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Got Milk? Right on! I’m referring of course to Paul Gentile’s column entitled, “Timing Couldn’t Be Better for a Strong Branding Campaign,” in the Jan. 4 issue. A national brand campaign focusing on the credit union difference is critical. There is a strong demand by consumers for the credit union alternative, especially with consumers of modest means. But there is also this overwhelming confusion among people – even members – about what a credit union is. I can’t speak for other parts of the country, but seldom in the Chicago metropolitan area is there coverage from the major media – advertising, PR or news of credit unions. Why? Because credit unions haven’t developed a compelling human interest story to get attention. We are not going to win the battle of branch expansion with banks, nor the battle of mega-mergers. But we can win the battle of hearts and minds if we focus on how their credit union has made a difference in members’ lives. What we need to do is stop advertising to each other and focus on the marketplace. I do think Gentile was completely off base with his statement that “most small credit unions are happy being niche players.” As a $19 million credit union, we are not happy at all with being a niche player. The issue is how best to balance member needs with escalating cost of compliance and operation. It’s hard to be content with a perfect storm brewing. Frank Hoban President Bell General Office Credit Union Chicago

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