Consumer Awareness Opportunity Is Part Timing, Part Evolution
The topic of branding credit unions always gets too complicated and too emotional. You hear about Super Bowl ads. You hear about it being a big vs. small CU issue. You hear disputes about which message is best. That's all noise. It's simply improving awareness of what credit unions do and how we can help consumers. We need to keep it simple.
We don't need all consumers to understand that we are nonprofit financial cooperatives owned by the membership, that we have volunteer board members, or that we use the terms like share draft. None of that inside baseball is vital for telling our story. If we don't mainstream our value proposition, we will be stuck talking to each other.
Job No. 1 is for consumers to understand that they can do their banking at a credit union. Too many consumers still confuse us with labor unions, think we only offer certain loans or savings products, and that we're an exclusive club for certain segments. In New Jersey our consumer awareness campaign centers on the theme "Banking You Can Trust." Those four simple words quickly tell consumers what we do and convey the value proposition we offer. At a credit union, you conduct banking. Credit union purists that don't like to use the word "bank" are kidding themselves. "Banking" is a universal term for financial services and it's what we do. "Trust" of course is the value proposition of credit unions.
Job No. 2 is to chip away at the reasons why to discover credit unions. Again, simplicity. What is the real credit union differentiator? It's grounded in our structure, but structure is boring to consumers! It never tests well. What will resonate better is credit unions have no outsiders to please. Banks have to drive profits to please shareholders, which does not exist at credit union. Five years ago that type of positioning wasn't vital, but adjust to the times. Consumers are tired of banking with institutions that are focused on making money on their money. After billions in Wall Street and bank bailouts can you blame them? They are now looking to do business with organizations that are more consumer-centric and that is us. Lastly, we must convey that you get a fair deal at a credit union, and that credit unions are not about nickel and diming consumers.
When it comes to a national awareness campaign, the age-old argument of it being too costly is no longer true. The pervasiveness of the Internet and more recently social media has made it easy and cheap to reach millions of consumers. The leagues and CUNA are developing a credit union consumer awareness website that will utilize social media, showcase our value proposition, house all of the great press we've received in mainstream national media, utilize sweepstakes and refer-a-member programs to try and light a wildfire online to get more consumers to wake up to credit unions, and more. Where do you send consumers today to learn about credit unions? It's not CUNA, the leagues or NCUA. That's us talking to us. This new site will be a modern, consumer driven-site that won't get bogged down with industry jargon. It will turn our credit union story into consumer's language. That's what we need.
New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO Paul Gentile submitted this blog entry.