sell product. Now more than ever it’s about positioning our firms in a way that’s really something that somebody wants to be a part of as a customer and member. Why don’t we start off with a few questions for our panel? Chad, I’m going to start with you right now. What were the key drivers behind your company’s decision to rebrand? Was the decision made before or after the pandemic as well? That’s for Chad. I’m sorry.

Chad Langford:

Oh, it’s for me? Well, our decision was specific to a merger. We merged with another credit union. I mean, it’s the second largest credit union in the state of Washington. Given that as the catalyst, to take advantage of that opportunity to potentially rebrand, we hadn’t touched our brand since 1953 other than a couple logo updates, which was another hurdle because we had said that, “We rebranded in the past just by updating the logo,” which that’s not a rebrand. That’s a whole other conversation. Anyways, we took advantage of the opportunity with the acquisition to refresh that brand and really refine and sharpen our brands going forward.

Jim Marous:

Sarah, from your perspective, what were the key drivers behind your brand decision to rebrand and to reposition?

Sarah Szilagyi:

Well, we also have a very tenured brand at CO-OP. Our logo’s been in place for the most part since the beginning of the company, and the company is now 40 years old. Frankly, in the last five years, we have made tremendous strides in innovation and the solutions we deliver to market. We have done a 180 with what we deliver from the service all the way through the technology that we’re developing. It was time. It was time for our brand, frankly, to catch up with what we were doing internally. We made the decision about two or three years ago, and I think we’ll talk more about the process of that. It’s been, like I said, a long time coming, and also a very big project to take on.

Jim Marous:

It’s interesting. In both these situations, organizations did it because the company’s changed in the last 40 to 50 years, which is easy to say, but it’s something that many times gets put on the back burner. Nicole, from BrandActive’s position, and we have two examples here, but overarching over the last year, over the last let’s say eight, nine months, what’s been the biggest reason why firms that you work with have looked to rebrand?

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah. It is really a mix of reasons that include legacy issues that Sarah and Chad talked about, but also a lot of folks move into centralization models. From a highly decentralized organization where the pandemic really brought about this idea that we need to cut costs, we need to do more with less, because a lot of organizations were responding to the pandemic or needing to cut operational costs. What can we do to clean up our business operationally and bring everything together? That could be centralizing your brand architecture, moving forward with a strategy that’s more consolidated and more consistent was definitely a big theme. I think like Sarah and Chad, a lot of organizations just had it in their plans to do for various reasons, whether it was entering the market, or expanding or shifting gears to respond to customer needs. There’s really a plethora of reasons.

Jim Marous:

I’m going to speak with you for a second, Nicole. When you get involved, usually the initiative’s already been improved internally. They already have made a decision. “We’re going to go forward. We’re going to do this.” By the time you get in, they’ve even in some cases take their partner, in some cases, haven’t. What do you see internally? Once you get involved, and even though you know that they said it’s going to go forward, what are the political challenges or internal dynamics that still need to be clear, even though you have got all checked boxes have already been checked and we’re just in here to implement? What are the biggest challenges internally?

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah. It’s interesting because a lot of brand change is driven by customer insights into market research saying, “Here’s why we need to make this change.” Even on the light of you need qualitative or quantitative information, there’s still a lot of emotion around brand. Whether it’s a legacy brand that folks just are really tied to, and yeah, have a lot of loyalty and heart behind, or you’re dealing with a merger and acquisitions situation, of course, there’s some emotion to being the taken over partner.

Nicole Kemp:

I would say certainly emotion has a lot to do with it, frankly, in getting people to buy into why this is a good idea, because mostly if you keep doing things the way that they’ve been doing things, or acting, or holding certain values, and something new is introduced, you really, really need to give them a reason why this is a good thing not just for them, but for the customers or the business. There’s that internal buy-in, whether it’s across the organization or even at the leadership level I would say is certainly a big hurdle, even if you know it’s the right thing to do.

Jim Marous:

Sarah, to you, obviously when you’ve gone 40 years without rebranding, it’s not like somebody hasn’t brought it up at least once in 40 years. From your perspective, you obviously are certainly a major part of the go forward charge. You were leading the charge, and sometimes I think customers, something like that. There’s some saying around, “You’re either going to get the arrows or you’re going to get the praise.” What were the challenges that you had getting top management to buy around, or was top management really, they got moved forward from the whole process?

Sarah Szilagyi:

We were lucky because top management was definitely on board from the beginning. I think our challenges were more and are more operational in nature. Taking the time to prioritize a rebrand is a challenging thing when you’re faced with so many areas you need to or want to spend as an organization. Getting buy-in from that perspective. Everyone initially is, “Yes, we definitely need to rebrand. We need to refresh. We need to be seen the way we’re actually operating is a wonderful thing.” Everyone sees the value, but I think really selling it in in a real way to help everyone understand what the effort’s going to be from time, talent and treasure, I mean, it’s not just cost. You have to really have everyone on board to be willing to spend the time and effort to make it happen and make it really successful.

Sarah Szilagyi:

Again, my team was lucky. We had top management buy-in, but it has been a process. I think what’s interesting, if I can jump to today and dealing with COVID, and especially the world of financial services, I think it even sped up some of that conversation. It made it slating in the work, right? Again, operationally, a little challenging because we all had so many things that shifted how we do business in the last year and a half.

Sarah Szilagyi:

It also really tightened the need for making sure we’re viewed by our clients, to our credit unions and their members, in the right light, and in a really forward thinking light, and in a way that they understand that we’re really here for them. COVID did a really interesting thing in that it made it harder in one sense, because we had so much we had to accomplish so fast, but also really brought us together as an organization as far as how we want to be viewed and how we want to serve. The rebrand really helped us unify.

Jim Marous:

Chad, rebranding. I’m a marketer by trade and a sale person by trade, but I’ve worked in some institutes a lot in my career. Branding many times is aspiration as well as talking about what you are. You’re talking about what you want to be or want to be viewed as. How would we bring that all together within the organization? How do you make it so that what you’re trying to build aspirationally, it really transcends into your workforce, and into your teams, into your leadership, into what you do daily? How do you make it so the branding actually is doing the honest description of who your organization is?

Chad Langford:

That’s a significant challenge. As I mentioned before, changing the logo, which employees had considered a rebrand, it doesn’t really necessarily fit that description or definition. It was very important to get the buy-in from every single level. From executives all the way down to the individual team members to really be a part of that evolution. We involved everyone at different levels in a different timeline in helping us to choose what our new brand was going to be moving forward. What do we want to be to our members? What do we want to represent? How do we want to be viewed? What perspective do we want our current members and prospective members to have of us? Really getting that buy-in and ownership from every single person in the organization was very important, and bringing them along that journey to where everyone felt like they were a part of it and had a voice in the decision.

Jim Marous:

Nicole, your team’s brought in. An organization wants to do a rebrand. Let’s say you come across an organization that what you see and what they’re saying, there’s a big disconnect. In other words, they say, “We’re a digital first organization,” and you’re going, “Eh.” That can be a tough one to sell when you got some of the big boys in your marketplace and you can’t sell what’s not real. What do you do as a brand organization to really bring together the aspiration with the realization?

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah, that’s a great question. One of the things that we look at is similar to what Sarah was talking about as one of the challenges is essentially implementing and empowering the brand. How do you make sure every individual across the organization that especially knows everyone, especially knows who are managing the brand and assets, make sure they fully understand not just what they need to do, right? To Chad’s point, where does the logo go? How do I use the guidelines? This very surface level understanding of the brand.

Nicole Kemp:

What we instruct clients to do is move beyond the what and get to the why. Why are we doing this? Then that starts to build not just understanding, but loyalty and adoption. I mean, we’re talking to everyone in the organization to help activate and implement the brand, and that’s a great opportunity to raise those issues to our clients, and specifically the CMOs who are running the brand programs. Say, “Here are the gaps operationally that you need to fill in order to make this strategy realized in market. In between that strategy and execution, there’s a whole list of operational elements that you need to think about. We can help identify those gaps,” and we have to do that quite often to your point. A lot of leadership might not understand or see all of the gaps to realize the strategy once getting there.

Jim Marous:

I think just before we take our next poll question, I think it’s interesting because indirectly, Sarah, Chad, in the call said the same thing, that, “Rebranding isn’t necessarily a marketing endeavor. It’s an organizational endeavor and it’s an operational endeavor.” I mean, Sarah even said, “We have to make sure our back office was in alignment with what we are saying we wanted to do.”

Jim Marous:

Another one of the major roles of a company like BrandActive is that it’s not just they’re saying, “Where do you want us to put this nice new logo?” Or, “Do you want us to develop a really nice new fancy logo and put on everything?” That’s not rebranding. Rebranding is really part of an overall repositioning process. Again, these organizations have said it, and Nicole said it about BrandActive is that, “You have to dig to the,” I’m going to say the roles of the organization, but the part of organization that maybe don’t ever come in contact with the client to say, “How do we implement this correctly?”

Jim Marous:

Let’s take our second poll question right now. Which of these strategic marketing issues will your organization be looking to take on in the next 12 to 18 months? Number one, full organizational rebrand, redefining your current marketing strategy and positioning, operationally improving to increase brand consistency, transactions. In other words, merger and acquisition or investiture. Or redefine or expand your brand offering or your product portfolio. We’re going to take a couple seconds for you to do that.

Jim Marous:

I think it’s important. If you look at these parts of the questions, there’s a lot of components to rebranding. There’s a lot of ways to look at rebranding, either on the contextual side overall or simply as part and parcel. It’s what we’re doing business. It’s interesting. 33% of organizations on the webinar today are going to do a full organizational rebrand. That’s one thing to remember is that no matter where you are in the U.S., right now if you have five organizations, one on the right and one on the left, one of you is going to be going through a complete rebrand beyond you. That’s important to realize that part of this is about positioning.

Jim Marous:

Are you going to be positioned well? What’s the other set? It’s a chess game. It’s moving parts all the time. Chad, overall, what do you wish you knew before you embarked on your brand change? Nicole, when we get to you in a little bit, but I’ll have you think about this. What do you tell clients when they ask you about the most common pain points? Chad, what do you wish you knew now that you didn’t know then?

Chad Langford:

I think for the most part, how long and arduous the task really is to complete, have a complete, a true rebrand. It’s way beyond refreshing the logo, but truly developing this new brand platform, and how we approach everything, and interact with every single member moving forward, it’s a huge undertaking. Getting the executive team to understand, and then also consolidating everyone, the teams that are involved. Because everybody’s an armchair marketer. It’s a very subjective and emotional thing, like Nicole had mentioned. You really have to minimize the key stakeholders and make sure that they’re fully prepared for how long it’s really going to take and how much of a lift it really is.

Jim Marous:

Chad, before I get to Sarah, what did you do to make the process more efficient? What were you able to change the process as you started getting deeper into it going, “Man, this thing is never going to end. I’m going to die with this thing still going on.” What did you do to make it more efficient? Did you make the group smaller? Did you give more guidance? What did you do that you found worked?

Sarah Szilagyi:

Planning.

Jim Marous:

Chad. Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. Go ahead. Yes.

Sarah Szilagyi:

Planning. Oh, was that for Chad? Sorry. I thought you said Sarah. I’ll answer anyway.

Jim Marous:

Go for it. It’s different, is it though? In making sure everybody’s a part of that plan.

Sarah Szilagyi:

Exactly. Honestly, I mean, we did engage with BrandActive, and they were a huge guide and support for us in that planning process, because the fun part, quote unquote, of figuring out who you are, writing the repositioning, really making sure that you feel like it’s super on point, and then ensuring that the visual support aligns with that position, that’s all great, and that takes quite a bit of time.

Sarah Szilagyi:

The real time and the real slog, I guess, is the actual rollout. How many style sheets do you have? How many PowerPoint decks are out in the marketplace, your website? I mean, the list goes on for miles. Planning up front, taking the time to really understand where all those assets are, how you’re going to approach them, deciding up front, “Hey, I’m going to take 18 months to do that,” and just know that and know in what priority order you’re going to roll all that out, that makes it a million times easier to undertake. Then everyone’s on the same page too, and you can plan your cost accordingly. Planning.

Jim Marous:

Chad, from your perspective as well. What do you find to make that long arduous process more efficient?

Chad Langford:

I find the same as what Sarah said. I mean, it’s all about the planning. It’s working with an organization like BrandActive who has a lot of experience with that, and is able to say, “Hey, here’s the challenges that you’re going to face, and here’s we’re going to plan around those before they happen,” is a huge help. Unfortunately, we didn’t engage with BrandActive until later in the process. Again, to Sarah’s point, there are so many. We identified over 2,200 elements that we have to update. It’s just a huge undertaking.

Chad Langford:

Then we wanted to be more thoughtful of the process too, because you don’t want to just cut and paste the new logo over the old logo. We were trying to approach it very thoughtfully like, “What needs to be rebranded, and how does it need to be rebranded? Not just like for like. That’s easy if you’re doing it that way, but it’s not the best use of the brand. It’s just a long process, and the better you can plan it out ahead of time and just let everyone know, all the different business units and stakeholders, “Here’s the schedule. Here’s the timeline. Here’s how we’re going to do it,” that just makes everybody feel a lot more comfortable and making sure we’re doing it correctly.

Jim Marous:

Now kick it to Nicole. From your perspective, obviously from just what Chad and Sarah have done and said, it appears that many organizations tremendously underestimate the complexity of the overall process. That they look at it and say, “Come on. I just got to change logos on different things and we’re good.” But it goes deeper than that. From an agency perspective, what do you do with the organizations to help them not only be realistic about the timeline, but more important, sticking to the timeline? You’re the brand face. I mean, when it comes down to it, you rely on people like Chad and Sarah to knock up some heads if you have to. The reality is it’s your job, and actually it’s the cost of the program, to not only make sure they understand the scope, but then go against the implementation plan, isn’t it?

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah. I mean, this is why BrandActive has been in business for two decades is it is a big task to undertake. A lot of our clients typically underestimate the cost and the timing by about a third. We get in there and do the work to show the reality of what is this going to cost? How long is it going to take? What resources do you need? Can you do it internally? Do you need to move to external resources? The process that we go through that Sarah touched on is essentially looking and taking inventory of everything that you have across all functions, departments, partners, sponsorship, vendors and agency partners.

Nicole Kemp:

A lot of our clients don’t necessarily have that deep or far reaching visibility into all the areas and the ways that the brand shows up. Again, we’re not talking about just the logo. We’re talking about what if there’s a name change, or what about the messaging and the voice? Articulation of the brand. Really just getting your arms around what is out there is a huge task.

Nicole Kemp:

Then to go a step further and to figure out, “Okay, how much time is it going to take to transition this type of asset? What are all the dependencies? What will it cost, and do you have benchmarks already based on your past spend, or do we need to reach out to new vendors and get some new estimates?” Again, what resources do you need? It’s an additional role plus some. That’s our process, and that’s typically why we’re brought it.

Jim Marous:

It’s always interesting. Be it in digital and data applications, or innovation, or building a new technology or back office system. One thing that our firm has continually found in our research at the Digital Banking Report was that organizations really underestimate the value of a partner. The only way you’re going to move forward consistently and streamlined it and get it done is building partnerships, especially if you’re a smaller organization.

Jim Marous:

It seems like, “Gee, if we’re a small organization we can’t afford it.” In many cases we find, as I said, along the lines of data and analytics, along the lines of innovation, along the lines of technology and everything else, you almost can’t afford not to do this. Sarah, from your perspective, what do you see is the greatest value of having a new implementation partner overall and BrandActive, obviously? What was the one thing that you said, “Man, I’ll tell you what. I’m glad we had a partner, especially because of this”?

Sarah Szilagyi:

I don’t know if there’s one thing. Yeah. I’m thinking. I don’t know if there’s one thing. By far I would say in general, we all already have data, right? Foremost to that in client experience, marketing communications, that day job is not rebranding the organization. It’s also typically not the specialty of the group, because how can you do it? I mean, we’re doing it for maybe not the first time, but it’s very rare, right? Chad and I both alluded to that.

Sarah Szilagyi:

Having a partner to own that work and have that expertise is amazing. If I even just look at it from a pure bandwidth standpoint, you don’t necessarily have the bandwidth on your team to undertake the planning and to work up a rebrand. You also most likely don’t have the expertise on your team, even if, and I think you said this, Jim, even if you kind of think out of the gate, “Oh, we can just do this ourselves. It’s a rebrand. Let’s get a designer. Let’s get a copywriter.” I think you learn pretty quickly that you need people on the team who have done this over and over who understand where to find the efficiency, who understand how to help you reposition the organization in the right way, and how to bring that to life. I would say if you’re looking for efficiency in a rebrand, your number one step is to find a partner to help you achieve the goal.

Jim Marous:

Chad, you mentioned that you actually started doing it solo then brought in a partner later, I think you said earlier in the broadcast. What do you find to be the difference once you brought a partner on board? Once you brought BrandActive on board, what do you that being the biggest change in the implementation process?

Chad Langford:

Just the organization of it. That was the biggest element. You don’t know what you don’t know. To Sarah’s point, the chances of you doing a rebrand in your career, a complete rebrand, I mean, that’s a really rare thing. Unless you’re doing it as your daily job like BrandActive does, I mean, you’re going to miss things. You’re going to forget things. You’re not going to do things very effectively. Again, when you’re doing a true rebrand, you’re not just swapping out the logo, there’s a lot of people that think they can just do it internally, especially for smaller organizations.

Chad Langford:

The chances are that you’re going to swap a mediocre brand for another mediocre brand, and that’s what you’re going to end up with. It’s important that you bring the experts along to again, advise you, and that’s what they’re there for, how to best advise you to do it correctly and find the additional resources that you’re going to need, because there’s no way you can do it on your own. Not effectively. It’s just an invaluable tool, an asset to have, that expertise.

Jim Marous:

Chad and Sarah, obviously you’ve already mentioned it, that any rebrand project really has its share of complexities, and right now in this even more complicated landscape, so it brings new dynamics into play. Chad, I’ll stick with you for a second. How has your rebranding been received both internally and externally? Because we sometimes forget about how we have to sell it internally, because if the employees don’t buy into it, if the members and employees don’t buy into it, it’s not going to work. How has it seemed to be received so far in both internally and externally, Chad?

Chad Langford:

It’s been a pretty significant enhancement for us. It’s been received really well. We joke around on the marketing team that we have to brand the rebrand effort, because it’s not your typical rebrand. What people’s perception is not what we’re trying to do. We had to rebrand our rebrand and pitch it that way to the organization to get everybody on board and get everybody excited. We tried to create some initiatives, working really well with Nicole to create a brand ambassador initiative that really we’re identifying key people in each business unit that can help us activate and help us get all the team members excited and participating in new ideas. How do we leverage this new brand in your specific business unit? How do we create new ideas that are also going to get our members excited? We’ve been really fortunate that in that process some disruptive ideas have come out of that that we’re really excited about, so it’s really going to be a differentiator for us in several different ways because that’s the way that BrandActive suggested that we roll that out.

Jim Marous:

From an internal basis though with your members, nobody likes change. Many times, you can rebrand. I mean, in the organization. We did a rebranding. One of the things we did for the rebranding was only on the debit card mind you. One of the things that happened, we had a little hiccup in the ATM system and all of a sudden the rebranding gets blamed, and they use that as a fallback. How has the rebranding been received from your members? By your members. Sorry.

Chad Langford:

Well, there’s no rebrand awareness with our members at all as of yet. We’re still mid-process, so I don’t have anything on that yet. We are very excited because with the focus group, we have done a ton of research. We believe in data driven efforts as much as possible. Try to remove that emotional aspect as much as we can. I will say that all the focus groups that we’ve had, it’s very, very exciting. We’re really excited to launch it.

Jim Marous:

That’s great. Sarah, how has rebranding been received by your employees as well, and if you’ve rolled it out by your member base overall?

Sarah Szilagyi:

We also have yet to roll it out externally to our clients. It is really important to roll out internally first as Chad spoke to. Make sure everyone’s on board. Get everyone excited. We’re in the process of doing that. I anticipate it will be received well. We also are in the process of planning what that rollout campaign, so to speak, looks like, because I do think you need to take the time to introduce people to what the brand is and why you’ve done it. They’re invested. Our clients are invested in our brand and in our organization emotionally, and in some cases, we’re actually owned by 900 of our clients. They not only feel ownership. There actually is ownership.

Sarah Szilagyi:

We’ve been careful with that. We take it very seriously and make sure that they are as excited about where we are going as we are. Again, I know I keep bringing up COVID, but back to the poll you did, the last poll with I think 70% of people said they’re looking to embark on a new in the coming year. I think that’s because the world has changed drastically, and we want to honor that. We want to make sure that when we roll out our new brand that it’s with that understanding that we’re responding to the world in 2021 and into 2022 and not the world that we all lived in in 2019, because it’s very different.

Jim Marous:

Great answer. Nicole, from your perspective, from the standpoint of rolling out a new brand, what one thing would you like to make sure that every financial institution understands when they roll it out? What impacts that success in the marketplace going forward?

Nicole Kemp:

Again, I think I’d come back to that operational component. Not just looking at how you’re going to make the rebrand happen. I’m talking about ongoing operation and brand governance, right? I think a lot of organizations are so focused on building the strategy, all those types of stuff that Sarah talked about, right? The creative, the architecture. There’s a lot of momentum and excitement about getting the brand out there, but there is a strong consideration that you need to think about before launch, which is how are we going to support this strategy for the long-term? How do we make sure we’re upholding this new strategy and we’re protecting the investment we’re making in this whole new approach?

Nicole Kemp:

In order to do that, we have to go back to how are we getting things done? How are we making sure things are getting to market consistently, and again, on strategy and on brand? Does everyone in the organization who is touching anything related to brand, do they all understand how to apply it and how to modulate the strategy depending on the channel? Getting everyone, again, on board to talk about the common understanding and common adoption of the strategy, and to really empower the organization. What are all of those operational components that make sure you are going to realize the potential of this rebrand? Make sure what gets to market, we’re talking really tactically, is we’re making sure that the multi-channel campaign that’s going to reach your members is making sure it’s consistent. Again, not just at launch, but ongoing. Planning for that and looking at operationally how you can get more consistent and efficient.

Jim Marous:

That’s great. Let’s take our last poll question before we get onto my last question. The question is what is the top challenge related to market and operations that you face today? Our brand is not consistent across all of our touchpoints, things take longer to get to market than they anticipated, no central source of truth for all of our branding assets, complex or undefined workflows and processes, or managing and working with too many agency partners. I’ll give a couple seconds for people to respond.

Jim Marous:

Also make sure that if you have a question that you put it into the chat box or in the question box so you can ask our panel a question, and we’ll take those when we’re done. What did we come up with. The brand is not consistent. This is a big issues, because unfortunately, we’re evolving organizations. 41% of you said, “We’re not consistent across all touchpoints.” We have more touchpoints now than we’ve ever had before. I’m sure that both Chad and Sarah in another few months when they roll out, they’re going to say, “Oh, I forgot about that.”

Jim Marous:

This is not the end of the world. This if for the people that have been involved in it forever because it’s been their lives. I think we have to remember that that implementation, I liken it to a wedding and the bride in the wedding. The fact that when somebody gets married, the only person that sees the little things that are wrong is usually the bride that put in all the planning. However, there’s not a guest that says, “God, I was at a terrible wedding.”

Jim Marous:

Remember when you’re rebranding that sometimes the perception that you have, you’ve seen the ugliest reality for a number of months in many cases. Sometimes years. Is that it’s not the end of the world. You can adjust. You can pivot as we’ve become known to say during COVID. I have one more question of all three of our panelists. Chad, I’m going to start with you. The question is if you can give one specific recommendation, what is it as it relates to rebranding?

Chad Langford:

Oh, boy. Narrowing it down to one. That’d be tough. I can give about 50. What’s interesting about the touchpoint, I mean, that’s something that we identified very early on as part of the rebrand is it quickly became apparent that all of our especially digital touchpoints are very disparate in all the different times, the different groups. When we were a smaller organization, it was a little bit of The Wild Wild West. I mean, we’ve got the CIO doing one thing without any consistent brand application. You’ve got other groups that are creating all these member facing applications that are all different. They all function different. I mean, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think they came from completely different financial institutions.

Chad Langford:

That was one of the things that we identified very quickly with the rebrand was to take advantage of that and create a user experience strategy holistic for the entire organization. Moving forward, this is how things are going to function. This is how we’re going to look and how we’re going to feel, how they’re going to interact with each other. What is that user experience? What is that customer journey along all of those digital touchpoints and physical touchpoints?

Chad Langford:

Typically when you start an account opening process online, you still have to call in at some point or go to a branch at some point. What does that entire journey look like, and how do we create an as seamless as possible journey all the way across all those digital touchpoints, and make it very, very consistent from a brand perspective all the way across those digital touchpoints? That’s one of the huge undertakings that we’re going through right now along with the brand currently that I wish we would have done five, ten years ago because I think that has the most potential for the most impact for our organization I think.

Jim Marous:

Sarah, how about you? What’s the one thing that you would recommend and say, “This is the one thing that you better remember if you’re going to go do some rebranding?”

Sarah Szilagyi:

I’m going to cheat a little bit. I’ve going to three words. Streamline, document and govern. Use the rebrand as a way to simplify your world a little bit. Do you really need 85 different types of PowerPoint slides? Do you really need all this? Do you have something doing double duty where you could streamline? Then document the things you really need. Make sure you have a clear ongoing asset list not just for the rebrand, but ongoing, moving, breathing list of what you have out in the world. Then govern that. Make sure you set up in advance how you’re going to manage it, what people are going to use as self-service, what things are owned only by the marketing department, and how you’re going to make sure that those stay true to brand. I think those three things will help any organization both get the best rebrand they can without overdoing it, and manage it as Nicole… I think Nicole spoke it so well. I mean, things will go haywire really quick after your relaunch if you don’t have a plan in place to govern what you put out into the world.

Jim Marous:

Right. That’s great. Nicole, from your perspective, what would you like your clients to know or your prospects to know before they engage on this? What’s the one thing above all others that you say, “You better be aware of this”?

Nicole Kemp:

It’s going to take a lot longer and cost a bit more than you think it’s going to. It’s probably just that reality. We have this slide that we show a lot of clients when we’re first engaging with them to show them what a governance infrastructure would look like to implement a rebrand. It is the slide, it is our money slide we call it, where it just puts the reality on their faces. Instantly they realize, “Oh, this is a real big task.” I don’t know if Sarah, you got that slide.

Nicole Kemp:

It just shows how everybody is involved, all of the gaps in the organization that need to be involved. I think what we like to bring is just a reality of the situation. Not to scare anyone. It’s just to say, “Okay. We’re in this now. This is going to be a partnership and a longer process than you might think. We’ve got it all covered, but you need to know that it’s going to take X amount of time, cost this amount of dollars, and take this many people to get it done.”

Jim Marous:

It’s interesting because I’ve gone through a couple rebrandings, and one of the things that became very apparent is a typical marketer, if you’re the best person to lead a rebranding process, because I’m going to say a typical… I’m making a lot of assumptions here. A typical marketer is probably less detail oriented than they are visually and creatively oriented. That’s the left and right brain. For the right brain, it serves you better when you’re trying to implement a left brain implementation.

Jim Marous:

I think what’s amazing about this panel discussion, it becomes very clear that rebranding is not about a logo. It’s not about a color scheme. It’s not about how you’re going to go to market. It’s how are you going to refix your organization from top to bottom or from inside out? I mean, Sarah could agree. Chad just said it just now that there are things that we put under the rebranding umbrella that we never envisioned, but it gave us the go ahead to say, “You know what? Our digital account opening process is not acceptable. Our customer journey is not acceptable. We can’t lift this brand without doing X, Y and Z,” which is so important because from a marketer’s standpoint, you’ve already been, as I’ve said at the beginning of the broadcast, you’re already in the spotlight. You’re already on stage. You’ve been on stage since the beginning of COVID because they immediately came to you and said, “How can we market the fact that we don’t have what customers want and a member want right this second?”

Jim Marous:

Well, you’ve done that. You’ve done it remotely. I think it’s important to realize that this is an amazing opportunity for organizations to really embrace change, take some risks, and truly, as anybody who follows me knows, disrupt your organization. Listen to Chad and Sarah. Once in 40 once in 50 years a complete rebrand. It’s not about getting it right, because it won’t be perfect. It’s about not leaving anything on the table. I think that’s an important takeaway. We’re going to go to some other questions, and I know we have to number them. Do we want to go through those?

Lee Rose:

Sure thing. We do have quite a few, so let’s try to get to at least five of them today. Our first question, did you use an outside brand consultant, or manage this internally?

Chad Langford:

Yeah. I can for us. I mean, we used an outside brand consultants. Again, as we talked about it earlier, it’s pretty rare that you have that expertise internal to your own team. Do you have some talented designers? Sure. But there’s a lot more to a rebrand than a good design. There’s a huge research component. There’s a legal component. I mean, are you able to legally vet anything that you come up with as a weigh in against all the other financial institutions around, or that may have it trademarked or copywrited? There’s just so many different elements that again, that you have to have that resource that does this day in and day out to do it correctly.

Lee Rose:

Great. Thank you, Chad. Our next question is what advice would you give to someone halfway through a rebrand that has lost momentum?

Sarah Szilagyi:

I can jump on this one. Go back to the plan. Go back to the plan. Get clear on where you’ve lost momentum, and maybe think about why. Look at where you might need to rethink your plan to get it back off the starting block.

Jim Marous:

I’m going to drop it over to Nicole because I’m sure she’s seen this. I will say that it’s also a time to get your top management on board again. Get the recommitment, because what happens is you’re usually not working with the top management of the company in the slump as you’re going through the slump trying to fix rebranding. You need those top managers to buy-in and say, “We’ll make sure that things happen.” You need the recommitment. That sometimes happens. I’m sure Chad and Sarah can talk about many times we had to go and say, “Guys, I need you to help me out here, because I don’t have any authority to tell somebody that’s higher level than I am to, ‘Come on. We got to get this going,'” because everything relies on everything else. Again, this is a detail plan. Nicole, what would you say to that? How do you get things unstuck?

Nicole Kemp:

I would just add to that I think the senior leadership and push is good, but I think you need to get at the system. That’s the system, right? What’s the cause? What’s actually slowing things down? Is it people have run out of operating budget? Is it that stakeholders have left? Is it that stakeholders are overwhelmed and they don’t have the time? Is it they’re doing a day job to transition to assets? What is the actual underlying cause? You have to address that before moving to your senior leadership and buy-in.

Jim Marous:

Great.

Lee Rose:

Awesome. Next is for companies going through an M&A, how would your advice differ when thinking about ensuring a rebranding stays on plan, and how much does it complicate that?

Chad Langford:

I can speak to that one a little bit. I mean, ours was a catalyst of a merger and acquisition. When you’re bringing two organizations together and there’s a lot of competing emotions where you have which brand is going to survive? Which one is going to feel like they are being taken over even though it’s supposed to be a merger of equals if that’s how you’re approaching it? Again, bringing that third-party that’s completely objective or subjective about their approach to what’s the best path forward together as a combined organization? A lot of that can be driven by the research.

Chad Langford:

You’re analyzing the markets. You’re analyzing your current members, your prospective members. What market are you trying to go into, and which brand positions better in those markets or for those products? Or as a complete rebrand, not using either of the two merged organization’s current brands a better path forward? It’s just using all that data, gathering all that data to make an informed decision.

Jim Marous:

That’s a great answer.

Lee Rose:

Yes. Perfect. The next question. We’ll aim to get two more in here. We’re pushing forward with our rebrand, but there is a big fear factor around us not hitting every branded touchpoint. I’d very much like to hear on the best way to ensure a consistent brand post launch.

Jim Marous:

Nicole, I’m going to send that one to you, because I think it probably goes into your bailiwick as far as how you manage the process.

Nicole Kemp:

I would love to answer it, but my phone just cut out and I had to switch to computer in the middle of that question. Can you repeat it for me?

Jim Marous:

It’s basically how do we make sure that every touchpoint, how do you manage so every touchpoint is rebranded the way you want? How do you keep track of all that?

Nicole Kemp:

Okay. Yeah. I think that comes down to project governance. Making sure that again, you have all of the right stakeholders who know how to get their hands on those branded touchpoints, who manage those branded touchpoints, know how to get them transitioned appropriately and on brand and within the application guidelines. Again, empowering them with not just the guidelines but the context and access to ask questions, access to tools, templates, or any other resources that could help them do their job better and more efficiently.

Nicole Kemp:

Setting up that governance structure from the start so that people know where to get information, but also how to get things approved and to market so that even if you as the CMO are not seeing every single asset, you should figure out what that governance structure looks like so that folks that are very literate in the brand and the brand strategy are reviewing everything that goes to market. Every organization is different as to how far down that empowerment goes, but that approval and process workflow should be clear, documented and followed in order to make sure all those touch points are consistent.

Jim Marous:

This is important. This goes back to what’s the one thing you should make sure you do, and why would you use a partner? Branding within a brand agency that works with financial institutions already knows the things that can go wrong, already knows how you make sure you don’t get detoured, already has the forms, the format, the governance, all the issues that can make it so that you avoid the detours that might divert you, and can solve for the problems that virtually every institution says, “Well, we’re unlike anybody else. Our organization is like X.”

Jim Marous:

Again, I’m adamant in so many of my podcasts and in my webinar I say, “This is where partners come in.” Nicole and her team have been there, done it many times over. There’s probably nothing they haven’t seen before or a version of it. This is why be in BrandActive or be it some other firm, to make sure you work with a partner because they can save you so much time and get you back on track. Chad had mentioned that it took them a while to realize, “This is not a one person or a one department job. This was going to overwhelm us, especially during the pandemic.”

Jim Marous:

Again, it’s the importance of partnership that makes it so you can continue to move forward. Sometimes you don’t feel like you’re on the island. You’re the only person that knows the challenges you’re up against. I’m sure Sarah and Chad can also talk about the late nights that have come about and you go, “I think we’ve lost control,” and Nicole talks them off the ledge and said, “No. You aren’t the only people that had this challenge.” One more question.

Lee Rose:

Yes. It seems that legal is an essential partner here, given the regulatory implications of a rebrand and all the communication that needs to happen, and that they’ll need to review and bless. What was your experience with your legal department, and is there any advice you can pass onto us?

Jim Marous:

Okay, Sarah?

Sarah Szilagyi:

Sure. I think it depends on how your current brand appears out into the world, right? If you’re B2B, if you’re B2C, there’s a whole different landscape of things that might have legal ramifications. I can tell you what we did is we have involved our legal team every step of the way, essentially, to understand where they do need to be involved and where they don’t. It’s been a great partnership. They have taken on that burden of making sure the marks that we’re coming up with, and the positioning, and even some tag lines, that we clear those from a trademark search all the way to making sure that we’re rolling out the logo and things in the right way. I would just recommend making someone on the legal team be a part of the rebrand team, and make sure that they see that they’re part of the decisions that are being made along the way.

Jim Marous:

That’s a great thing. Nicole, we’re going to wrap it up right now. I first wanted to thank everybody. This was a, I’ll tell you what, great discussion. We could have gone on for hours, because it is bigger than a bread box as they say. Nicole, I’m going to hand it over to you for closing remarks.

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah, no. Just wanted to thank all the participants and panelists for today. I thought initially, I was like, “Oh, I might have scared everyone by saying it’s going to cost more and take a lot more time.” If you do the right planning. I guess I wanted to end with that. Planning, planning, planning. You can actually save a lot of money by rationalizing and retiring assets and doing things better and more efficiently. Just wanted to bring that to light as well. Rebrand is a perfect opportune time to look at how are you doing things as well?

Jim Marous:

I’ll come out with the thing that if you don’t go with a partner, I guarantee you it’s going to cost you more, and you’re going to get less accomplished. It’s true in every engagement we have right now. Thanks, everyone.

Nicole Kemp:

Yeah. Thanks all.

Lee Rose:

Thank you, Nicole and Sarah and Jim. Of course, BrandActive, for today’s webinar. We will be sending along an email to everyone’s inbox in a bit with an on demand link if you’d like to re-watch that or show it to your team. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us. Have a great day.

Chad Langford:

Thank you.