Is Your Brand Sort of Clear or Really Clear?

By Mark Arnold


I recently updated the prescriptions for my glasses. It wasn’t a major change—honestly, just a minor tweak to help me view the computer screen a little easier (rather than taking off my glasses). Wow! What a difference that small change made. My vision went from being pretty clear to really clear.

As Greg McKeown writes in Essentialism, “I have been amazed to see what happens when teams are only ‘sort of’ clear about what they are trying to achieve rather than ‘really clear.’”

Think about your brand: is your brand just “sort of” clear rather than “really clear?”

Many credit unions think their brand is fine: that it’s “pretty clear.” Maybe you have a tagline, maybe some of your employees know what you are about, and maybe you have a general idea about who you’re trying to reach. But watch out, that is just a “sort of” clear brand.

Four Signs

How can you tell if you just have a “sort of” clear brand rather than a “crystal clear” brand? Here are four signs your brand is unclear:

  • Your employees don’t know what you are about. If you ask 10 different employees what your credit union is about or what makes your financial institution different and you get 10 different answers, then you don’t have a clear brand. Your employees must live your brand every day and if they are not on the same page then your brand is fuzzy.
  • Your website is confusing and hard to navigate. If a consumer goes to your website and there are no clear calls to action or if they can’t find what they need in under two seconds, then you don’t have a clear brand. Research shows that it only takes .05 seconds on your website for users to form an opinion about your brand.  Your website is the front porch of your brand and it must invite consumers into a great experience.
  • Your messaging is all over the place. If you have multiple messages (not taglines) or if you’re saying too much, then you don’t have a clear brand. The words you use to communicate matter and those words must connect succinctly. Cut the fluff. As Donald Miller writes in his book Building a Storybrand, “Noise is the enemy. If you confuse, you lose.” 
  • You have no idea who your target audience is. If your answer to “who are you trying to reach?” is “Everyone” then you don’t have a clear brand. As the saying goes, “Niches lead to riches.” Whether it’s moms, millennials or men, your brand must know its market.

What You Can Do

How can you tell for sure if your brand is unclear? While you may have a good idea based on the signs above, here are four brand clarity tests you can give your credit union:

  • Give employee and board surveys. Ask your employees (and your board for that matter), scaled (1 to 10) statements such as “I understand our brand,” or “I have confidence in the effectiveness of our brand.” That will quickly determine how comfortable the people in your institution are with your brand.
  • Undertake a marketing audit. One of the absolute best ways to know if you have a clear brand is to have an unbiased third party review your marketing. A thorough marketing audit will quickly determine how strong your messaging and your visuals are performing. Research shows that 58% of all credit union and bank content doesn’t resonate with the average consumer. Get outside input to see if yours does.
  • Conduct mystery shops. While the survey step above is great, sometimes your employees lie on those questions. If you want to know how your employees are really living the brand, then give them a “pop quiz” by having someone outside your organization visit branches or call your phone center and see what the experience is truly like. Qualtrics found that 75% of consumers will stop engaging with a business because of a “terrible experience.” The best way to ensure your members aren’t having terrible—or forgettable—experiences with your credit union is to investigate for yourself.  
  • Search Google. People start looking for financial services on the Internet. In fact, a Google eye-tracking study found that most people don’t even look past the first three search results. But don't just plug in your financial institution’s name and see what happens. Rather, plug in “checking accounts and your city name” or “car loans, low rates and your branch locations.” If your brand doesn’t pop up in Google searches, then your brand doesn’t exist.

While the song lyric “I can see clearly now…..” is running through my head after getting new glasses, what lyric is playing through your brand lens? The clearer your brand is, the more effective it is. And a clear brand leads to better financial performance.

Mark Arnold is founder and president of On the Mark Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in branding and strategic planning for credit unions. His website is and you can reach him at 214-538-4147 or"


Section: Standard
Word Count: 1096
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Copyright Year: 2019
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