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ORLANDO, Fla. – New industry talk about developing a national branding campaign became topic No. 1 at CUNA’s annual Marketing & Business Development Conference here with suggestions that a “master” brand is impossible to create given the changing nature of CUs across the U.S. “It was really a great discussion we had, but any new campaign does boil down to a question of money to pay for the effort as we seek to develop just the right grassroots message,” observed Michael Weber, chairman of the conference council. Weber, who presided at the four day CUNA meeting, said the branding debate “was really a terrific first start on how we can start elevating discussion about national branding and bring about greater top down interest.” That, he explained, was a reference to getting more CEO involvement in a possible refinement or modernization of CU branding. But Rob Kimmett, a conference moderator and senior vice president of marketing at the Massachusetts Credit Union League, cautioned that in local markets many CUs have already created a well-refined brand or image and so “it’s awfully hard to come up with some kind of master brand in which other brands will become subservient.” Weber, the Council chair, said a project to further the debate on branding would be undertaken this spring as the council compiles position papers from the conference dealing with successful advocacy programs undertaken by state leagues and by local CUs. “I think many of us took away many great ideas on branding, but you have to remember that we in marketing are a small cog in this effort and maybe it can’t be voluntary to make it work,” observed Weber, who also is vice president of marketing at Dupaco Community CU of Dubuque, Iowa. He said a highlight of a March 18 ad hoc session featured testimonials from CUs and league officials discussing the overall CU message, successful ad techniques as well as the pros and cons of voluntary vs. mandatory participation in co-op programs Regardless, many in the industry know the expense of national branding will be huge “when you consider national corporate branding can cost $50-$60 million,” said Weber. Brynn Ammon, director of business development and marketing at Seaboard CU of Jacksonville, Fla. and a conference attendee, said in the discussion she was struck by the need to do branding correctly. She said it is about much more than just putting out a logo, changing colors and calling that branding. “We have to make sure that in our community and on our frontlines whatever we are promising we are delivering to members,” said Ammon, pointing to examples of both Starbucks and Nordstrom’s. Apart from the branding discussion, Weber officially took over the reins as the council’s chairman, following the resignation several weeks ago of Renee Dickson, product manager at Wings Financial FCU in Apple Valley, Minn. Dickson has joined Weber Marketing Group in Seattle as its lead financial marketing consultant. Dickson, who will be working on various branding projects at Weber, is also a former vice president of marketing at AltaOne FCU in Ridgecrest, Calif., helping it guide a name change as well as helping NWA Federal Credit Union switch to Wings. Weber, who had been serving as vice chairman, was elected to a new one-year term as chairman during the Orlando meeting. -

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