Ever since Oct. 5, 2011, was dubbed Bank Transfer Day, credit union officials and others have been speculating about how many consumers joined credit unions on that day. Later this month, the NCUA will put an end to the speculation when we compile membership data from credit unions’ fourth-quarter call reports. Like many of you, I am eager to learn the results.
But we have already measured the impact of another national campaign that has had extraordinary results: NCUA’s consumer education campaign featuring Suze Orman. And unlike the one-day wonder of Bank Transfer Day, Suze Orman continues to attract members to credit unions.
First, let’s look back at how this came to be. In October 2010, when the NCUA had to conserve three failed corporate credit unions, we needed to send consumers a reassuring message: Wherever you see the NCUA sign, your deposits are safe in a federally insured credit union.
To effectively communicate this message, we needed a credible messenger with nationwide appeal. That’s why we chose Suze Orman–the renowned personal finance expert who is trusted by tens of millions of consumers looking for honest financial advice.
Why did Orman agree to be the face of our campaign? She shares our desire to provide consumers with information they need to make sound financial decisions.
To deliver our message directly to consumers, we placed free public service announcements on TV, websites and billboards, with companion ads on radio and in print. Every day, across America, Orman reassured consumers that their money is safe in federally insured credit unions.
And the facts show that the campaign provided great value to the credit union industry. In fact, the NCUA’s link with Orman continues to provide far-reaching benefits to credit unions.
The facts are:
• The actual value of donated advertising for credit unions topped $9.6 million, compared with the cost of $1.6 million for campaign production. That’s a return of $6 for every $1–a powerful bang for the buck.
• In human terms, the campaign touched more than 190 million consumers–less than one penny for every positive impression.
• During the nine months when the campaign received the greatest visibility, credit union membership increased by nearly 1 million, from 90.5 million to 91.4 million. This extensive membership gain reversed the previous trend; membership had decreased by 300,000 during the prior quarter.
It’s clear that Orman’s visibility and credibility will continue to pay dividends for credit unions.
While the expenses associated with this initiative ended in 2011, the benefits will live on in 2012 and beyond. The NCUA’s contract with Orman runs through August 2012. So during this time, consumers will continue to see Orman’s reassuring messages at www.NCUA.gov and on the NCUA’s new consumer website, www.MyCreditUnion.gov.
On a much larger stage, credit unions have gained a valuable national presence. Since her involvement with NCUA, Orman has become a passionate advocate for credit unions. Through “The Suze Orman Show” on CNBC, as well as on her blog and tweets, she consistently advises her tens of millions of viewers, readers and followers about the great deals credit unions offer consumers.
In fact, she often encourages consumers to cut up their bank credit cards and sign up for a low interest rate credit union card instead. In just the past week alone, she used her extraordinary bully pulpit to urge car shoppers to visit a credit union for their loans, and she advised consumers to visit MyCreditUnion.gov.
The cost of financial guru Orman happily stating, “I love credit unions” is zero. The value is priceless.
During these times when consumers view Wall Street firms and other financial institutions with skepticism, credit unions’ greatest asset is public trust. Thanks in large part to Orman, more consumers are now putting their trust in credit unions.
As a regulator, I appreciate Orman assuring those consumers that their federally insured deposits are safe and sound.