In the competitive Northern Virginia market, Marella Nardotti aims to create an authentic brand consumers find relevant, and leverage that brand to drive product and service growth.
“With all the distrust of big bank behavior and security breaches, we have an opportunity to highlight our trusted reputation and authentically help our members reach financial independence,” says Nardotti, vice president of marketing at $503 million asset NextMark Credit Union in Fairfax, Va. “Engaging with our community and finding out what consumers want from a financial institution will drive us to become a relevant partner in their financial lives.
“Doing so will build trust, which will lead to an increase in product and service use ultimately resulting in profitability,” she adds. “It’s all about understanding our target market. The goal is to be relatable, approachable, and inclusive.”
That, in a nutshell, is Nardotti’s approach to marketing. The CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council named her the 2020 Marketing Professional of the Year during its recent virtual Diamond Awards.
Nardotti explains her efforts to rebrand and rename NextMark, what the experience taught her about branding, advice for other marketing leaders, and more.
Nardotti: It is quite an honor, especially since I am surrounded by so many talented credit union marketing professionals. Executing our rebrand would not have been possible without the collaboration and dedication of so many individuals at NextMark.
The teamwork and support was truly amazing. I would especially like to thank CEO Joe Thomas for trusting me to lead the effort. I also want to recognize Ziba Design for helping us redefine our brand, Jackson Walker Design for graphic design, and Pixelspoke for our beautiful storytelling website.
A: I spearheaded the rebranding and renaming of the 60-year old organization. Certainly, this involved coming up with an amazing new name and brand, but it also involved a complete website and digital platform redesign, credit and debit card redesign, video production, and coordination of the new brand reveal event.
As part of our research and focus groups to identify our DNA and persona, I had the opportunity to sit in strangers’ homes and talk to them about their finances. We discussed what kept them up at night, what their goals and dreams were, what their ideal financial institution looked like, and what they thought about credit unions vs. banks.
It was emotional and eye-opening. It made me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. But it was real.
Each participant had a story—and their stories helped write ours.
A: The journey has been a marketer's dream, and I'm so grateful my organization trusted me to lead the effort. It was stressful and exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
We had a lot at stake, and I knew from the get-go that we needed to do it right to be successful.
I learned that branding is so much more than just colors and a beautiful logo. It’s about redefining your DNA so you can truly understand who you are, who you serve, and what you do to emotionally connect with people.
When we started our rebranding and renaming journey, I knew we needed to learn more about the community we serve to create a brand that spoke to our target market.
We invited members and nonmembers to participate in one-on-one and small focus group discussions in neutral environments. This allowed participants to comfortably share information about their finances that’s often viewed as personal and private.
Although this was time-consuming and costly, it helped us gather important information about who we serve. When you know your strategic target, you can more effectively create marketing campaigns that speak to their wants and needs.
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