In 2008, Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union transitioned from a single sponsor charter to multiple employer group charter. Since 1930 the credit union had solely served Eli Lilly and Company employees, retirees, contractors, and family members, and this move was its first step in becoming what is now Elements Financial Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, Indianapolis, IN),
The credit union added other employer groups, and the way it communicated with members, businesses, and the public shifted dramatically.
“That’s when the idea to change our name started to bud,” says Michelle Payne, the credit union’s assistant vice president of branding and communications.
Senior management and the board of directors voted in favor of the name change to reflect the credit union's broader membership, and in May 2012, the credit union hired Indianapolis-based branding agency Hirons & Company.
The wheels of change were moving.
CU QUICK FACTS
elements financial federal credit union
Data as of 09.30.15
HQ: Indianapolis, IN
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 4.83%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 18.61%
The credit union’s marketing department, led by Ashli Moore, assistant vice president of business intelligence, worked closely with Hirons & Company and shepherded to rebranding process.
First, the credit union held a series of focus groups throughout the summer of 2012 to determine what the credit union’s brand meant. The credit union created three member groups with specific points of view: Eli Lilly employees, company retirees, and non-company based members.
“We focused on what the credit union was known for in terms of its values, its personality, and its purpose in their lives,” Payne says.
This information further inspired the credit union to undergo a traditional rebrand, albeit a gradual one.
A Gradual Transition
Based on the recommendation of its branding agency, in January 2013, Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union became known as simply ELFCU. Its branding changed as well.
In January 2013, Eli Lilly FCU (left) rebranded as simply ELFCU (right).
Gone was the green and mimicked Eli Lilly “L.” In its place was a red, technically “Lilly Red,” ELFCU in din font.
By this point, the credit union knew it wanted to change its name as well as internal culture. But the credit union had been associated with the Eli Lilly name for more than 80 years and to change that overnight could lead to confusion or dissatisfaction within its membership. The change to ELFCU was a stepping stone for the institution, its members, and its community.
“It gave us more time to tell our story and to explain to members why the rebrand made sense,” Payne says.
Helping Employees See Red
But member confusion and dissatisfaction were not the only concerns. The credit union knew it must consider the employee side of things as well. As they'd be the ones fielding member questions or complaints, it was important for them to understand and embrace how things were changing.
A brand is only as strong as the internal culture supporting it.
“A brand is only as strong as the internal culture supporting it,” Payne says.
The credit union formalized a promise statement and corporate values. It introduced an employee handbook called “embraceRED” that outlined these and provided a set of guidelines for the credit union.
For example, the credit union’s promise, as it is written, is “to unite and support one another’s money management plans through personalized financial wellness solutions.” The document also establishes a set of values that members expect from credit union employees.
The Name Game
As the credit union implemented its new culture, 2013 rolled on. During the focus groups, the credit union concentrated solely on brand meaning, by September, it was time to choose a name.
So the credit union formed an internal committee composed of 15 employees ranging in seniority from tellers to the C-level, with a mind to multigenerational involvement and ethnic diversity.
The credit union conducted a second phase of focus groups with the same segmented approach as the first round. In addition, Payne and Moore interviewed executives at member companies and conducted non-member surveys.
“It was a crucial step to get their feedback and input,” Payne says. “We can say all along that we started this by asking members for their opinions.”
The committee used the feedback to come up with 400 names, which it whittled down to 75 by taping all the names to the wall of a conference room and using gold and red stickers to signify likes and dislikes.
The credit union then reviewed these based on cultural, ethnic, and legal perspectives and continually narrowed the list until one name prevailed. The board approved Elements Financial in January 2014.
Working Within The Elements Of Financial Lives
Eli Lilly is a global pharmaceutical company, and much of it work involves complicated science and experimentation involving, critically, the periodic table of elements.
“The name resonates with our members because it has a tribute to the work that Eli Lilly and Company does every day,” Payne says. “We work with the elements of your financial life.”
Above, Elements Financial's new logo.
Once it selected the name, the rebranding process became an organizationwide effort. That effort officially began in March 2014, 10 full months before the brand became official in the eyes of the NCUA on Jan. 1, 2015.
Moore and Payne worked together to identify logistical changes and then created a team of 20 to complete the transition.
“We developed a list of all the different items that needed to be changed,” Moore says, including NCUA approval, member communications, loan documents, and membership applications, to name but a few.
Also, beyond the few who were immediately involved in the rebrand, the new name was a secret. Employees knew a new name was coming, but Moore and Payne wanted to build suspense and excitement and, yes, retain an element of surprise.
“The project team made up fake names in our heads so we wouldn’t accidentally say it,” Moore says.
The Home Stretch
The rebrand team came up with 1,200 items that needed to be changed over the course of the year and estimates the final product required nearly 2,200 hours of work.
In August 2014, the credit union officially revealed the name “Elements Financial” to staff and offered comprehensive training, including a Questions And Concerns Escalation Policy to handle member criticism, through September.
Those contacted by members would share questions or concerns to an immediate supervisor. Supervisors would post these, assuming they were appropriate, to an internal discussion board where Moore, Payne, or others in the institution could answer with a response plan. Once that was formed, the supervisor or marketing department would contact the member directly.
Timeline of Elements Rebrand
2008: Eli Lilly FCU transitions from single sponsor charter to multiple group charter
May 2012: Eli Lilly FCU hires local branding agency
Summer 2012: Branding Research, Phase One - focus group with members, brand and internal culture development
January 2013: Eli Lilly FCU begins doing business as ELFCU, introduces new logo and color palette, internal embraceRED culture also introduced to employees
September 2013 - January 2014: Branding Research, Phase Two - naming development including focus groups, consumer surveys, executive interviews, cultural and legal reviews
January 2014: Elements Financial name selected and approved by board of directors
March 2014 - December 2014: Organizational rebrand project is undertaken
August 2014: Name reveal to staff
September 17, 2014: Name reveal to members
January 6, 2015: ELFCU officially becomes Elements Financial
The credit union revealed the name to members on Sept. 17, 2014, and the now Elements Financial was ready for whatever response. Turns out, members loved it, Payne says. And the escalation policy was almost unnecessary.
“I could count on one hand the number of people we had to reach out,” she says.
The new brand is now one year old, but the credit union still answers the occasional confused member call. That doesn’t bother Moore or Payne. Rather, it provides them a sense of accomplishment on a job well done.
“We are delighted with our progress and evolution and how smoothly it went both internally and for our membership,” Payne says.