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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It may be a question of perception, but there’s diverse opinion lately about the progress of CUNA’s marketing campaign for national branding. On one hand, Peter Crear, CUNA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, told New Mexico credit union executives he’s disappointed with the number of state leagues and CUs participating in the two-year-old marketing effort aimed at raising public awareness of the industry. However, the CUNA staffer spearheading the wide-scale media promotion using TV, radio and print spots, argues the trade group continues to receive positive feedback with 21 state leagues joining in some portion of the logo/slogan campaign. “I do agree with Pete that we would like to get more leagues and credit unions involved, but you have to remember branding is a long term project and is one that does not take hold overnight,” said Mark Wolff, CUNA’s senior vice president of communications and coordinator of the branding project. In a keynote speech to the annual convention of the New Mexico Credit Union League, Crear said a good economy has created some lethargy among CUs about the branding campaign. He expressed disappointment that the campaign “is not being picked up” as quickly as CUNA would like. He said interest has “waned” in recent months and has been moving “too slowly,” noting that only 15 leagues had formally signed on. “I’m not sure where Pete got those figures,” said Wolff. He noted that there are several elements of the campaign covering public service messages, TV spots or new radio ads introduced in May with some leagues-and individual CUs-pursuing the entire project in a vigorous manner. Wolff said some metropolitan markets with heavy TV costs have been a deterrent for the brand campaign by creating expense problems for Leagues and CUs. The brand campaign, created by a Victoria, B.C. consulting firm, Malahat Group, focuses on common slogans and symbols tagged to the theme “America’s Credit Unions: Where people are worth more than money.” The ad logo includes linked hands in a blue and white star to underscore a CU message of member service. Crear, in an interview with Credit Union Times following his Albuquerque speech, said he understood that branding is a long term process but that “the good times” enjoyed by the industry eliminates “a motivating factor” in pursuing change. That would include the branding project which remains vital for CU growth in the future, particularly in light of the new cyberspace environment. “We have lots of work to be done,” said Crear. “It will be more important than ever that credit unions have a strong brand” to cope with e-commerce. The CUNA officer, who is also the trade association’s representative to the World Council of Credit Unions, said other countries like Canada and Australia, for example, look to U.S. CUs for leadership on branding and have been watching the campaign closely for adoption in their countries. “They like what we’re doing and think we are on the right track,” said Crear. He said he had heard those comments at the recent WOCCU annual conference in Killarney, Ireland. Reflecting on the time factor in developing a brand, Crear said he can recall the “Moonshot” goal of CUNA back in the mid-90′s to have 100 million members in 2000. “That was an impossible goal,” he said. However, he added, “it was a good goal, but we missed it by a fair amount.” There are currently approximately 80 million CU members. Regarding branding, a number of state league executives said they are enthusiastic about growth in the promotion. In Oklahoma. 40 out of 93 CUs in the state have contributed to the purchase of TV and public education ads. “Our credit unions say they are getting outstanding feedback from the public and from members who see the ads, and they consider it their credit union,” said Lisa Finley, vice president government and public affairs for the League. There are other success stories in Missouri, Ohio, New York and in Texas where Randy Pruett, vice president of corporate relations, said the Texas Credit Union League has witnessed “great results” in the Dallas and San Antonio markets where league chapters coordinate ad buys. However, in Connecticut, Kevin Stewart, president of the Connecticut Credit Union Association said he knew of only two or three CUs in the state that had tried the CUNA logo. “Branding is a nice idea, but most credit unions in my state are eager to create their own connection between their institution and the member and want to use their own logo,” said Stewart, and thus the national branding concept does not help meet that goal. Stephen Nelson, director of communications for the Utah League of Credit Unions, said the CUNA brand logo is on the League’s Web site ,and “we have seen it in print ads every now and then” but there is no widespread use. “While we like the commercial, we’re in a pretty thick political situation here, and so we don’t really need those `feel good’ comfort zone ads,” said Nelson. The league instead is pursing harder hitting ads “that show the difference between credit unions and other financial institutions.” Like banks, for instance. -

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