Craft Marketing is back with another event full of valuable insights and networking. This time, Paul Hoffman, President of Lake Ridge Bank, will be presenting at Thirsty Goat on Tuesday, March 26. This month, we will explore the art of rebranding.

Why attend this month’s Craft Marketing?

Paul has a unique rebranding story to tell. Recently, he and his team successfully combined two area banks, State Bank of Cross Plains and Monona Bank, to create an entirely new bank, Lake Ridge Bank. This massive initiative required everything from selecting a new name and logo to ensuring clients from both sides felt comfortable and included, making this session a rebranding masterclass you won’t want to miss. 

Register now to get Paul’s advice based on his experience, all while enjoying a complimentary beverage of your choice. 

What to expect: Q&A with Paul

  1. AMA: Tell us a little about yourself and Lake Ridge Bank.

Paul: I have been President of Lake Ridge Bank since our merger in 2023. Before that, I had served as President & CEO of Monona Bank for nearly 17 years. Banking is in my blood — my father was a bank president in the La Crosse area, and I spent a great deal of my early life helping at my father’s bank. My entire professional life has been dedicated to banking and working in various departments. I feel very fortunate to work at a locally owned community bank like Lake Ridge Bank. I believe community banking is the best kind of banking. One of my favorite things about it is that it gives me the opportunity to help reinvest in our communities to make them great places to live and work. I love the fact that our bank associates are part of the communities we serve and take active roles in many community organizations and events. Our executive leadership team lives right here, in the communities we serve, and it makes a difference in the decisions we make.

Lake Ridge Bank is headquartered in Dane County with over $3 billion in bank assets and another $1.2 billion of assets under management in our wealth area. We are among the top 10 largest banks based in Wisconsin with over 380 employees (we call each other associates) working in 19 locations in 18 communities. I am especially proud of the long tenure and professional expertise of our staff. We attract great people to come and work with us and they generally stay for a long-time. The bank offers everything from traditional banking products and services to crop insurance and trust services.

  1. AMA: Implementing a new brand package in less than a year is an ambitious timeline – kudos to you and your team! What strategies or methodologies did you employ to make it happen?

Paul: Thank you, my team and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create an entirely new bank name and brand package. While I thought my experienced team was prepared for the renaming/rebranding of our new bank when we merged Monona Bank and State Bank of Cross Plains, we quickly found out that a great deal had changed in the branding realm in the past 16 years. I know I was not able to give them as much notice as they would have liked. Given our short timeline for our rebranding efforts, we created a team that oversaw the project that began meeting even before we had finalized our new name and brand. The team quickly identified what we needed to rebrand and created a project management timeline that allowed us to prioritize our work. For example, we quickly determined that our exterior signage would be the effort with the longest timeline but offered us great visibility and brand impact.  It was important to find local partners like Sign Art that we could trust to help make it happen.

I am always nervous when it comes to that moment of introducing the new name and brand to the board and our bank associates. So much time and effort go into getting it right that when it comes time for the big reveal I am on pins and needles. Thankfully, our name and brand were immediately embraced by our associates of the bank. Once they were onboard, I knew we could get our clients buy in to the change too.

  1. AMA: A big merger or even just a rebrand can easily lead to uncertainty or resistance among existing customers. How did you and your team address these concerns and ensure a smooth transition for your customers?

Paul: A key part of our initial “merger of equals” negotiation was that we needed to produce a new name for the bank. As you can imagine, it was a big effort to change our names. One of our previous bank names was around for over 108 years, so a lot of brand equity was put aside with the merger. We knew we had to get it right. It was important to us that our new name and brand feel like something genuine, real, and authentic Wisconsin. With over 24,000 registered financial institution names, it became a huge challenge to find something that was not already taken that didn’t sound like a made-up name. It had to be a name people could pronounce and feel like they could trust. If you have been through this kind of change before, you know the gazillion number of places your name and brand is located. When we finalized our new name and logo, we began sharing these with our clients. Getting an inventory and priority list of all the places it exists was just one step in the process. Getting someone to give up their favorite branded items is harder than I thought it would be.

As a bank we are required to share information about the any changes we make so we sent out a lot of news and guides about our new name/brand and information about how to ensure our clients’ conversion experience went smoothly. We also did a lot of internal communications and training to ensure our associates felt good about what we were doing and could accurately talk to clients about the changes. Externally, we did a lot of marketing to get our new name/logo out, as well as the fact that it was just a new name, but that we would have the same great people and products that we had always had, which really helped us transition to our new bank and lessen any uncertainty. Most of all, we didn’t want our communities to think it was another new bank in town from outside the area.

While at Monona Bank, I also had the opportunity to rename and create a new logo and branding package for the former Monona State Bank as we rebranded as Monona Bank. My team and I also successfully completed a merger about six years ago with Middleton Community Bank, so we were familiar with the multitude of rebranding tasks that need to get done when you are reopening multiple locations as a new bank. Each rebranding effort has its unique challenges and opportunities. When you have a successful existing brand, it is hard to ask people to just move on. A little bit of you dies with the old brand. It can be hard letting go of something so personal like a brand you worked so hard to achieve. The good news is that you can fall in love again!

  1. AMA: Are there any specific mistakes you can see other organizations making when merging two brands that everyone should be aware of? 

Paul: Rather than point out mistakes, I would rather share the lessons we learned from our mistakes, so you do not have to make them. If you are planning to merge two brands or even rebrand one existing brand, I would highly recommend you:

  • Create a team with participants (influencers) from all areas of your organization right away. A variety of perspectives is important and can help you from overlooking potential issues.
  • Create a timeline and identify the projects with the longest lead/completion times. Start on these ASAP as they usually take longer than you expect. Be sure to give your team enough time but lean on them when needed as people can achieve amazing things when up against a deadline.
  • Communicate with all affected parties, and often. Change is hard and people are hungry for information. Make sure everyone is informed at the same time and feels included. We set up regular Merger Minutes (quick emails) that highlighted significant progress and issues and inspired transparency.
  • Celebrate both successes and quickly learn from your mistakes.
  • Vet your vendors, you need to be able to work with and trust your vendors to meet your timelines and get the jobs done right. Have they done this type and scale of project before?
  • It takes lots of repetition. You must communicate over and over long after you are tired of the message. It takes lots of repetition. Did I say that?
  • Merging two brands is like getting married and having a new baby. Everyone in the company will look for their old brand’s resemblance to the new brand. Try to make the new brand feel new to both parties, otherwise someone will be sure you are favoring one brand over the other. Brand favoritism is real, and people will point things out instead of just embracing the new brand. (Isn’t that the same typeface they used before? I am sure it is the same color blue.)
  1. AMA: Can you give us a preview of the big takeaway people can expect if they attend the event?

Paul: When our core processor gave us our merger schedule, most people said we would never be able to successfully complete it on time, or on budget. We did both. Now only a year later, people have a hard time remembering what our banks used to be named. Join us for this event and you will learn about some battle tested tips and tricks about how you can manage a successful rebranding effort.

Register Now to Up Your Lead Magnet Game

So what are you waiting for? Reserve your spot at Paul’s presentation today by registering here. We can’t wait to see you there. 

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About the Author

Kara Martin, Content Writer at Naviant, specializes in written B2B content, from case studies to blogs and beyond. She transforms complex technical information into compelling, data-driven content that helps organizations turn their digital transformation goals into a reality.

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