With all that's occurred over the past year, I've seen a lot on how this is a time of opportunity for credit unions. What I haven't seen enough of is credit unions collectively and cooperatively working together to bring attention to the credit union movement as a whole.
When it comes to the issue of a credit union national brand or campaign it seems like there are a lot of different opinions on how to implement something like that and what the message should be. To me, it seems pretty simple.
People don't put their money in a bank because they like the foundation banks were built or how they operate. People use banks because the word "bank" is saturated in everyday life. When people think money they think bank; they don't think credit union.
Don't be afraid of associating with the word bank. Telling people to bank at a credit union shouldn't be a bad thing. The idea of having to "join" a financial institution in order to open an account is confusing at first.
I do think it is important to get the credit union message out and show people the credit union philosophy, especially now. But I don't think that's going to be successful in gaining members, especially not young members. The focus should be to get credit unions into everyday life and vocabulary, and it can't be done successfully on the individual level.
Credit unions should be working with other credit unions in their area to make sure that everywhere people look they are seeing something about credit unions. Over the past year I've heard many times that credit unions are not part of the economic crisis, but they are part of the solution. So far I have yet to see that message really communicated to people outside of the industry. Every time I sit down to watch television I do see commercials for at least five different banks promoting all the great services they offer.
The message shouldn't be "here is our philosophy, this is how we work." That's second tier. Many people, and not even just young people, don't even know credit unions are an option. The message should be simple: credit unions exist, this is what we offer and this is how to find one. The only way people are going to start thinking of credit unions as a solution to the economic problems is if more visibility is brought to the whole industry.
It's common sense that right now the opportunity for credit unions to grow and gain members is out there. It shouldn't just be talked about; it should be acted on in a big way and it should start with the basics.