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1st Advantage Federal Credit Union

When it comes to branding and establishing a unique identity within their field of membership, most credit unions concentrate on visual elements. They start with their logo and colors and replicate that across their branches and website, and naturally incorporate them into their traditional marketing collateral materials such as brochures, statements stuffers, in-branch posters, etc. However, one progressive credit union - 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union - has taken their branding to a new level by incorporating sound branding across their member touch points. For assistance with their audio efforts, the Newport News, VA-based credit union turned to the worldwide leader in sonic branding and interactive audio: Audiobrain.

Over the past few years, 1st Advantage has worked hard to develop their brand in their highly competitive marketplace. Jim Craig, Vice President of Marketing at 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union, explains that "we recently remodeled our branches to make them more member friendly and retail oriented, and we have put a lot of focus on developing a cohesive marketing strategy. We felt that our next step was to develop an audio logo and incorporate audio into our marketing programs." Craig was introduced to Audiobrain at a conference and was immediately impressed by their stellar client list that includes such well known companies as NBC, ESPN, IBM, Microsoft, Virgin Mobile, and many more.

Craig, backed by a supportive senior management team, commissioned Audiobrain to help them create an audio strategy that would reflect their identity.Audrey Arbeeny, co-founder of New York City-based Audiobrain, recalls that "we were excited about working with 1st Advantage because they are not your typical financial institution. They are a small credit union with big banking services." Audiobrain’s process is comprehensive when developing an audio strategy for one of their clients and includes: a complete audit of their existing brand; a detailed assessment of the competitive landscape; branch visits; an advertising and marketing materials review; and placing calls to the call center. Craig remembers that it was "a very thorough program that was designed to synthesize the work that we had already done to establish our brand."

At the conclusion of this in-depth exercise and analysis, Audiobrain determined the qualities that exemplify 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union: friendly, caring, ease of use, optimistic, can-do, simplicity, and the personal touch. The credit union was pleased with the results of the survey because the validated their own four key qualities that they had developed internally: simplicity; dependable; human-oriented; and personal empowerment. The team of talented musicians and composers at Audiobrain then went to work on creating a custom sound branding strategy and official sound signature for 1st Advantage. Arbeeny explains that "we view ourselves as a compass that assists our clients in focusing their audio brand through their particular lens."

The Audiobrain team presented the credit union with about a dozen trial versions of the sound logo, that were soon whittled down to a handful via cooperative back and forth efforts. In the true credit union spirit of cooperation, the management team at the credit union placed the final four versions on their intranet and let the employees vote on their favorite.According to Craig, "our employees enjoyed the process and we really came up with something that synthesizes our brand and is memorable." Arbeeny adds that "everyone worked together to develop the right tone and feel for their audio logo, and all of our efforts paid off because we are sure that it conveys exactly the right message."

The new audio logo was put into play immediately via 1st Advantage’s radio spots, and television ads will follow. However, the credit union wanted to leverage their investment by utilizing it in their branches so Audiobrain developed custom-built door chimes containing the signature. Whenever a member passes through a branch door, the audio logo plays. (It includes a one minute delay so that it doesn’t play too frequently). 1st Advantage also commissioned Audiobrain to develop a custom mix of songs for their branches and ‘on-hold’ music for their call center. Arbeeny says that "we carefully selected these hundreds of songs through their brand filter so that they would convey the right messages." Also interspersed through the songs are occasional messages from a DJ with information on the credit union’s products and services.

Overall the credit union has been very pleased with their audio branding efforts. Craig enthuses that "we are ahead of the competition in this regards because no one else is doing this in our market. I am sure that it will payoff by increasing our brand awareness and recognition in the communities that we serve." Arbeeny concludes that "sound branding is almost like visual branding today – it has really gone mainstream. We are passionate about communicating our client’s business ideas through music and sound, and 1st Advantage is truly a leader in the credit union movement in realizing the importance of sound in defining their identity."

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