Launching a New Financial Services Brand During COVID—and Winning

For decades, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union served the hard-working, tight-knit communities in Bakersfield, California. Like many, over time the credit union had expanded its membership beyond its founding as a select employer group (SEG) and membership was now opened to all. As it looked to build on its strong local roots and expand into growth markets outside Kern County, it became clear that the brand—beginning with the name itself—must evolve to capture a bigger promise.

A new brand strategy anchored the credit union around a competitively unique position: Growing Your Possibilities. After exhaustive research, a new name was selected—one that captured the shared sense of pride and place for people throughout the region—with a visual identity that echoes the rootedness and growth at the heart of the brand’s promise. The Valley Strong brand launched to employees and the market in early 2020 with a celebration for how the brand will grow the possibilities of all those it serves.

Then the COVID crisis hit. Rather than pause its brand momentum, Valley Strong doubled down on communicating its presence and reinforcing its commitment to the Central Valley communities. Messaging didn’t go silent, but shifted to a simple rallying cry of unity and support: “We are Valley Strong.” A robust social campaign celebrated the “Everyday Heroes” the brand was proud to serve and marketing built awareness and anticipation in new markets for new branches opening this Fall.

The strategy is driving success: In June, Valley Strong was named by Forbes as one of “America’s Best Credit Unions” — a distinction that only 183 credit unions earn out of more than 5,200 nationwide and ranking second in California. It’s a well-deserved accolade, reflecting the strength of its promise in helping turn people’s financial possibilities into realities.

To learn about how your credit union can position its brand for success during COVID and beyond, email