How credit unions spend their marketing dollars is not entirely based on targeting specific demographics, analyzing reams of data or interviewing focus groups.
For Charlotte Metro Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union and Redwood Credit Union, their budgets support marketing objectives that never sleep, require sophistication and crash through the clutter.
At the $290 million Charlotte Metro Credit Union in Charlotte, N.C., marketing is like New York’s Times Square – it never sleeps.
“We know McDonald’s sells hamburgers because they tell us all the time,” said CMCU’s Marketing Specialist Randall Beckwith. “So what I saw lacking in marketing communications when I came here two years ago was they would do marketing promotions for short periods of time and then go dark for months.”
In Beckwith’s view, periodic marketing doesn’t do the best job because consumers are very busy. Their eyes and ears may not catch your ad in the few weeks it’s promoted, especially in Charlotte where CMCU is overshadowed by the nation’s biggest banks, according to Beckwith who pointed out that the city is the nation’s second largest center for financial institutions.
During last year’s Super Bowl, CMCU kicked off its year-long multimedia campaign with humorous ads. After that, the credit union launched new ads that promoted its 50th anniversary over television, radio, print publications, billboards and the Web. It also promoted certain products and services during certain times of the year.
“Charlotteans love to get out in the summer, so we play more radio ads and play down TV ads until September,” said Beckwith. “It takes seven to nine [media] impressions to get someone to a buying decision. We want to reach consumers often enough so they don’t forget about CMCU.”
That marketing strategy apparently worked. While CMCU benefited greatly from Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, 2011, that event was not within the credit union’s control, Beckwith said. A 2011 to 2012 comparison excludes Bank Transfer Day and measured only the first three quarters in both years. Given that criteria, CMCU realized a net increase of 48.6% in product openings from checking, savings, credit cards and loans in the first three quarters of 2012 compared with the first three quarters of 2011, he said.
By the end of the year, CMCU’s membership grew by 9,000, according to Beckwith. The credit union also increased its loan portfolio, expanded market share by 10%, improved net worth by 14%, and raised asset growth more than 11%.
Even though the $2.2 billion Affinity Federal Credit Union in Basking Ridge, N.J., is the largest credit union in the Garden State, it also stands overshadowed by the ubiquitous presence of the world’s biggest banks. Because these financial institutions are formidable competitors with sophisticated products and services, Affinity said it pays special attention to delivering its members with sophisticated products and services.
“If you are going to have that sophistication in your products and services, your marketing also needs to reflect that sophistication,” said Jean-Albert Maisonneuve, Affinity vice president of marketing and eCommerce.
Affinity increased its marketing budget to appear on local cable TV to give the credit union a much broader exposure to its highly diversified markets, Maisonneuve said.
“Our challenge is how do we make very professional looking TV ads without having the budget of a big commercial bank,” Maisonneuve said. “So we went to Oklahoma City and found a spot that looked like New Jersey. We worked with our agency, got some local actors, worked with a cinematographer from Los Angeles and produced some pretty amazing, very well done spots.”
Affinity doesn’t use its marketing dollars to target demographic groups. Maisonneuve believes the credit union appeals to anyone between the ages of 18 to 80. Instead, Affinity reaches members by targeting its geographic markets or zip codes through certain cable television channels, Pandora radio spots, Facebook ads and other online advertising.
“We are not for everybody but we are building the case for who we are; a kinder, gentler organization that will listen to you and provide you with the wealth of products and services that the big commercial banks provide,” said Maisonneuve.
Affinity also plans to underwrite sponsorships that will invite members and others to participate in local sports events.
“It’s about getting our community involved in a sports franchise and for us, to be the linchpin behind it,” Maisonneuve explained. “It makes it more interesting and fun for everybody involved and it helps brings to life our tagline, ‘belong to something better.’”
For Robin McKenzie, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the $2 billion Redwood Credit Union in Santa Rosa, Calif., deciding where to spend marketing dollars is based on the target audiences and what mediums they use to get their information. The challenge, however, is breaking through all of the other marketing clutter to reach targeted audiences, she noted.
That’s why Redwood invests a lot of time and effort into researching and analyzing the market, its audiences and where they are getting information.
For example, market research of its consumer loan audience led Redwood to invest in a two month consumer loan sale with special rates that were heavily promoted in newspaper ads in all of the credit union’s markets. However, the campaign also used some website and email marketing.
“We were very interested to see if newspaper ads would pull for us as they have in the past, and sure enough, we had outstanding results that were significant to our growth last year,” said McKenzie.
In addition to newspaper advertising, she also budgets for direct mail campaigns. Because many businesses have abandoned these mediums, it helps Redwood’s ads stand out even more.
Even though traditional media still works, the new digital media of Web marketing, including pay-per-click, search engine optimization, online ads, and social media marketing methods represent opportunities that are more challenging as they are constantly evolving, McKenzie said. “If you did what always worked before and never tried anything new, you won’t be successful,” McKenzie said.”