Discovering Roots Key to Statewide FCU's Branding Initiative
Leveraging the rhythm of growth.
Holistic transformation starts with cultural data.
William Faulkner’s observation “to understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi,” is an accurate testimony to the idea that if you can understand and appreciate Mississippi’s unique character and cultural vibe, you might be prepared to take on a broader and more understanding view of larger concepts.
Recognizing that there’s a close bond amongst state residents rallying around this “we march to a different drummer” mentality, Statewide Federal Credit Union and Strum forged a path to insightful brand discovery, data-infused strategy and artful execution in order to tap into the DNA of the organization, leverage the equity in their deeply entrenched state-wide heritage and communicate the brand in fresh and relevant ways.
Guided by the vision of a growth-oriented Board of Directors and an aggressive strategic plan, Statewide FCU began undergoing transformational change at all levels by hiring new CEO Casey Bacon in 2015. Bacon knew he had to be the catalyst for a new vision and started to prepare the credit union for growth by cleaning house, improving the balance sheet and loosening some of the constraints around member eligibility.
Statewide has been open since 1949. Currently the 9th largest credit union in Mississippi, its assets are above $130 million and it has more than 17,500 members across the state and nation. The credit union serves multiple companies and groups, federal, state and local government employees as well as the Mississippi State University System. One of Bacon’s first moves was to connect with various community focused organizations in the area to find easier paths to eligibility, and to make it simpler to qualify for membership.
Next up in the organization’s make-over was to tackle the brand, image, marketing and member experience. Bacon first jettisoned the credit union’s woefully outdated logo and replaced it with a more modern-day representation and interpretation of serving state-wide Mississippi. However, when it came to the brand, he soon discovered a complex landscape that he hadn’t navigated before. Wanting to only go through the re-branding initiative once, Bacon and his team conducted an extensive search for the most experienced and successful branding partner in the credit union space.
Enter Strum, the nation’s leading financial services consultancy to help orchestrate the brand transformation, find the rhythm of the culture and articulate the promise and messaging of the brand. Strum builds dynamic brands through collaboration that unlocks deep insights that shape consumer behavior, focus organizational culture and address challenges impacting growth. Through our process, we discovered a lot of unique characteristics about Statewide, about Mississippi and what it’s like to be from there. Conclusion: you really can’t separate the credit union from its members, they are one and the same, all cut from that same Mississippi cloth that binds so well.
“We get it. We’re from here”, says Bacon. “We understand Mississippi because even though we operate all over the state, we provide the same quality level of personal banking and financial advice in all our markets. And, we serve it up with a Mississippi interpretation that no other financial services provider can do, because we’re delivering banking with roots.”
The data and insight gleaned from Strum’s deep dive into Statewide’s culture, operations, member base, channels, competition, products, staff and BOD all pointed Strum to pursue a brand platform steeped in trust and loyalty. They discovered that Statewide earns this trust by working together with members to understand just exactly what it is they’re going through.
“Statewide Federal Credit Union has been planting roots, building trust and forging relationships in communities across Mississippi for generations,” said John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy at Strum. “We knew that was a key differentiator for the brand just by looking at the lack of large national banks in the state. It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for us. There aren’t any national banks because they don’t understand Mississippi. Well, Statewide certainly does and we’re helping them leverage that.”
The strategy was brought to life with a new and approachable brand look and feel for the credit union. Relevant messaging connects as if the reader was a neighbor. Chances are good that they are. Before the brand was rolled out in new advertising campaigns and deployed on a new website, Strum conducted brand training, aka Brand Camp, for the entire organization including the Board, in order to get on the same page and deliver the brand with consistency and continuity, no matter where in the state members do business with Statewide.
With brand direction and brand training as a foundation, the next step for the credit union was sales training and a shift to Financial Counselors as the primary member contact point in the branch. Meanwhile, the branch network is undergoing updates to embrace and deploy a completely new member experience. A denovo branch in Cleveland, MS is the result of a Strum facilitated visioning session designed to create a prototype retail banking model not seen before in Mississippi.
Statewide and Strum continue to work on initiatives together as the brand keeps evolving and the performance keeps getting better. Deep data insight gathering, member and product profitability analysis, target segmentation evolution, media planning and personalization are just a handful of key projects underway, all designed to keep the credit union growing and continuing to bring value to its members and Mississippi.
Additionally, Statewide recently received two 2019 CUNA Diamond Awards for outstanding marketing campaigns created and developed by Strum. One snagged a category best in Complete Campaigns and the other was for outstanding Digital Campaigns, which is the foundation of Statewide’s advertising efforts.
The future looks even brighter because no one gets Mississippi like Mississippi. And at Statewide FCU, they know a thing or two about that.