Thursday, November 09, 2006

The State Or Quality of Being True or Real

As Verity Credit Union nears our 4th anniversary of our “new” name, I watch my fellow credit unions forge their way through name changes.

If you haven’t heard, King County Credit Union is becoming Prevail Credit Union and Weyerhaeuser Employees' Credit Union is becoming Red Canoe Credit Union.

They’ve been taking their lumps in the press. I have great empathy for them. Reading the blog comments and the recent editorials, makes me cringe for the staff over there.

I’ve been doing some remembering about when we changed our name. Credit unions change their name for a variety of reasons. In our case, we were converting from a federally chartered credit union to a state charter. We had to drop the “federal”.

In the 73 years we have been a credit union, we have actually gone through several name changes. We started out as Postal Workers Credit Union #8. We then changed to Federal Employees Credit Union a few years later. In 1969, we became NW Federal Employees Federal Credit Union. That was a lot of Federals for one name, so our forefathers took one out in 1978 and we were NW Federal Credit Union for many years.

When it was time to take the other federal out, we decided to tackle another issue that had become a bigger problem with the advent of the world wide web.

See, NW was not short for Northwest (as many people believed). As a matter of fact, there is a Northwest Federal Credit Union in Virginia. (although I never knew what was Northwest about the state of Virginia). As more and more people started relying on websites for their source of information, there became more and more confusion between the two of us.

So… since NW didn’t represent an employee group nor the word northwest, we decided to change our name all together.

I’ll never forget the process. It’s hard. If you have ever named a child or a pet, you know what I am talking about. Now, imagine you had to name your child or pet AND they were 13 years old AND you had to get the buy in from everyone in your family (from siblings to distant second cousins). That is what changing a credit union’s name feels like.

We had a few criteria for our name. We wanted something that was a real word – you could look it up in the dictionary. We wanted something that was unique (lots of credit unions in this area have names with northwest connotations and we wanted to stand out). We also wanted something that resonated with our staff.

I remember when I told Dave Miller, our consultant from Phinney Bischoff, that we were going to put the names out to our 23 managers and decide as a group. He had been through the process several times before and gave me strong warnings against that tactic.

Man, did our team ever deliver! We put out the ten suggested names for scrutiny. I remember catching the nervous look on Dave’s face as we engaged in an extremely vigorous debate over each name candidate. But after about an hour, I suggested we each vote.

But after a lively back and forth, we eliminated all but two of the names.

The next day, a smaller group reconvened and after thinking about it for a night, we all agreed on Verity. It was the name that just seemed to fit. It was an easy choice.

Verity means the quality or state of being true or real. It is the word that verify is derived from.

That concept really spoke to us. Being truthful, honest and acting with integrity is a critical part of our core values. We liked the idea of naming ourselves after one of our fundamental creeds.

Of course, I took some ribbing about it. Shortly after we announced the name, the latest James Bond movie had Madonna playing a character named Verity. Many people asked if we had named our credit union after her. My husband asked me why we chose a name that most west coast people can’t pronounce (we tend to be lazy with our t’s and say things like wadder, ledder and veridy instead of water, letter and verity). We did get our share of member complaints. Change is hard.

But four years later, we have a name that our members have come to appreciate and our staff has come to love.

Do I, like everyone else, have an opinion on Red Canoe or Prevail? Well, I know the president and marketing person over at King County Credit Union and they are good people. So I don’t wish any negative press on them. I do have to admire Weyerhaeuser’s spunk in choosing a name as different and memorable as Red Canoe. I guess at the end of the day, I am just thankful we made our change before the invention of the blog.

7 Comments:

Blogger Denise Wymore said...

Shari,

Thanks so much for sharing the story of your name change and being so honest. You make a great point -- very few people like change, and agreeing on a name is like taking a group of people to Blockbuster Video and asking them all to agree on one movie.

I like that "verity" is a real word too. Made me look it up and I shall now use it in sentences.

Go Big V!

Thu Nov 09, 02:29:00 PM PST  
Blogger eCom Gal said...

I still remember feeling disbelief and surprise sitting in the theater watching "Die Another Day," and hearing Madoona say oh-so-dramtically, "My name is Verity." It was one of those "DOH!" moments. Thanks for the memories, Shari. :)

Thu Nov 09, 03:05:00 PM PST  
Blogger terrell said...

I love the name Verity and what it means and stands for, but it does present challenges for us. One challenge is that it's not a word people use every day. Like Denise says, she had to look it up. One of the "rules" in marketing is to always write to the lowest common denominator. If we had taken this advice, we'd be Truth Credit Union -- not very catchy.

I like Red Canoe. It is simple to say and spell and it has great imagery. I think it will grow on people over time.

Fri Nov 10, 12:23:00 PM PST  
Anonymous David Miller said...

Did I really look that nervous? Maybe so.

Choosing a new name to brand an organization can be very difficult (at best). Particularly in a credit union, where the customers are the "owners." With other clients, and too often, the process can be like asking everyone in the neighborhood to agree on a name for the new baby in your family. It does invite a few opinions, so it is easy to leave people disappointed, and as a result find them unsupportive of your choice.

Well, sometimes you meet the rare organization that is able to rally around an idea quickly. That organization is Verity. Congratulations!

The entire team at Phinney Bischoff Design House was thrilled to have the opportunity to lead your credit union through this change. Your brand name and logo remains one of the clearest identities in the market, (and has been awarded a few national design awards as well.)

We love Verity.

All the best to you and your team.

David C. Miller
Principal/Director of Brand Strategy
Phinney/Bischoff Design House
davem@pbdh.com

Fri Nov 10, 02:44:00 PM PST  
Blogger shari storm said...

Dave - thanks for the comments! It's always good to run into you - whether it is at the zoo or in the blogosphere ;)

As I typed that line about you, I was hoping you didn't mind.... Yes, Phinney Bischoff, Vivitiv and Terrell Meek have done a great job in molding Verity's brand.

Fri Nov 10, 02:53:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, how much did this unecessary name change cost the membership? That was NEVER answered by any member of the board when I posed the question.

Will the pom-pom cheerleaders of this blog answer that for me?

Sat Nov 11, 01:49:00 PM PST  
Blogger shari storm said...

Thanks for asking that question. I assume you are a member. As a member of the credit union, you are an owner of the credit union and you have every right to pose those kinds of questions. I appreciate active member participation.

The name change cost about $3 per member at the time. One important point is that the majority of that cost would have been incurred regardless of what we called ourselves. Because of our change in charter, we had to remove the word “federal” from our name. It costs the same to change the sign in front of our building to NW Credit Union as it does to change it to Verity Credit Union.

Sat Nov 11, 03:49:00 PM PST  

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