CU Times Senior Staff Reporter
ARVADA, Colo. -- An Average Joe has got 18-35 year olds buzzing and it is no wonder since he seems to be everywhere from radio, television and billboards, to posting his own Facebook profile and MySpace page.
No matter where they turn, a new generation of consumers in Colorado and Wyoming are quickly learning that the better way to bank is at credit unions and the Credit Union Associations of Colorado and Wyoming couldn't be happier.
In addition to its success, the campaign has also garnered several awards including: Best Credit Union Microsite/Landing Page from the Internet Advertising Competition; CUNA Marketing and Business Development Diamond Award Merit Winner in the CU Association/League Marketing Campaign category; and Webby Award Official Honoree for Creditunionfacts.com.
Given the amount of research that went into developing and sustaining the bold awareness campaign, Joe's popularity and effectiveness is no surprise.
"We've been very pleased and we continue our research-based focus in understanding the target market and testing the messaging effectiveness," said Karen Morgan, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Credit Union Strategic Partners, a wholly owned credit union service corporation of CUAC. "We knew prelaunch that while the 18-35 year old market believed that credit unions did offer lower fees and lower rates, convenience in terms of ATMs were a key factor in choosing their financial institution and the perception was that credit unions didn't offer a large enough network of free ATMs and that is why they'd choose the Wells Fargo or Chase. So we needed to deliver an attitude-changing message because we had a great story to share but we just hadn't been doing a good job telling it."
Am?(C)lie Co., the associations' agency of record, developed the awareness campaign with a focus on the credit union membership advantage including better interest rates, convenience features such as an extensive ATM and shared branching network, and excellent customer service. Keeping it simple, honest, and subtle, the result was the creation of the Average Joe character, who finds himself in a variety of trying but funny financial scenarios, such as getting literally pummeled by nickel and dime fees, or seeing the person in front of him in the ATM line getting sucked in by the machine.
Consumers are directed to www.creditunionfacts.com, where they can learn more about credit unions and find a credit union near them through the zip code locator. Each listing includes a brief field of membership descriptor that will allow users to assess whether they are eligible to join a particular credit union.
In addition, to track the success of the campaign, Am?(C)lie developed the Campaign Dashboard, a Web-based measurement application where credit unions can input data to track membership and asset growth during the course of the campaign. Data collected through the Dashboard are combined with post-campaign survey findings at the end of 2007 to analyze the success of the campaign and develop recommendations for the ongoing awareness effort.
The Dashboard also houses a number of valuable campaign tools for individual credit unions, including free-of-charge research on this hard-to-reach demographic and campaign news. Also included are downloadable design templates to help credit unions leverage the campaign on the local level, including statement stuffers, lobby posters, direct mail pieces, and print advertisements.
According to Morgan, overall their efforts have resulted in increased awareness of credit union advantages, new Gen Y and Gen X members and increased assets.
"Our free ATM awareness has been the biggest success so far," said Morgan. Pre-campaign only 26% believed we had a broad network of free ATMs and post-campaign 35% strongly agreed with the statement 'credit unions offer the most free ATMs in your area'. That means based on a population of 1.1 million Gen Y and Gen X in Colorado and Wyoming awareness increased from 286,000 to 385,000 individuals resulting in a net increase of 99,000 new converts."
In addition, based on information recorded by credit unions on the Dashboard site overall 42% of new membership was in the 18-35 target range and assets increased by about 5.42%.
"We're pretty pleased. It was a lot of ground to cover and our media reach overall was 90% with our target demographic exposed about 17 times on average," said Morgan. "And this is a group that doesn't want to be sold so we have to tell them fast with humor, stick to things they already believed, drive them to the microsite to get more detailed information on their own and make the most of our sound bytes with them. It all goes back to the research."
She also credited the success to the association's nimbleness in being able to respond quickly making campaign tweaks along the way. For example, when the generic loan message didn't generate the traffic anticipated, CUAC's awareness team of seven opted to focus specifically on car loans for the fall run of the campaign. They even made changes to the microsite midstream when the data analysis indicated it needed to be more dynamic, interactive and playful.
"We wanted more stickiness and we're actually adapting it again this year with a mix of static and some flash stuff so they spend more time on the site," said Morgan. "They can play games, connect with Average Joe on Facebook or MySpace and looking ahead we'll start some blogs as well. We want to make Joe and the campaign as relevant as we can."
Morgan added that while pleased with the first year results there is still work to be done in 2008.
"We want to give them something more tangible to work with and show that credit unions are hip and tech savvy so we partnered with CO-OP to create a mobile texting ATM locator," said Morgan. "Now they can text 'ATM ATM' on their phone, put in their zip code or the cross street they're on and instantly find out the five ATMs closest to them. It is nationwide so no matter where they are they can find a credit union ATM."
Television and radio creative on the new ATM ATM text service launches this week and Morgan says given that this group uses their cell phones and texting as a primary way to communicate and receive information, the new focus is designed to make the most of viral marketing and word of mouth by creating a buzz and jumpstarting the credit union conversation.
"Another cool thing is that credit unions are first in the industry with something like this," said CUAC Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Finerty. "No other financial institution has this in place and we're excited about being able to deliver this cutting edge product to credit union members."
Morgan said credit union convenience is the primary 2008 focus and the new service will also provide valuable concrete campaign measurement from how many are using the ATM texting, to help in tracking ATM usage. Morgan would also like to see even more credit unions input their data on the Dashboard and incorporate the campaign onto their own CU home page.
"We did our homework, test our messages have a very good media strategy in reaching the market and we found that 25% of all post-campaign survey respondents said this awareness campaign is among their top 10 favorites of the past few months," said Morgan. "It helps reinforce that messaging if you see more instances of credit unions across Colorado and Wyoming using it. Some credit unions took the radio and television spots and tagged it differently. It is theirs to use at no charge and the more credit unions that take ownership of this not only benefits them but leverages the effectiveness of the campaign overall."