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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Don’t be so quick to judge other credit unions for making use of the controversial B-word -Bank. Since CUNA Chairman Dick Ensweiler’s speech at a credit union conference urging credit unions to make an attempt to rein in their use of “bank” in their marketing efforts, it’s had credit union people talking. A Credit Union Times online voting poll revealed that some 57% of credit union respondents aren’t exactly ready to eliminate terms like “bank” or “banking” from their marketing vocabulary. For many credit union marketers the words are simply generic terms to describe what members do at their credit unions and as such they have their place. “I used to refer to bank as a four-letter word and would scold staffers if they used it, but it got to a point that it is hard to deny that our members don’t do their `banking’ with us,” said First Entertainment Credit Union Marketing Vice President Roy MacKinnon. “Banking is to what members do as Xerox is to making copies whether you are using a Sharp or Panasonic copier machine. It is the way people think, and it got to a point where I felt we had to call it as you see it.” The Hollywood, California-based credit union’s tagline is “An Alternate Way to Bank”. The campaigns use humor to stand out and appeal to First Entertainment CU’s audience, which is people in the entertainment industry. MacKinnon says making a shift from placing ads in three niche publications to 11 along with direct mailings to SEG contacts has worked better than outdoor ads and radio spots especially in the pricey Los Angeles market. In addition, the credit union participates in industry sponsorship of events and hosts awards programs to keep its name in front of members and potential members. “We’re not saying we are a bank. We’re saying we’re an alternate way to do this thing that is banking,” said MacKinnon. “I know there are pros and cons to this, but I think it’d be much better to argue about credit unions selling their Visa portfolios for short term gains than this.” Philadelphia Federal Credit Union Vice President of Marketing Karen Eavis says her credit union uses the word as a way to demonstrate the credit union difference. “When you break things down to the simplest elements, credit unions and banks are both financial institutions offering similar products and services. Our outdoor messages merely highlight the differences, as people should understand and become more aware of them,” said Eavis. “I definitely think it helps potential as well as existing members understand the difference between credit unions and banks when it is explained to them in a multitude of ways, for example rates, services, fees, etc.” The $500 million credit union has built an outdoor BetterThanMyBank.com advertising campaign in what Eavis says is a bold “Philly” style. The campaign was the credit union’s first-ever effort to reach out and aggressively educate potential new members on the benefits of credit unions in comparison to commercial banks. The audience is directed to the credit union’s specially designed destination, BetterThanMyBank.com, where they learn the “14 ways PFCU is better than your bank”. Currently in its third phase, such messages as “Why Do Banks Give Away Toasters While They Take All Your Bread?”, which can be viewed on billboards, buses and bus shelters throughout the city now includes information about membership eligibility. Eavis says it is a vehicle to educate the public about the credit union in a direct, honest no-nonsense way that locals respond to. “Our campaigns have made strong comparisons and in some ways may seem quite aggressive, but they are executed in a way to catch the attention of our target audience,” said Eavis. “In our market, it allows PFCU to educate consumers that they can make choices other than large commercial banks and get more for their money.” Although Largo, Florida-based Achieva Credit Union doesn’t really use the word in its advertising, Vice President of Marketing Sally Rodgers is not opposed to it-particularly using banking as a descriptor. “We do try to keep it to a minimum because the bank is also our competition and the credit union industry as whole sort of has a predisposition to not use the word,” said Rodgers. “When members come in they have no problem calling what they do banking, so it reminds me of a similar word game we play in the credit union industry – share drafts vs. checking. It may be more confusing for members when we use different terms rather than simply using the same accepted generic terms.” While the term banking may be found in newsletters or in statement stuffers, outdoor advertising is used for branding, particularly with last year’s name change and plays up Achieva CU’s tagline “Simplify Life, Achieve More”. Rodgers says the credit union has made the most of its Web site as a true resource for members where they can find information on everything from fraud prevention to how-to tips on buying a car or shopping for a mortgage loan. In addition, monthly free seminars on topics ranging from trust services and identity theft to living wills have been a hit with members and non-members alike. “One of our duties is to educate members so they can be savvy financial consumers, so when we do those things we take the time to point it out to members,” said Rodgers. “We give consumers an opportunity to experience the credit union difference.” [email protected]

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