Refreshing Your Brand Without Breaking the Bank

Two business people looking over papers together

Before we begin, let’s get on the same page with our terminology.

For the purposes of this article, we’re using the term BRANDING REFRESH to mean reintroducing a bank or credit union to the marketplace without changing its name, but perhaps changing its logo. We’re using the term BRAND (noun) to mean the true nature of an organization (i.e., what it does, what it believes, the way it operates, who it serves), and the term BRANDING (verb) to mean the way an institution expresses its brand.

Now that we have our terms sorted out, let’s consider a situation in which many financial marketers may find themselves:

  • You work within the marketing department of a financial institution, which means you have at least some responsibility for attracting new account holders, growing deposits, and expanding loan volume.
  • Your institution’s BRAND (noun) is solid. In other words, your institution is ethical and upright, generally fulfills its mission, and has a good reputation.
  • But your institution’s BRANDING (verb) is seriously flawed. Maybe you could describe your current branding as some combination of outdated, boring, uninspiring, erratic, and/or confusing.
  • This makes it harder to meet your business goals. Put another way, your current branding is hurting your marketing efforts, not helping them.
  • Finally, although you may have drummed up enough support among your institution’s decision-makers to fix your branding, the budget you have to work with is less than you would have liked.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, take heart. There is a way forward, and we’ll describe each step in the brand refresh process right now.


A prerequisite for great branding (verb) is that it must express your financial institution’s authentic brand (noun).

If your branding is fresh, creative, and attention-grabbing, but it describes a brand that in no way matches your institution, it will end up being a liability rather than an asset, since it will lead to confusion and ultimately disappointment when your audience discovers your institution isn’t what you’ve said it is.

For this reason, our first step is to understand and document the institution’s brand. We recommend creating a Brand Document, which will help describe your institution’s beliefs and true nature. The Brand Document should – at a minimum – consist of the following:

  • Vision Statement: what you want to become
  • Mission Statement: what you do
  • Values: what you believe
  • Brand Promise: what you promise to deliver
  • Key Message Points: what you say about yourself

You may also want to include:

  • Key Attributes: how you behave
  • Stakeholder Descriptions: who you serve
  • Proof Points: facts and figures that give your stakeholders reasons to believe

Once you have developed your Brand Document, we strongly recommend having your senior leaders review it and sign off.

If, during this review process, your leadership cannot reach a consensus on key points, then we recommend taking the time to have more discussions, conduct research if necessary, and work toward defining your brand in terms that all senior leaders can agree to. It is critical that all senior leaders support your brand.


We’ve already established that you are refreshing your branding – not rebranding.

So you aren’t changing your name, but what about your logo? Changing your logo incurs the significant costs associated with the development of a new logo, production and installation of new branch signage, and updating all the business forms and materials on which your logo appears.

If you can make do with your existing logo, you’ll have more budget to put toward refreshing your branding and pushing that refreshed branding into the marketplace.

Here’s our take: If you can live with your logo for the next four years, leave it alone.

If you don’t see any way you can keep it for four years, you might as well bite the bullet and address it now. In this case, you’ll need to choose an agency partner to develop new logo options, and they should create your Brand Document as the foundation for their work.


If you are like most of our bank and credit union clients, your top priorities include attracting dynamic small businesses that are poised for their next stage of growth, as well as personal banking customers in their late 20s and early 30s who can develop into valuable lifelong customers. However, desiring a particular type of client and being prepared to woo them are two different things.

Your current service offerings, product descriptions, and marketing materials may not be tailored to the needs, objectives, and preferences of your target audiences.

If that is the case, now would be a good time to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by filling in gaps in your service offerings and updating how you position your products to prospects. Customer personas are a useful tool for this exercise.


Once you are confident that you have the right service offerings and you’ve tailored your product descriptions to your target audience’s needs and wants, it’s time to get creative.

If you haven’t already done so, share your Brand Document, personas, and any other relevant research with your agency partner. Ask them to develop three refreshed branding options, each of which will include:

  1. Tagline or Overarching Theme: A tagline or overarching theme that can be used for a brand campaign and that ideally has a shelf life of multiple years. (Note: You may use multiple headlines in a brand campaign, but the tagline or theme will be the unifying element that connects them.)
  2. Rationale: Explanation of how the tagline or overarching theme accurately expresses the brand. If the tagline or theme doesn’t tie back to your authentic brand, scrap it! Remember, authenticity is crucial.
  3. Mood Board: Presentation of the visual elements of the new branding. If you are keeping your current logo, this piece should show how the new elements will interact with the logo.
  4. Campaign Components: Execution of the branding shown in three or four typical campaign components (e.g., billboard, display ad, branch poster, landing page).

After you’ve reviewed your three options, select your preferred option, get buy-in from senior leadership, provide feedback to your agency partner, and work together to finalize the chosen concept.


Working on a parallel track with the development of your creative, plan how you will introduce your refreshed branding into the marketplace.

Our suggestion is to start from the inside out. Plan to develop and distribute internal communications first. Introduce your refreshed branding to your associates and explain the behaviors that will support the branding and create a positive customer experience.

Move on to the components that will reside in the branch environment (e.g., indoor and outdoor signage, posters, display screens, handouts, ATM screens), your web assets (e.g., website, microsites, email templates, digital newsletters, online content), and customer communications (e.g., email, mailers, statement inserts and messaging).

Finally, develop your advertising campaign components (e.g., digital display, landing pages, YouTube ads, billboards, direct mail, radio spots, TV/OTT ads, print ads). Consider including special offers that will accompany your brand messaging (e.g., account opening incentives, special rates, free services).

Before you begin your campaign, decide whether you want to assess brand awareness within your markets before and after the campaign to measure lift.


As noted in the previous step, we strongly recommend starting your roll-out with your team members within your institution. It is especially important that your frontline team knows how to “talk the talk and walk the walk” before you begin customer-facing communications and prospecting.

Omnichannel brand campaigns typically last at least six months, and often run an entire year. For longer campaigns, it is customary to update the creative around the midpoint of the campaign to keep the messaging from getting stale.


During the course of your omnichannel campaign, you will be able to monitor campaign metrics (e.g., views, clicks, visits, phone calls, form-fills) and business KPIs (e.g., account openings, loan growth). If you measured brand awareness before the campaign began, you can measure it during and after the campaign for comparison.

Consider conducting formal or informal qualitative research with customers to gather opinions regarding the refreshed branding. Include all data in a report for senior leadership.


It is difficult – if not impossible – to measure the exact ROI of refreshing your branding. However, that doesn’t diminish the importance of this endeavor.

Based on our close observations of the banking industry over many years, and our work with scores of financial institutions, we can tell you that effective brand management is one hallmark of the most successful banks and credit unions.

“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”

– Sir Richard Branson


Work with Lightstream, a full-service marketing and advertising agency that serves dozens of banks and credit unions across the country. With our thorough, step-by-step brand-refresh process, we’ll help you breathe new life into your branding, boost visibility within your markets, and reach new customers. Connect with us today to learn more.