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BACKGROUND

Founded in 1951 at Arnold Air Force Base, AEDC Federal Credit Union served civilian employees and commissioned officers from a single room. In order to better differentiate the credit union and create a recognizable brand, the credit union’s Board of Directors voted to change the organization’s name to Ascend Federal Credit Union in 2006. Today, with almost  $2 billion in assets, Ascend serves more than 145,000 members from 17 financial centers throughout Middle Tennessee.

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CHALLENGE

Like the entire financial industry, Ascend knew they must evolve in order to stay relevant among current members while acquiring new ones. They approached Adrenaline to re-engineer their branch experience for the modern age.

The project would involve designing new branches, including a solution for smaller facilities, and refreshing existing ones. It provided an exciting opportunity to define how people interact with the Ascend brand today, tomorrow, and
in the future.

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RESEARCH

The first step was to audit the existing network, identifying what elements needed to stay, go, or evolve. Not all their branches were created equal – some could use a refresh, while others required a more functional redesign.

With existing conditions in mind, the focus turned to three new landmark facilities that would redefine the Ascend branch experience.  The first was a full-service, 5,200 sq. ft. branch in Nashville that would be the beacon prototype. The second was a same-size branch in Mt. Juliet, which would provide a cost-effective solution for branch refreshes. And the third was a 1,900 sq. ft. express branch in Nashville West that would replicate the ideal member experience in a more compact format.

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EXECUTION

In order to attract members, Adrenaline identified several opportunities to express the brand from the inside out. Most notably, a reinterpretation of the original, Adrenaline-created 2D logomark into a 3D brand sculpture. This powerful manifestation of the identity was hung from the 50-foot ceiling of the Nashville prototype’s sleek rotunda vestibule, and lit from all angles for nighttime visibility.

The rotunda we created gives a memorable beacon that leaves a brand impression, one that is orchestrated around architectural details with branding and design intent to achieve impact.

- Allyson Bowers, Director, Retail Integration

“The rotunda we created gives a memorable beacon that leaves a brand impression, one that is orchestrated around architectural details with branding and design intent to achieve impact.”– Allyson Bowers, Director, Retail Integration

Further, Adrenaline’s “What-If” broadcast campaign was translated to in-branch outward-facing signs like billboards, to make the most of public-facing windows.

Both inside and out, our What-If campaign provides a unique opportunity to express the brand with a more aspirational message that leads to a conversation.

- Chris Howe, Design Strategist

“Both inside and out, our What-If campaign provides a unique opportunity to express the brand with a more aspirational message that leads to a conversation. We also visually incorporated sky, horizon and images of upward mobility which serve to reference the guided journey Ascend can take customers on.” – Chris Howe, Design Strategist

Integrating the ‘What-If’ campaign, which we incorporated into numerous marketing pieces, helped position our brand as immediately identifiable, and the conversation it created was extremely valuable.

- Kim York, Senior Vice President/CMO for Ascend

“Integrating the ‘What-If’ campaign, which we incorporated into numerous marketing pieces, helped position our brand as immediately identifiable, and the conversation it created was extremely valuable.” Kim York, Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer for Ascend

To convert idle waiting time to engaged learning time, Adrenaline designed a curved feature wall to be a unifying visual anchor and destination for digital brand storytelling. Multiple seating options from lounge to high-bar allows members to migrate where they feel most comfortable.  And a kid’s corner provides an area for children to play while their parents speak with a Member Service Representative.

Ascend adopted Teller Pods to facilitate seamless transactions more than a decade ago, but the new experience made the area even more streamlined.  Multiple, small digital screens gave way to a single large screen and focused message. Photography of generic clouds evolved to an illustrated, ownable brand texture of cloudscapes featuring the brand mark.  And an exposed ceiling of wires and ducts was made more intimate and inviting by dropped “cloud” soffits.

The design of the new facilities speaks to our aeronautical roots, but it reaches to the future.

- Kim York, Senior Vice President/CMO for Ascend

“The design of the new facilities speaks to our aeronautical roots, but it reaches to the future.” – Kim York, Senior Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer for Ascend

Finally, for in-depth member advising and consulting, the team introduced a huddle space for informal, face-to-face meeting, encouraging custom financial planning and memorable brand interaction. Supported by the iPad sales app, the branch could facilitate quality member dialog like never before.

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THE UNIFYING IDEA / CONCLUSION

What began as a brand transformation in 2006 evolved into a full-scale branch experience transformation in 2014. The Adrenaline team carefully mapped out the member journey from first step to final transaction, creating physical spaces that would resonate with today’s member of all ages. From the new prototype to refreshed existing branches and a first-ever express branch, Ascend has a new model to connect with members in a relevant, modern, and memorable way, continuing on their quest to Raise Possibilities.

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