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Since American credit unions also struggle with getting the credit union message out to consumers, I thought your readers would appreciate our new approach to that same problem here in Australia. The Australian credit union industry is rolling out an innovative new cooperative brand positioning strategy. It is based around the positioning statement: “credit unions – a different kind of banking.” With financial services institutions increasingly offering similar products, we believe the key to success is to differentiate. While more than 20% of adult Australians are credit union members, our percentage of the retail lending market is only 3.8% and declining. The big banks dominate the market. Big banks, with a weak hold on customers, can buy them with discounts. Due to economies of scale they can afford to operate on thinner margins and spend more to attract and retain customers. On the other hand, strongly branded companies, offering a unique customer service proposition, have loyal customers who are less price-sensitive and less likely to move elsewhere in search of a marginally better deal. Key challenges for the Australian credit union industry include lifting awareness and deepening member relationships by building a strong national brand position. In developing the new positioning, we went back to basics, asking: Who is it we are trying to attract to our products and services and what are we trying to sell them? Our target audience and product offering was very similar to that of our competitors, so we asked: Why are we different and what do we want our customers to think of our product? The challenge for each and every credit union is to demonstrate – in their respective markets – just how they are different and to deliver on that promise. In the long term, we aim to `own’ the word `different’, by consistently reinforcing this message. “Credit unions – a different kind of banking ” works on two levels: first it positions credit unions as different to other financial institutions, and second it engages credit unions to determine their difference in their respective markets or communities. Examples of individual differences being emphasized include environmental and social responsibility, friendly service, community commitment and delivery of member value. After close participation in a consultative process to develop the positioning statement, credit unions have a sense of ownership for it and an enthusiasm to make it work. Credit Union Services Corporation Australia Ltd (CUSCAL) has agreed to administer and support the implementation on behalf of all Australian credit unions. Consensus agreement by credit unions has been facilitated due to four aspects of the new strategy: it is voluntary, low cost, flexible and complementary to each credit union’s own brand or position. For the positioning statement to succeed it is important that each credit union determines its own difference. This difference needs to be understood by all staff so that members experience the difference in every interaction with the credit union. Success is also dependent on the need for central coordination of efforts. This is where a central body, CUSCAL, is needed to assist with support, administration and encouragement. We launched the statement in July 2004 and the associated icon in November 2004. About 50% of Australian credit unions have already adopted it and many more have indicated they will take up use in the near future. Credit unions are not incurring costs by replacing their current marketing materials, the new positioning statement and icon are being added when their marketing material comes up for review and renewal. More and more Australians are hearing about how credit unions offer a different kind of banking and learning about core credit union differences such as better service, fairer fees and a community focus. John Gilbert CEO Credit Union Services Corporation Australia Ltd Sydney, Australia

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