Here's What Happened at the Financial Brand Forum 2019

by Nina Penson

Often, when you hear ‘brand makeover,’ you think about tearing a brand down and starting from scratch. However, that’s not always what needs to be done. In many cases, a brand has some ‘good bones,’ but just needs to evolve to become something more relevant, more engaging and more representative of today’s – and tomorrow’s - customers and members.

That was exactly what we talked about at last week’s Financial Brand Forum when we walked hundreds of attendees through a live brand makeover for Affinity Federal Credit Union (Affinity). If you weren’t able to be there, or you chose another break out session instead of ours, we won’t hold it against you. In fact, we’ll recap it for you right here, right now.

Before we jump into our specific recommendations for Affinity, we want to introduce you to the La Macchia Group way of branding. Our mission is to help financial institutions bring their brands to life. But in order to do that, we need to make sure everyone has the same understanding of just what a brand is.

If you think back on your strongest memories, you’ll find there are emotions tied to each one, bringing you back to how you felt during that moment in time. Scientifically speaking, emotions are the biggest motivator behind human actions. So, how does this apply to branding? In short, a successful brand is more than just it’s products or services, and definitely more than a logo on the wall or a pretty color palette—it’s the promise of an experience that produces an emotional reaction. Essentially, a consumer’s brand loyalty is tied to the feelings that are gained from interacting with that brand, rather than just the products or services themselves.

In short, a successful brand is less about transactions and more about interactions. It is a journey – what we call a Brand Journey.

Brand Journey

The brand journey starts with awareness. People know who you are, they see your ads, hear about you on the radio. This awareness then evolves into interest, where they’ve heard good things about you, or maybe they’ve received a referral from a friend or family. The next step is experience, it’s a direct interaction with your brand. That’s where most brands stop. They think “we’ve got ‘em!” and they call it a day. But great brands, brands that evolve and adapt, take the next step to make an emotional connection. The emotional connection turns customers and members into brand ambassadors, and it makes all the difference.

For Affinity, it was that emotional piece we were out to capture, and the credit union was well on its way with the tagline “Belong to Something Better.” But the rest of their branding didn’t back up this promise, or reflect the emotion behind it. The logo was traditional and dated in nature and not a reflection of the fun, laid back, relationship-focused credit union we’ve come to know.

Everyone does art and can make you a new logo or color palette - but there’s a science to it, too. At La Macchia Group, our approach is grounded in data. It was through this research that we identified Affinity’s target market.

Future Customer Profile


Armed with this data, we set up our creative brief:

  • The market, and target members, are getting younger and more diverse. The Affinity brand needs to reflect this.
  • The company’s history – specifically, it’s ties to AT&T – is important, but we don’t need a literal or visual connection to it.
  • The brand must be more relevant and emotional but also have the ability to be flexible and continually evolve.
  • The brand must be consistent across all expressions – logos, marketing materials, and physical space – both internal and external.

With this in mind – we created two comprehensive concepts:

Connecting to Moments

Moments Mash Up

There are key moments, milestones, in your life – both the big, like graduation or marriage, and the daily – like tucking in your kids at night. In each of these experiences, how is Affinity there for you?

It’s about connectedness, relationships and community. This is symbolized in the new conceptual logo, where you see three circles forming the whole. The colors are fresh, but professional and refreshing and they carry well into marketing materials, billboards, and the physical space of each branch – inside and out.

The Ripple Effect

Connect the Dots


The strength of a community is in its connectedness. We know that just like a single drop of water can create ripples across an entire pool, so do individuals influence each other, each one resonating, influencing, and leaving a ripple effect in the communities to which they belong.  That’s what we see with this concept, where the ripple effect of Affinity’s impact on its members helps them to connect the dots to their financial goals throughout their lives and within their communities.

The Wrap-Up

Both of these brand “makeover” options differ in many ways but are grounded in Affinity’s core values and beliefs. Taking the strongest elements of Affinity’s existing brand, La Macchia Group was able to offer options for refreshing, evolving and strengthening the brand expression to make it relevant for years to come.

So when it comes to your own brand, are you meeting the current needs of your membership and equipped to handle the next generation of membership?