SAN ANTONIO — A nationally recognized marketing expert reversed some myths for CU executives attending PSCU Financial Services' workshop last week.
Stan Slap, a leading marketing and business consultant and bestselling author of "Bury My Heart at Conference Room 8," told the executives that three elements are key to their marketing and growth efforts through the current economic downturn.
First, CUs should understand that they do not create their brand, their members do and that the brand encompasses not just their products and services but how they conduct business, Slap said.
Second, CU executives have to recognize that the first people they need to have accept and promote their messages and goals are the CU's employees, a group Slap referred to as the employee culture of any organization.
Third, Slap explained how passion in a product and how it is delivered serves to both spark new company brands and protect existing ones from fading and disappearing.
He described how branding has been short changed by too many executives who misunderstand it as something that flows from marketing. In reality, marketers sell the brand but do not create it, he said. A CU's members create a CU's brand, as a gift and a reaction to the CU's products and, most importantly, how the CU treats them.
"It’s not just having a world-class product," he said. "Anyone of your competitors could come with a world-class product. It's how your members access that product that has to be completely original and game changing."
Slap likened brand to faith, arguing that it is more than merely members' trust in their CU, it is the members' belief in the CU even though they might not have knowledge of the CU's immediate actions or motives.
He used the Apple corporation as an example of an incredibly enduring brand that commands deep loyalty from its customers. "If you have a strong brand, you will build the sort of structure that will persist into the future," Slap said.
Slap focused on the role the process plays in obtaining a CU's product or service as an important brand builder because a CUs process of working with its members cannot be replaced or copied by any competitors. Further, the CU that members see through its processes is something they experience directly versus as through advertising. Consumers are now virtually immune to advertising as a way of conveying anything really meaningful about a company, both because advertising's ubiquity and because so much of it has over promised and under delivered, he added. He used as an example some well-known brand advertising that would be sharply different if there were strict truth in advertising laws, such as "Macy's: You hate us. We hate you. It's on sale."
CUs also need to understand that the first people who will start to build the CU's brand are its employees, not its members, because of something Slap called employee culture.
Employee culture is something almost all CEOs misunderstand and tend to disregard because they stand outside it. The goals of employee culture are self-preservation and emotional prosperity, but for itself and not necessarily for management or the CU," Slap explained.
"There isn't much that goes on that the culture doesn't know about; it's always watching, always gathering and sifting information, always looking at you. It knows when you've been naughty. It knows when you've been nice. It knows where your kids go to school. It knows everything," he said, adding "it is an extraordinary information gathering culture."
Because it is such an efficient organism, it is vital that a CUs leadership practice what it explains to its employees about its activities. Employees will implement the CUs strategy so they need to be inspired and excited first, he added.
Slap called passion about a product or service and its process a vital element to launching a successful, lasting company with a strong brand.