I recently returned from my family’s yearly winter retreat to warm weather, where we travel south from our home in Minnesota to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for one week in January. We find it to be a much needed break for all of us to unwind, unplug and spend some time together as a family. Not to mention enjoying sunshine and tropical temperatures.

Over the years that we have gone to Puerto Vallarta, the resort we visit has grown in vast proportions. With so many more baby boomers retiring and looking for winter weather retreats of their own, this resort has expanded to seven “luxury levels” of residence clubs across 17 buildings, over 30 restaurants and bars on the property, 3 golf courses, multiple pools and an entertainment complex hosting nightly live entertainment. It’s incredible to see! And every year, when we go back, more changes – they are continuing to build condo hotels for more residence club members!

Branding Everything

As we experienced the resort this year, I was struck by the extraordinary level of branding that the resort puts into each one of their residence clubs, restaurants, bars and pools (with bar service). Here’s just a quick run down of what you can see, feel and experience:

  • Each “level” of residence club has their own logo, color schemes, cultural aspects, service uniforms for employees, and service responses from staff. You can actually tell the difference moving from one end of the resort to the next!
  • Each restaurant is uniquely branded with their own logo, uniforms, menus and take on cultural dishes. The resort has two seafood restaurants – but they have a completely different atmosphere and quality level of food from one another!
  • Each bar (and pool side bar), too, is uniquely branded with their own logo, uniforms and mix of cocktails to choose from. You would think a 12 oz. margarita with the same tequila would cost the same across the entire resort, right? Wrong! It all changes based on where you go or which pool you are beside.

Experiences Matter

The resort is doing this with a very specific idea in mind: if you are spending more money on your residence club package, the level of service, amenities, and pleasantness of the entire experience needs to rise with dollars spent. What struck me is exactly how “all in” they go to ensure this it is not just superficial – with a new logo for the most luxurious building. It’s about everything they do. The words the staff uses when speaking to you. How well the staff can communicate in English. How pristine and clean the pool decks are kept. Which materials are used in the buildings.


Now, think about this in terms of your bank or credit union, and your branches. Are your branches as close as they can be to being consistent in environment, atmosphere and service levels your customers and members expect? Or, (if this is part of your culture) are your branches able to display some of their own local character?

Brand the Little Things

Getting more granular, what can your bank or credit union do to continue to differentiate itself in the marketplace, from a branding perspective? Think about it from the product and service perspective. What do you call your checking account(s)? Do they have specific names? How about Money Market accounts?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to start branding products in a way that aligns with your own core branding, and gives a unique taste to the product? Your checking account instantly becomes different, because you don’t have to call it a checking account!

  • Checking accounts become [Your Bank Name] Freedom Access Account.
  • Money Markets could be [Your Bank Name] Earn More Account.
  • Auto Loans get renamed as [Your Bank Name] Go Anywhere Fund.

Sky’s the Limit

Really, you can go as deep or stay as shallow as you want with a concept like this. The main idea is to make whatever you do – whatever you want to brand – part of the entire experience for your customer or member. People will remember how good it feels to have a Freedom Access Account, instead of…a checking account…and it sets your bank or credit union further from the competition.

What do you think? Is your organization ready to brand everything? Let us know!