Brand Relaunch to Double a Website Traffic in One Year

Brand & Positioning Strategy
September 23, 2021
Financial Services

Key Takeaways

Washington Federal is a regional bank based in Seattle, Washington. When the bank set its course on the expansion trajectory, it realized that it was limiting its growth by its name. In addition to that, research revealed a lack of understanding of what services the institution provided — “Is it a credit union, is it a government agency?” (source). To unlock its growth, Washington Federal did the following:

  • Brand position — Washington Federal changed its name to WaFd Bank. When tapping into new geographies, it was important for the financial institution to ensure that prospects didn’t have any doubts about what services it provides. Hence, “Bank” was included in the name. Abbreviation stirs away from a specific location and eliminates any confusion caused by “Federal.”
  • Digital direction — New website Supporting Digital-First Direction. WaFd Bank updated its website with new branding and reorganized its information architecture. The bank created more customer-centric navigation, which groups its services under Personal, Business, Commercial titles, making it clear that WaFd Bank provides services to all three. The bank added a new section to the homepage that prominently showcases all states the bank operates in and leads visitors to state-specific pages where they can find local branches and ATMs.
  • Messaging — CEO-Led Rebranding Press Communication. WaFd Bank’s CEO led all public communication (TV, podcast, press) that concerned the bank’s rebranding. This way, the bank could always stir the discussion in a favourable direction and cohesively present a new brand. WaFd Bank invested additional advertising dollars to run more digital ads during the rebranding period (Aug. – Oct. 2019), however, instead of communicating a new name in the ads, the bank promoted its services (Fee-Free checking account). In 2021, WaFd Bank ran geo-targeted ads aiming to capture the attention of users in the new states. The ads called to “sign-up online with a local “Best Bank” in Idaho [and other states WaFd Bank operates in].” 

Washington Federal is a regional bank with a century-long history based in Seattle, Washington. The bank realized it’s name didn’t align with its expansion ambitions— “As the bank expanded beyond Washington state into states like Texas and Utah, neither Washington nor Federal resonated well” (source). 

That wasn’t the only reason that pushed the financial institution to consider a rebranding.  Consumer research revealed a lot of confusion about what Washington Federal was — “Is it a credit union, is it a government agency?” (source).

In 2019, the bank revealed its new identity and started actively tapping into the new geographies.

1. Brand name update

Embarking on this rebranding journey, Washington Federal had two main challenges to solve: 

1) “unblock” geographical expansion; 

2) ensure customers clearly understand that it is a bank.

The Financial Institution opted for a short and self-explanatory abbreviation — WaFd and added “Bank” to its name to eliminate any confusion.

2. New website

WaFd Bank updated its website to match new branding and provide more details about its services. In the time of rebranding, the brand made a few remarks about its digital-first approach and follow up with a website update. WaFT also updated its domain name from washingtonfederal.com to wafdbank.com.

3. Highlight business footprint

One of the main changes WaFD Bank made to its website is adding a large section to the homepage showcasing its business footprint. The bank also added relevant calls to action: “Find an ATM” and “Find a local branch.” WaFD Bank created location-specific pages for each state it operates in, listing all local branches and highlighting some testimonials (example of the Arizona-specific page). Rather than mentioning its Washington origin on the state-specific pages, the brand uses broader terms such as "serving communities of the west".

4. Focus on consumer segments

Another notable change WaFd Bank made to its updated website is introducing a customer-focused navigation. The financial institution reorganized its website architecture to suit specific user groups (Personal, Business, Commercial), making it very clear that it works with both individuals and businesses. 

5. Prioritized educational agenda

WaFd Bank prioritized its educational agenda by adding a “Money Tips” section to the main navigation. The bank provides advice on topics ranging from basic financial concepts (Banking 101) to Family Finance planning and Small Business money management. This also signals the banks’ ambition to capture search traffic as each article leverages a set of relevant keywords.  

6. Forthcoming storytelling

WaFD Bank updated it's About Us page to explain the rationale behind its name update and reassure its loyal customers about the unchanged breadth and quality of its services.

7. Unified message

WaFd Bank simultaneously published the same message across all of its social media channels to update its audience about the brand name change and to reassure them that its mission hasn’t changed — “to provide you with the financial tools you need when, where and how you want them, helping you to be successful now and in the future.” 

8. Additional digital support

During the rebranding time period (Aug. – Oct. ‘19), WaFd Bank amplified its digital advertising efforts. The financial institution has invested $58K to run digital ads. WaFd Bank focused its advertising efforts on display advertising (mobile display — $25K | desktop display — $23K), followed by Facebook ($10K). 

9. Top campaigns

WaFd Bank chose not to run ads communicating the name change. Instead, the financial institution emphasized their Huskies (Washington state football team) sponsorship, promoted its free checking account and drove traffic to a piece of financial advice published by its consumer expert, Herb Wesbaum.

10. Geo-targeted ads

In 2021, WaFd Bank launched geo-targeted ads, leveraging its “Best Bank” recognition by Newsweek. Ad copy promoted a Fee-Free checking account and called to “sign-up online with a local “Best Bank” in Idaho [and other states WaFd Bank operates in].” Such geo-targeted ads help to capture the attention of audiences in the states of WaFd Bank’s recent expansion. 

11. CEO-led PR coverage

WaFd Bank CEO was the face of all rebrand-related communications. Brent Beardall made TV appearances, attended podcasts and was quoted in various publications. Having the CEO updating the public on the rebrand signals seriousness of intention and strategic importance of the move. This also helped to keep the story cohesive, share relevant details and stir conversations in the right direction.

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WaFd Bank saw a +5% MoM website traffic grow since the website relaunch.  

Looking into selected states, visits from Washington and Arizona are stably growing at 5% MoM, whereas traffic from Taxes sees more month-on-month fluctuations and remained stable.  

Directional data, desktop only traffic

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