Credit Unions Told to Exploit Brand Advantage: Onsite Coverage
NEW ORLEANS — Credit unions' need to better brand themselves makes for familiar conference complaint, but heads turned when an energetic, successful entrepreneur told his audience their failure to press their brand advantage made him want to vomit.
“For the last five years the banks, your chief competition, have had their collective brand dragged through the muck of financial scandal and the fact that you lot have failed to capitalize on your brand advantage makes me want to vomit,” Internet wine seller Gary Vaynerchuk during a presentation to credit union executives attending CO-OP Financial Services' THINK 14 conference on Tuesday.
“Doing my research before this talk I kept coming across examples of credit unions doing this or that thing, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, and thinking they are marketing,” Vaynerchuk said, “but they don't realize that their consumers have largely already moved on.”
He challenged his audience: “Tell the truth, don't lie. Show of hands, how many people watch television programs – not sports and not news, produced TV programs – on your own schedules, when you wanted to and for as long as you wanted?”
Almost every hand in the room went up. “Exactly,” he crowed. “And this is not a crowd of young twenty- or thirty-somethings, is it?”
Vaynerchuk, an early childhood immigrant to the U.S. from Belarus, started his entrepreneurial career at age 9 with a string of lemonade stands before moving on to selling baseball cards and building a strong Internet business selling wine.
The question about television use illustrated a phenomenon he called “youthification” which he described as a growing tendency of people to mimic younger generations in their use of technology and, in general, to behave as younger people do.
He made the same point by walking the meeting through how many attendees once said they would never text and now do and then asking how many swore they would never use a cell phone and now do.
“I hear people say 'oh the boomers or this generation or that generation, they are not going to want to do this or that technology,'” he said. “I don't believe that's true for a second.”
Youthification, he said, was one of the engines driving what he called “the Internet revolution,” an era which he said was only 20 years old and is moving at an incredible speed, threatening to sweep away many industries, including credit unions.
“I know there is some Internet nerd in the back who is going to say, 'Well, in fact the Internet started … ,’” he said, “but for all intents and purposes, as something almost everybody uses, we are only 20 years into it and no one knows where or when it might stop and I am really, really, concerned that you people with your very noble industry and effort just don't get it.”
The chief thing that credit unions failed to understand, Vaynerchuk said, is the speed of change. He used Uber, an Internet-based sedan and rideshare service as an example. Uber is only 36 months old, he pointed out, now it has recently been capitalized at roughly $4 billion and he added that the rental sedan industry had its best year in history the year before Uber arrived on the scene.
“The time for thinking outside the box has passed,” Vaynerchuk told CU Times after his talk. “Now we need to blow up the box and start building something new out of the pieces.”