New Branding Effort Employs Names Of Various Communities

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Michigan's largest credit union has taken a unique branding approach that gives it both corporate status and local identity in each of the communities it serves.

The new DFCU Financial, formerly Dearborn Federal Credit Union, will operate as the umbrella to its six branches, each of which will adopt the name of the community they serve, such as DFCU Detroit, DFCU Livonia and DFCU Henry Ford Health Systems.

President/CEO Mark Shobe said the approach came about following in-house discussions on how the 52-year-old credit union could be recognized for all the products and services it provides, and, at the same time, get rid of the Dearborn-specific reference without taking away that personal touch.

Originally founded to serve Ford engineers, Shobe said, the $1.6-billion DFCU Financial now has "literally hundreds of employer groups throughout Southeastern Michigan.

"Today, only about 13% of members still live in Dearborn," he said, noting that the CU has six branches and is in the midst of an aggressive growth plan to add a seventh by the end of the year and two more after that.

For the time being, the focus will be on areas presently served.

"We took a look at the footprint of our existing members based, where they live and where they are being underserved, because we are not conveniently located," he said.

Shobe added that he considered the approach a "throwback to the original idea on which credit unions were established. We think money is a very personal thing and that the people it belongs to should be treated as such," he said. "And we believe that most people associate with the communities where they reside."

Business will still run as usual with the manager of each branch maintaining his or her authority to run the operations as he or she sees fit, Shobe said.

Once an outside agency provided results of member and staff surveys and focus groups, an in-house team considered "a lot of autonomous names new to the organization before agreeing that the brand already established over the last 52 years was worth keeping.

"Brand changes are not about changing the signs, he said. "It's about how you do business.

Shobe added that the plan is for members to come to know the former Dearborn FCU as the local DFCU-wherever they reside.

The entire process took about a year and a half, Shobe said, adding that the unveiling of the new signage on Jan. 21 would be followed by a media blitz campaign that would include billboard, radio and print advertisements.

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