Credit Union Brand Alignment: Why is it so important?

Nick Chiamardas

Traditionally the term brand alignment has referred to the attempt to measure how well a company, a credit union in your case, fulfills its brand promise. While that’s ultimately true, it can be a subjective measurement. It really boils down to something simpler: Does your brand do what it says it does?

It’s important to measure or at least consider alignment in these simple terms in order to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing and the sentiment about your brand from both members and the market at large.

Consider the quadrant graph below for possible outcomes. Review the X and Y axis definitions followed by some descriptors, observations, and examples of what credit unions might look like in each quadrant.

X-axis: What you say - This is everything communicated by the credit union but more specifically any promises made, any benefits (vs. features) offered, or any service expectation you set in the last 6 to 12 months. It’s plotted horizontally where the numbers increase from left to right.

Y-axis: What you do
- This is the delivery of your product and service offerings and the member experience that comes along with them. It includes anything done to meet/exceed the expectations you set for the public: experiences at various touchpoints, access to technology, policies/procedures, etc. It’s plotted vertically where the numbers increase from bottom to top. 

Quad 1 - Top Right:

  • This is the goal. A credit union in this quadrant sets high expectations with members and non-members but they consistently meet or exceed those expectations during the engagement. 
  • Once you’re here, it doesn’t mean you’re home free. It must be maintained as brand messaging and actions shift. 


Goody2Shoes FCU is running a promotion featuring low auto rates and 90 days of no payments, plus fast pre-approvals on applications. Not only are members applying online but they're getting an immediate decision and those who have approved receive funding within a few hours. 

The Saying (the expectation the CU sets): Promotion featuring low auto rates and 90 days of no payments, plus fast pre-approvals on applications.

The Doing (the member experience): They're getting an immediate decision and those who have approved receive funding within a few hours. 

Quad 2 - Top Left:

  • For various reasons, credit unions in this quadrant typically aren’t spending what they should on marketing/advertising. Maybe it’s a budgeting issue or perhaps they are working on a strong product and service foundation before investing in a large-scale advertising campaign. 
  • This isn’t a terrible place to be. The credit union needs to get the word out to capitalize on work already done. Scream from the mountain tops that you exist. Tell your story!


Whisper Credit Union recently merged with SHH FCU and is about to launch a rebrand. As such, the credit union has significantly pulled back on advertising. The credit union has completed the core conversion for its new members and now offers leading-edge online and mobile technology and a few vendor upgrades have allowed them to create a new checking account to compete with online banks. Growth during this 18-month process has been stagnant. 

The Saying: Nothing. Nada. Crickets.   

The Doing: They're doing a whole lot behind the scenes to improve member and potential member experience. Let’s hope they’ve saved some money for marketing! 

Quad 3 - Bottom Left:

  • Technically credit unions that fall in this quadrant do have alignment since they are neither saying nor doing very much. It’s also possible doing and saying little is by design. As such, you’re more likely to find corporate and single SEG credit unions here. They’re simply existing to serve a basic need.
  • If it’s not by design, then credit unions in this quadrant are likely facing major budgeting and other financial issues as their growth, product, and service offerings have probably grown stagnant. 


Clark County Cluck Bucket Employees Federal Credit Union exclusively serves the employees of the county's largest employer. Its single branch is located inside the Cluck Bucket’s main building. 75% of new members sign up the day they’re hired. Their “mobile app” is a mobile browser version of online banking but they did just get chip cards!  

The Saying: By design, they don’t have to say a whole lot. 

The Doing: Average to below-average experiences are in line with silence. 

Quad 4 - Bottom Right:

  • Credit unions in this area need to sound the alarm and have all hands on deck. Messaging has overpromised and the experiences have underdelivered. 
  • Any growth will likely be artificial and unsustainable. Closed accounts per month are likely on the rise and loan growth might be negative. 


We Say Yes CU is running a first-time auto buyer promotion and a radio commercial promises that they put members' best interests first. They strive to help each member maximize their financial future. WSYCU uses an old credit matrix that mandates people with no credit meet excessive, outdated, and stringent requirements to prove their ability to pay. This delays the turn-around time and turns an exciting process into a dreadful experience. 

The Saying: To say yes (it’s in the name!), to put members first, and to help each member maximize their financial future. 

The Doing: Saying no and promoting a program with known barriers using brand language that sets unrealistic expectations.

Where do you think your credit union falls? In a future post, we’ll tell you how to measure your brand alignment and help you plot your credit union on the graph.  

Writer’s note: I recognize that there is nuance in everything. As such not all “quad one” CUs are the same just as not all “quad four” CUs are not. There are varying degrees of alignment. More to come!
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