CARROLLTON, Texas – How many advertising messages do your members see every day? The most conservative studies indicate it's about 240. Others insist it's 3,000 or higher. A lot depends on whether you count just mass media advertising in newspapers and on television and radio, or if you fold in billboards, buses, T-shirts and even signs on urinals and stamped in the sand on beaches. Whatever the exact number, it's big and growing. How can a credit union compete? Not by adding to the clutter, says Drue Townsend, senior vice president of FASTSIGNS International. The company operates a chain of sign and graphics centers that serve financial institutions. You might figure Townsend would argue the more signs the better. But that's not necessarily true. "Sometimes there are too many messages and mixed messages," she states. "Maybe they're promoting home loans, car loans and Christmas savings all at once. You get mixed messages, not only in the promotion itself but also in the creative. When the messages conflict you tend to turn them off and don't see anything. "The credit union I go to may have two vertical banners at the drive-through. Inside they usually have counter cards at the teller stations or maybe a banner stand with a insert that promotes the same thing. You get the same message in different places. I think that's a positive." The message changes, probably at least quarterly, depending on the current promotion. Sounds expensive? Townsend suggests one way to trim the budget is to reuse the signage apparatus so you're only changing the sign itself instead of the hardware. For example, you might have a banner stand in the lobby. It may be two and a half feet wide and perhaps six or seven feet tall. Every time you use an interior banner you make it the same size. Similarly counter cards for a new promotion are the same size as the old ones so they fit into the same Plexiglas holder. You may also be able to cut costs by reducing size. Instead of a 2 by 10 banner, you use a 2 by 8. That's probably too small to be seen outside by someone driving by, but may be fine inside the branch. That raises the question of whether you should put most of your budget inside or outside. It depends, Townsend suggests, on whether you're trying to attract new members or cross-sell existing members. You also have to consider regulations in the community where the branch is located. "There are definitely some communities that have banner and sign ordinances. You may be required to get a permit, or may only be allowed to display a sign for two weeks. There are also communities that even restrict notices in your windows. It's very important you check with local authorities or your sign company," Townsend says. Ask most credit union CEOs or marketing directors and they'll indicate one of the challenges they face is growing competition, some of it coming from major financial institutions with advertising budgets beyond the resources of the typical credit union. Your credit union may not be able to afford television spots on highly-rated programs during sweeps time. But Townsend suggests signs are one area where you can level the playing field. "A sign costs as much for Bank of America as the local credit union," she says. "Make sure the message fits the image of the credit union. If you're targeting middle class members you want to have pictures of people that are like that. You want to use type styles that aren't too fancy. If you're targeting wealthy people you probably want a very regal type face. "If it's a banner outside, you want to make sure people can read it. When it has thirty words on it people can't read it. You want to keep it pretty simple. You want to make sure it matches the viewing distance. Simplicity is important." -


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