I would like to commend Paul Gentile for his Jan. 3 column on branding credit unions. It's good to see that Credit Union Times is promoting something that I believe is critical to the success of credit unions. As our good friend Ed Callahan often said, "credit unions are America's best kept secret."
CUDL recently completed a major re-branding initiative, during which we discovered a great deal about the importance of brands and how to effectively leverage them. CUDL worked closely with the Malahat Group in Vancouver, Canada, the same company that created CUNA's national credit union brand, "America's Credit Unions, where people are worth more than money." Through the re-branding process we learned that businesses determine their logo and customers determine their brand. Credit unions and credit union organizations should take this to heart when they embark on their branding missions. From a member's perspective, CUDL, like the CO-OP or shared branching, is a sub-brand within their credit union. Inside thousands of dealerships, CUDL represents hundreds of credit unions and markets the convenience of credit union financing at the dealership. Forty percent of all CUDL loans are to existing members of credit unions, so whether it is CUNA's America's Credit Unions brand, the CO-OP, Shared Branching, or CUDL, it is important to promote the value of credit unions.
Targeted, strategic national branding initiatives, coupled with localized branding efforts to get the word out, would make a real difference for our industry. Certainly, on the local level, many credit unions and leagues are beginning to invest more in getting "America's best kept secret" out to the general public. The California Credit Union League's Public Advocacy Campaign in 2006 is a great example of this, as it proved to generate heightened awareness and regard for credit unions among active members and helped to educate potential members. The league's 2007 campaign will go even further to promote the value of credit unions. Imagine how powerful these branding messages could be when tied to a strong national branding campaign? Emotional brand equity with existing members is raised when we advertise and promote, while public awareness of the true value and inherent benefits of credit unions is heightened. Communicating the credit union value proposition to the public on both a national and local level is critical to the success of credit unions--big or small--throughout the country. Let's keep up the momentum and continue to let the secret out. Tony Boutelle President/CEO CUDL Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.