WASHINGTON – Public awareness is the best way to measure the success of CUNA's Brand Campaign. How effective has it been? That's a tough question to answer on a national basis, but CUNA is hoping its latest set of ads will spur consumers to make the "switch." The latest phase-in of print, radio and outdoor billboard ads encourages consumers to make the switch to a credit union. The current set of ads do not feature television spots as in the previous campaign. "The idea here is to bring the money vs. people argument into sharp focus and couple it with a stronger call to action than we've had in our earlier series of Brand Campaign ads," said Mark Wolff, CUNA senior vice president of communications. "We believe these new spots have a high emotional impact but take the brand campaign to the next level." Designed by the Vancouver, Canada-based Malahat Group International, the same firm that produced earlier national brand creative materials, the ads play off typical banking terms such as balance and assets to visually express the credit union difference. "We did a few things to extend the previous campaign platform of how people felt about credit unions," said Malahat Group Director of Strategic Planning/Client Services Michael Allabarton. "Big companies like Enron really drove a stake in the branding process, but fortunately credit unions play a more positive role in society so that gives us permission now to request that they switch. Today you need a good reason to ask consumers to do that." According to Allabarton, the ads visually reinforce the same underlying message of credit unions as financial institutions that consumers feel they can trust and where they go to be treated with respect. The imagery and radio vignettes reflect the common growing concern of finding a balance in life by suggesting a trust- and caring-based alternate meaning to the typical money-oriented themes. For example, the "wallet" print advertisement matches the headline, Because we care what's in your wallet: switch to a credit union and features a picture of an open wallet displaying a photo of the wallet owner's daughter in cap and gown at graduation. "This year we kept the 2003 campaign in the same family as the comfort zone ads by using the same white background, but instead of using comfort we personalized words like balance and assets," said Allabarton. "We did 22 focus groups in six regions across the country and there were no regional variances in the response that credit unions already have the trust and respect of consumers-from a marketing standpoint that is pure gold. We don't have to convince consumers that credit unions are trustworthy." The new ads consist of the three print ads, plus outdoor billboard versions, and three 30-second radio spots. As with the earlier "comfort zone" brand ads, the new "switch" ads leave room so they can be tagged with the names and contact information of sponsoring credit unions or state leagues. For skeptics who question the success of the national brand campaign, Wolff says that since 2000, more than half of the 50 leagues have used the comfort zone or public education spots in some way. CUNA hasn't looked at public awareness of the ads however. The branding campaign strategy continues to revolve around a grassroots effort. CUNA looks to the leagues and credit unions to reach regional and local markets, and credit union feedback greatly influenced the "switch" campaign. "As we thought of the next step for the national brand campaign, credit union marketers gave us feedback that they would like the ads to have more of a variety and mix of ethnic groups and minorities and a more aggressive call to action," said Wolff. According to Wolff and Allabarton the campaign doesn't have a typical campaign shelf life because credit unions can pick and choose whichever campaign best suits their needs. "Usage is really what drives the three campaigns' shelf-life. For example the public education campaign can run from now until forever because it explains just what distinguishes credit unions from other institutions," said Allabarton. All three advertising campaigns are still available to leagues and credit unions. The ads are priced at $600 for print and outdoor billboard, $600 for radio, or $900 for a combined package of print/billboard and radio. The new "switch" ads have been sent to state credit union leagues for use in organizing cooperative advertising campaigns. Campaign's Effect on Credit Union Awareness Although there is no national survey on how CUNA's Branding Campaign is raising credit union awareness, there is data from Nevada and California that CUNA says proves the campaign has had an impact on awareness. The following are results from California "before and after" tracking in northern California and Nevada after the Comfort Zone ads. The Northern California campaign was last year and the Nevada campaign was earlier this year. *Nevada: Awareness among nonmembers up 41% to 57% *11% more know CUs are not for profit, 14% more that CUs are involved in their community *Northern California: Awareness up 7% among the general population and even higher, 13%, among bank users. [email protected]

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