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Avoiding the Credit Union Brand Museum

Bo McDonald - Your Marketing Co
Written By: Bo McDonald

I was recently having a conversation with a credit union CEO about the obstacle that is keeping credit unions from growing and attracting younger members to their credit union brand.

“Often credit union board members (and legacy CEOs) dig in and refuse to let go.”

They allow what was to inhibit what could be. They have such a love of the credit union they helped build that changes seem like killing off the good, when in reality stagnation is killing the credit union.

It reminded me of a speech I saw Bob Iger, the former (and now current) CEO of Disney give on the subject of a legacy brand.

First, let’s define the importance of your credit union brand. Your brand is what is conveyed to your credit union members and potential members. Your brand is what they immediately feel when they hear or see your name. Is there immediate trust in which the decision to do business with you can be made quickly? Or worst-case scenario, are you “the best kept secret” in your community?

Second, let’s talk about the proper way to honor your credit union brand history while maintaining relevancy. Iger noted in his speech that the Disney brand was born in 1923, making it just over 100 years old. Faced with this very conundrum when Iger became CEO of Disney the first time, he challenged every obstacle your credit union is working to overcome right now. He could have taken the easy route and made the Disney brand edgier with more violence and sex, but Iger said that would have been a huge mistake, taking it far off course from the core values of the Disney brand.

Iger highlighted the difference between revering a brand and respecting a brand. When you revere your credit union brand, you work hard to protect it and the past without wanting to change.

“You might as well put it in a museum case, so it doesn’t change one bit. You put no modern external force on it, so it doesn’t change in any way,” Iger said.

But there has to be a balance. As quickly as the world is changing, brands must remain relevant to survive. The other option is to respect your credit union brand.

“If you respect a brand versus revering it, you consider all of the reasons why it was valuable in the first place but do so in a way that brings those qualities forward that enables it to change and be relevant in a world that is much different than when the brand was created.”

Stop right there. What Iger said in the quote above sums up credit union marketing and branding 101. If you find yourself at a fork in the road with your credit union marketing message, your credit union strategy for growth, and your credit union brand, stop trying to reinvent yourself and respect the brand. But whatever you do, don’t revere it and allow it to be kept in a glass museum case, untouched until you’re forced to sign those merger papers.

At YMC, we empower credit unions to survive and thrive by engaging, educating, and retaining their next generation of members. How can we serve you?

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