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Branding
How to Successfully Build Your Brand, Part II
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by JULIET D'AMBROSIO

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A look into the creative process that delivers a powerful platform for a bank or credit union brand growth

In our last article on brand-building, we addressed the creative strategy behind rebrands. With three to four core ideas at their center, distinctive brands have a voice that's immediately recognizable and a design DNA that sets the path toward growth. Parallel and part of the creative strategy is the brand naming process, which includes the testing and trademarking process and consensus-building among key stakeholders. In the cases of a name change, the creative strategy becomes directional, so the brand tone sets the path for any name ideas the creative team would deliver. Identifying the right name to capture the verbal expression of the brand is critical to all of the visual storytelling elements that follow. 

A recent example of the power in naming comes from Valley Strong Credit Union. In Adrenaline’s work with the institution, it was clear the former Kern Schools Federal Credit Union was being held back by a name that no longer represented the audience it served and limited geography it was expanding beyond. According to the Rebrand Rooted in the Valley case study: “Bearing a moniker that inherently limited their current and future scope, the credit union needed a new name and brand that would reflect their rich and rooted relationships and speak to their modern blend of members.” The new Valley Strong name represents a sense of pride of place and a strong heart for service.

Valley Strong Credit Union Rebrand Case Study

Mood-Boarding

After a name is chosen, but even before logo development begins, a valuable step in visualizing the overall creative strategy for consumption is a mood-boarding exercise. With three to four great design principles, the visual expression can still be interpreted in a lot of different ways. Mood boarding helps hone in on a visual direction that embodies design principles, but also feels right to the client constituencies and is utterly unique to that brand. Mood boarding looks at things like types of typography, photography, illustration, primary and secondary color palettes, and pattern language that will set the direction for the brand, inclusive of logo design. This mood boarding collaboration between client and agency results in arming the creative teams with the necessary feedback to begin developing the full brand identity.

Citadel Credit Union Rebrand Case Study

Building Brand Identity

Following mood boarding, all of the core elements get built into a full identity system that’s then presented to key stakeholders with several different options for design directions. With a team led by our brand strategy, creative directors, designers and writers, each of the design directions comes with full sign-off from the creative team on the agency side, as they have fully explored the strength of the identity and its competitive uniqueness in the marketplace. We often say that that a brand is about a gut feeling. When presenting brand identity options, the creative team can certainly break down each element – what it means and what it can do for the brand – but ultimately what we’re looking to uncover is what feeling the brand identity communicates and conveys. Further, is that feeling responsive to what we said we wanted to achieve in the brand strategy?

Valley Strong Credit Union Rebrand Case Study

Testing, Testing

One revealing part of brand identity building is testing certain key components for relevance, appeal and preference. With relevance, questions include: If you look at this logo or this name, does this speak to you? Is this a brand for you? Would you consider this bank or credit union? Appeal tests how attractive or engaging audience members would find a logo or other element of brand identity. With the appeal, questions include: How appealing is this logo? Do you find it visually interesting? Is this name compelling? Does it have a good story to tell? Finally, preference is where the testing gets really comparative, so the team tests two or three logos against each other, for example. With preference, survey questions include: Rank these in order of preference. Which one of these logos three do you prefer?

Montana Federal Credit Union Logo

By investigating relevance, appeal and preference through a focused survey, the creative team is able to determine which logo or name has the greatest chance of success in the market. Testing is most often used it to help clarify and crystallize decision-making surrounding the strength of individual creative directions. Further, because bank and credit union boards are very data-driven, the creative team wants to be sure to make the strongest possible recommendation for such a large institutional investment. Survey results provide substantiation and data to inform the best decisions. With such a big change that banks are credit unions are about to undertake, data helps validate choices and drives strong board approval and subsequent advocacy for the brand launch.

Brand Guidelines

All of this creative work culminates in the development of a powerful set of brand guidelines. Incorporating all of the foundational elements of the brand strategy, these essentials are all laddered into a practical handbook. Outlining the brand purpose or their “why,” their value proposition and values, how they differentiate themselves, their brand tone of voice and design principles and all of the piece parts that make up the brand’s unique identity and its subsequent story and system, the brand book becomes the source for how the brand will live in the world. From how you look and sound on social to guidelines for exterior signage, these brand guidelines really become the bible for the brand, ensuring it is consistently delivered on and applied across all channels and lived out through its human representatives in each customer or member interaction.

Valley Strong Credit Union Rebrand Case Study

In our next perspective article on brand building, we will explore the essentials for introducing this new brand identity through a powerful brand launch. For information on creating award-winning financial brands, contact us at info@adrenalineagency.com. For insights on brand best practices, be sure to visit articles in Adrenaline’s Perspective channel and see Believe in Banking as it highlights industry inspiration and successful campaigns in financial services and beyond.


Adrenaline is a brand experience company that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.

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