One Bank’s Brand Refresh

1They say silver marks a 25th anniversary, and gold is for 50 years. 1So how do you observe your 140th anniversary? Just ask 1st National Bank in Berlin, Wisconsin. The bank recently celebrated its 140th anniversary by updating its visual brand identity and logo.

A community bank with eight locations, 1st National holds approximately $375 million in assets and employs 100 people throughout Wisconsin. It’s the second-oldest nationally chartered bank in Wisconsin and it prides itself on positively impacting local economies through volunteerism, donations, and offering products and services that save people money. Sounds pretty traditional, right? So why the brand refresh? How did they do it, and what did they discover along the way?

We caught up with Loni Meiborg, Marketing Leader at 1st National, to find out more about their experience updating their brand, and to see what other similar banks might learn from the process.


ABA: How did 1st National know that it was time to update its brand?

Meiborg: We felt it!  Over the years we took steps to create a fun, energized, yet professional environment. But our story wasn’t clear to our clients and the community. In addition, we updated our mission and vision to better reflect the benefits we offer to clients. Our new motto is, “Growin’ Wisconsin.”  This reflects our commitment to the success of individuals and businesses in the communities we serve.  By providing resources, education, guidance, and products and services that save them time and money, we are able to help them grow.

With all that change happening, we just knew we needed to update our look and feel to mirror our progress and help convey our story.

ABA: What were the biggest challenges/obstacles you faced during the process?

Meiborg: Getting started.  As with any journey, you can begin on many different paths.  We had to consider what was right for our organization as a whole.  We also had to determine what fit our budget, what type of partner was right for our size bank, and most importantly, what our brand should feel like.  Answering these questions provided a challenge in the beginning, but the answers set us on the right path to success.

ABA: Was there anything unusual or unexpected that happened during the creative process of rebranding?

Meiborg: Yes.  Full support and buy-in from staff.  As with any creative process, opinions vary on what success looks like. In some cases, personal preference can even outweigh strategic decisions.  In our case, everyone from executive management to front line staff embraced the initial concept, and with some great feedback, helped it move towards perfection.  We feel this immediate understanding and acceptance came from clearly laying out our story and our goals.  In essence, it all clicked.

ABA: What should a rebranding team know before embarking on the process?

Meiborg: Know what makes you, you. If you can’t tell your story today, a new brand identity won’t help.  Years back we were considering a name change along with a brand update. We set out to reinvent ourselves, but the vision never became evident and the project died on the vine. It took us a while, but we realized we had to work hard to define who we were and what we meant to our clients. Once our story came together, the creative process was fun and moved fast.

ABA: What were the biggest lessons learned?

Meiborg: Take your time. Although we would say the launch was successful, we definitely pushed ourselves to complete it in a short amount of time.  We took advantage of many pieces falling into place at the same time, and the brand refresh would secure them together. We had an aggressive four-month timeline. If we could do it over, that would be closer to eight months.

The other lesson is to be open. If everyone involved is vying for their favorite colors to be your new brand identity, it’s going to get sticky pretty fast. What I mean is, come in with a completely open mind and no preconceived ideas. It’s important to know your story in and out; but collaboration will often get you the best results.

ABA: What changes have you observed since implementing the brand refresh?

Meiborg: An unexpected reaction came from both our team and the outside. We received many notes using words like: fresh, happy, bright. Feedback was written in a light tone and conveyed a sense of excitement. Obviously, the brand was created with these things in mind, but the affects were so quick to grab hold.

Since we’re just weeks into the launch, we haven’t yet been able to quantify other changes. Our goals include increased website traffic, increased net promoter score, and increased referrals. We will be tracking those metrics regularly.

Loni Meiborg is Marketing Leader at
1st National Bank in Berlin, Wisconsin. Email: [email protected].