<p>WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Everyone has heard that membership has its rewards, but more credit unions are spinning that membership into branding gold. California-based Riverside County's Credit Union has even gone so far as to get its members involved in its ad campaign by featuring them in its Member Services Guidebook. For the past year Richardson, Texas-based Texans Credit Union has been playing up "The Power of Membership" in a campaign that Vice President of Marketing Lori Daniel says has an unlimited potential. "This has turned out to be such a pardon the pun powerful tagline for us," said Daniel. "The word `power' can be used for virtually any campaign. For example for our sponsor groups we emphasize the power of partnerships." The tagline came about from various surveys and focus groups conducted by the $1.05 billion credit union. "We kept hearing the same thing that whenever someone mentioned being a member of Texans CU, retailers seemed to roll out the red carpet and the member felt empowered," said Daniel. Spending about $125,000 on production and $260,000 on media placement the ads are everywhere – from billboards and buses, to newspapers and direct mail. Working with advertising agency Kearley Company, the goal was not only to shine the spotlight on the advantages of membership but also increase the usage of its electronic services. The digital graphics combined with the tagline and people certainly appealed to members resulting in a 59% increase in PC banking users; 40% bill pay increase; and a 113% increase in members signing up for e-statements. "What really had us excited is that just one month after rollout the tagline helped enhance our membership survey scores in the following areas: unaided awareness, overall satisfaction, image and use of Texans as a primary financial institution," said Daniel. "This year we are looking forward to coming up with a new play on words." For Torrance, California-based Parishioners Federal Credit Union the focus is more on the family aspect of membership with its recent launch of a "Make YOUR family part of OUR family" media promotion. Since expanding its membership eligibility to approximately 8,000 teachers and school employees of the Department of Catholic Schools, the $35 million credit union is introducing members to its staff family by using their pictures in the ad campaign. Another media blitz in Tampa, Florida has helped the now $1 billion GTE Federal Credit Union finally get the recognition it deserved. "What got us started on this campaign is frustration," said GTEFCU Vice President of Marketing Traci Germain. "We donated over $163,000 to relief efforts and got virtually no local press coverage while other smaller local business owners who donated $1,000 were not only in every local paper but also on television shaking the mayor's hand. What we realized is that the local press was simply unaware of our impact and the type of player we are in the community." So how do you position yourself when you are the second largest credit union in the area? You change your strategy. Since there aren't very many large community banks and no large Florida banks in the Tampa Bay market, GTE FCU President/CEO Bucky Sebastian wanted his credit union to fill a void and step up to the plate to take the responsibility of becoming a major community player. "In the past we haven't done a lot of mass media," said Germain. "We decided that we wanted a campaign that would not only build our name recognition in the community but also differentiate the member from bank customer and take away the perception that you have to be a GTE employee to be a member. We found that within our field of membership ownership is very important to consumers." The credit union hired Clearwater, Fla.-based advertising agency Adfinity and the "You Can" campaign which stresses "you can qualify, you can join and you do own it" was born. "Ironically we picked the agency because none of the employees were credit union members so from all our input and information they were able to develop an ad campaign based on what they would find meaningful about GTE FCU," said Germain. In addition to a four-page newspaper ad that hit just over 750,000 home delivery subscribers, GTEFCU had 20 billboard placements and television spots that aired 242 times on various networks. The three-week media blitz was a dramatic turning point for the credit union. Germain says she has been fielding calls from radio, television, and printed publications; actively working on 51 potential SEGs; member packet requests have jumped from 100 to 500 in a week; and "the best is that when people call us they say, `you guys are everywhere!'" The overall campaign including inserts cost $200,000 and Germain says surprisingly over 80% of the requests were generated by the newspaper print ad. "It is going to take us a while to sort through this data and just figure out what our next step should be," said Germain. [email protected]</p>

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