For some credit unions, “advertising” means “marketing.” But in truth, that’s like saying flag football is just like NFL football. Both may be played with pigskins, but it’s hogwash to say they are the same. It’s time credit unions stop equating advertising with marketing and get busy playing “full contact marketing.” Thankfully there are marketers in other categories today who know their advertising is just but one contact point their customers have – and it usually isn’t even a very important one. Marketing is – and always should have been – about how you manage every single point of contact between your company or brand and your prospect and customer. Every opportunity a prospect or customer has to interact or experience your company is a marketing event. Unfortunately, many companies aren’t set up to act that way and let contact after contact go by without any marketing taking place. Tom Klein, co-author of “Enterprise Marketing Management: The New Science of Marketing,” reports many organizations are frustrated with their marketing function, yet typically they have set it up as an island – literally and figuratively. Marketing is not connected to sales, customer service or CRM programs. Marketing makes brand promises the company cannot deliver. The marketing function takes the blame, but the real fault lies in the fact that growth and sales are too important to be simply left up to the marketing department. Klein says the most successful companies make marketing part of every thing the company does. In recent years we’ve had the opportunity to work with a credit union, that like many, is evolving from being company-sponsored to a full service financial institution for members. Together, we have focused our efforts not just on advertising the latest promotion, but on developing new merchandising and in-branch displays, collateral materials, product brochures, and even employee education materials. All designed to make sure a consistent, well-defined experience is created for their members. They strive to treat every contact as a marketing event and an opportunity to communicate and reinforce their brand message. For credit unions, developing and controlling the “experience” is going to grow in importance as competition increases in general, and for aging Baby Boomers in particular. Programs designed to connect with Boomers over 50, a critical segment for credit unions (and not to be confused with the previous “senior” group), will need to integrate across all the full range of contact points. For all market segments, the best marketers have always implemented full contact marketing. Ever stayed at a Ritz-Carton hotel? Had coffee at Starbucks? Visited a Disney property? Enjoyed a product with Oreo in the name? None of these companies set out to “build a brand” but to create a consistent experience for customers at every point of contact. Starbucks is my favorite example because they delivered an experience that has built an incredibly valuable brand, and advertising played no significant part in it. Still, a surprising number of marketers (and their ad agencies) still think it’s the job of advertising to do the heavy lifting of building the brand: Remember McDonald’s last theme, “We love to see you smile”? They spent hundreds of millions to deliver that message, yet if you’ve stepped into a McDonald’s in the last several years, you probably haven’t seen many smiles coming from the employees. The advertising makes a promise the actual brand experience doesn’t deliver. Tim Williams of R&R Partners in Las Vegas, the agency behind the new Vegas tourism effort (“What happens here, stays here”), suggests that agencies help clients by becoming “brand relationship strategists,” and going beyond creating and placing advertising messages. He envisions a day when agencies are involved in helping clients identify and prioritize all audiences, not just consumers. Where agencies assess consumers actual experience of purchasing and using the brand, not just what they think about it. Where agencies help train internal audiences about the brand so they can be better brand disciples. Where agencies look for ways to gain positive exposure for the brand beyond just paid media. He’s got the right vision. I just hope the day he sees happens sooner rather than later. Agencies should be experts in helping credit unions do a better job of full contact marketing. Because that’s what it’s going to take to tackle marketing in the future.

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