A ‘brand on fire’
Award-winning branding effort reflects values, includes all member segments.
With an expanded field of membership, ISU Credit Union sought to create a brand that would resonate with current and potential members, from the educational community of its roots to a broader constituency.
The Pocatello, Idaho-based credit union’s new identity—Lookout Credit Union—not only respects its heritage and encourages growth, the brand expresses how it serves as a beacon and a reliable financial guide.
Lookout has gone through several mergers during the past five years, mostly with smaller, education-based institutions, says BJ Fillingame, vice president of marketing at the $306 million asset credit union.
But in 2017, it merged with a credit union whose primary focus was public employees: first responders, firefighters, police officers, and city and county workers.
“Most of our marketing was aligned and catered toward educators,” Fillingame says. “We wanted to be inclusive of all the member segments we served and create a brand that made everyone feel like we were speaking to them.”
Credit union leadership also believed the ISU Credit Union name would hinder growth and entrance into new markets in areas that didn’t have an affinity to the university, he says.
Lookout earned seven Diamond Awards from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council for its rebranding effort.
Lookout Credit Union earned seven Diamond Awards for its rebranding effort.
Agency provides perspective
The rebranding process began with interviews with four ad agencies.
“We wanted to use an outside ad agency to help us strip things down to the studs and give us an outside perspective,” says Fillingame. “We did our due diligence by talking to other credit unions and finding four agencies that aligned with our vision and had industry experience.”
Two agencies made on-site presentations and two conducted sessions via video conferencing. The credit union ultimately chose Seattle-based Strum.
“They were the best fit and offered the best strategy for our investment,” Fillingame says. “We feel like we have friends for life and a strategic partner that cares about helping us grow and tell the story of the Lookout brand.”
Finding the right agency should be one of the first priorities for credit unions looking to change their name and identity, Fillingame advises. “If rebrands are done correctly, it's money well spent.”
‘Knowing how the current membership base and employees perceived our brand was eye-opening.’
The adventure begins
The rebranding effort began in late August 2019 with back-end research, surveys, and focus groups that examined the current brand.
“The ISU brand wasn’t broken, so we started from a position of strength,” Fillingame says. “The first steps, primarily market research, were crucial. Knowing how the current membership base, potential membership base, and employees perceived our brand was eye-opening.”
In 2020, the work progressed with evaluation workshops with the staff and board, name development, the trademark process, stakeholder communication plans, logo designs, brand look and feel, corporate identity programs, merchandising, and so on.
“We didn’t want to rush the process, and we wanted to do it right,” Fillingame says. “We also had the challenge of COVID, which made things interesting.”
The credit union launched its new brand in 2021. For the first six months, Lookout used transitional marketing messaging such as, “There’s a New/Old Credit Union in Town” and “Same Us, New View.”
Beginning in July 2021, the credit union advanced the Lookout story with imagery and financial journey messaging, using simplicity in text and tone: “Adventure has a new look” and “Your journey is our priority.” Its new tagline: “Tread fearlessly.”
“We tied adventure with banking-related items,” Fillingame notes. “We also built on programs that were successful before the rebrand with our community involvement and marketing channels.
“We’ve done some cool word play with the name, like ‘Lookout Cookouts’ and ‘Lookout for Foul Balls’ at local baseball games,” he continues. “We got on board with a ‘Lookout for Bigfoot’ conference.”
The new brand is present in the in the community, including a new downtown park project, Lookout Point.
The credit union offers merchandise in all of its branches. “People love our gear—hats, shirts, pens, Bengal Balm, and more,” says Fillingame.
A private-label red wine called “Red Fearlessly” is available, as is “Lookout Lemonberry” popcorn.
“It’s been fun to have a new marketing arsenal to share with the community,” Fillingame says. “We’re also helping the downtown area with a new park project, and the park will be renamed ‘Lookout Point.’”
Although the identity change came with some initial questions, those subsided quickly, he says. “Once most learned the story and reason behind Lookout, the light bulb went on and they loved it. It feels like we’ve been Lookout since day one.”
“Lookout is everywhere” is a common refrain, Fillingame says.
“For a $300 million credit union, we feel like we’re running with the big guys and have found our niche with the education and civil servant communities,” he says. “They lean on us and offer us exclusive access and opportunities to partner. Loyalty is as strong as ever.
“Growth through our digital channels has been off the charts, and sponsorship requests are at an all-time high,” Fillingame continues. “The brand is on fire right now. But the work only started at the launch. Maintaining the brand—visually and otherwise—will be a five-plus year commitment.”
Looking back, Fillingame has few regrets about the project.
“We had to make some choices because of COVID, especially our employee brand launch party,” he says. “And it would have been awesome to host an in-person member party to introduce the brand properly to our membership.”
He also might have walked through all of the credit union’s products and services, simplifying them and where appropriate making them more on-brand and unique.
“There were so many moving parts at the time to get it live within a pandemic,” Fillingame says. “The brand is still growing, and there’s still an opportunity to do that along the way. But overall, it’s a huge success.”