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:
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.