Does Your Brand Work?
Do you scratch your head wondering how a brand like BlackBerry can go from an industry leader to the bottom of the heap in only a few years? How about Radio Shack, JC Penney or Red Lobster, who are all on life support?
All of these businesses waited too long before changing their business models and their brands fell out of favor with the customers who are their future business.
Let’s look at your credit union. What is the average age of your membership? High 40s, low 50s? What is the average age of your board of directors? Probably a bit older than that. Are you still focused on building brick and mortar branches? Are you fighting full investment in technology? Does your board struggle to understand “crazy” new ideas to try to reach younger members? Is strategic planning still a one-time-a-year event?
These are just some of the challenges credit unions are facing to creating a business model shift. Where do you start?
The First Step. The biggest downfall of the aforementioned struggling brands was their inability to let go of the past and fully focus on the future in this modern technology-driven economy. Recently, Radio Shack has made a marketing effort to rebrand itself to reach techno-savvy buyers of the younger generation. This repositioning started with taking the most important first step: Recognizing it was out of touch with its future business success.
Credit unions have a rich history of which to be proud. I find board members who were of borrowing age during those great times and who are quick to talk about what had been successful in the large growth years of a previous economy. But these are different times, and the future is relying on a different member with vastly different expectations.
The first step for credit unions who desire a youth movement in their membership growth is to take the first step – recognize their business plan is in need of a dramatic adjustment.
Catering to Millennials means restructuring the branch experience, going high-tech, eliminating as much wait time as possible, using remote capture of signatures, and deciding how to create loans that fit with your financial risk controls while also working with a partially employed member with a lower credit score.
Fun (more than free hot dogs in the parking lot on Member Appreciation Day) and gamification are new ways to reach this age group looking for a positive financial experience. This is a game-changing shift that requires the extra effort to accomplish all of these changes while still maintaining all the effort to ensure financial soundness.
Shifting Your Brand. Once you’ve recognized the need for a new business model and created a list of adjustments necessary to facilitate growing membership in the Millennial Generation, you have to get the word out this is a new destination that is Millennial-friendly.
Because distrust is the default approach most Millennials have toward businesses, simply saying you are different isn’t going to work. You have to demonstrate through different actions that you are really a different financial institution than the one their parents used. A name change, new logo or a few tweets are not going to be enough.
JC Penney made a name modification, created a new logo and revamped the inside of its stores. This had so little impact in attracting the youth it was going for, it shifted back to previous logos and store structure.
What went wrong? Its executives admitted they needed a new brand, adopted a new approach, and spent millions to make a difference in the marketplace. They failed to make the connection that they truly were a different shopping experience. It still felt like a JC Penney when a customer walked into the store. The staff still approached the customers the same way they always had. In other words, the feel didn’t change. The brand shift was not convincing.
To shift your brand as a credit union means shifting how you approach the very core of member interaction and financial transactions. It means presenting an image to Millennials that not only are you there to assist them and help them get what they desire, but you are a trusted financial partner they can count on and are in tune with their technology expectations.
Marketing departments still using print ads, radio spots and interruption marketing are not going to effectively communicate a brand shift. To truly market your new brand to the younger members you should think about creating viral marketing, community events, and charitable alignments that speak to the interests of the generation of members you are trying to attract.
To know if your current brand is effective, perform a simple survey. Attend a community event and ask as many Millennials who will answer what they think of XYZ Credit Union. My guess is your brand is in need of some adjusting.