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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Dick Ensweiler is furious that credit unions are using the “B” word to promote their financial institutions. “I think some of you are taking the easy way out,” he told more than 400 credit union marketing professionals attending the 12th annual CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council Conference here. “I don’t think you are helping to defend the difference of the uniqueness of credit unions today.” Ensweiler, the current board chairman of CUNA and president of the Texas Credit Union League, directed his ire at credit unions that incorporate the word “bank” or “banking” in their advertising and promotion slogans, such as “bank better here” or “bank smarter.” Such references are showing up in printed materials, on billboards and in other credit union promotions, he said. “I’m saying don’t use that,” Ensweiler warned. “The message is differentiate us. Get rid of that four-letter word. There is no reason to compare yourself to a bank. Do for your members what they want. That’s the message.” Ensweiler said credit unions that were publicly comparing themselves to banks were only hurting the credit union cause. “That is absolutely the wrong message,” he insisted. “Every day your league and CUNA are in the halls of legislatures and Congress saying we aren’t banks. [We're telling lawmakers] we are different. Don’t even think of us in the same light as banks. We aren’t here for the same purpose. We don’t have the same structure. The only thing we have in common are some products. We are not banks. Don’t treat us like banks. “And then I see those billboards: `Bank Smarter Here,’” he lamented. He said photos of such advertising are finding their way to the desks of elected officials to bolster the contention of the banking industry that credit unions were no different than banks and should be taxed the same as those financial institutions. “Credit unions truly are at risk today,” he said. “What if we become taxed credit unions? How long do you think there would be a credit union movement? I think we would soon see the demise of the credit union movement.” Ensweiler called the banking industry’s attack on credit unions an “obsession.” “It’s unfortunate that even though we have this phenomenal record of service, of being innovators in the financial services industry, there are people that don’t want us to do that,” he said. “And that’s just incomprehensible and we’ve got to put an end to it. “We are being challenged by people who would like to see us go away,” he added. “Banks would rather hire expensive lawyers and expensive lobbyists to stop us from being all that we can be rather than to let us serve our members. “Banks don’t worry about what they can do . . . they just make sure that everybody else can’t do what they want to do,” he said. To counter that attack, Ensweiler urged the credit union marketers to not just promote products and services to their members, but to promote the credit union difference to their community and to elected officials. “I want you to put on an advocacy hat and take charge of marketing that credit union difference to opinion leaders in your communities back home,” he said. “Make sure you understand the idea that you not only promote products and services, but you’ve got to cross promote the [credit union] uniqueness and the difference and the ownership. We’ve got to make sure that as you serve people that the rest of the community knows how good you are in the types of things you’re doing that make a difference every day. “Think about what your impact can be if you really take that up and make the community aware of the many good things you do,” he said. One of the ways to promote differentiation was to stop using the `B” word, he said. He even challenged marketers to come up with a new phrase to replace “home banking.” He admitted he was stumped as to what it could be. “Let’s get rid of that last bastion of any kind of comparison to banks,” he urged. “Let’s come up with the right phrase and get us away from any type of comparison. It hurts us every time we have to do it.” Ensweiler said he was aware of the arguments from credit unions that their members used the term “banking” as a more generic word for financial services and that use of the word really didn’t matter that much. But he said credit unions needed to do a better job in explaining the differences, including the fact that members were the owners of the credit union. “It’s their credit union,” he said. “We’ve got to get that point home in everything you do.” “I wish every credit union in America would label all their parking spaces in their parking lot, And that parking lot space would say, `Reserved for Owners.’ . . . But I’ll tell you what happens when you do it. The members are going to park on the street and come in pissed off. `Why in the world can’t I park in the place anymore.’ And that’s when your member service representative says, `We’re talking about you. It’s reserved for you. You own this place.’ “Those are the kinds of things we need to do to get that message across,” he said. -

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