OLYMPIA, Wash. — Mindful of the Washington Mutual Savings Bank collapse and takeover by JPMorgan Chase, Washington State credit unions next month will launch a media broadside expecting to make real gains in membership and new loan business.The awareness blitz under the “we’re here to help you” brand will cost $1 million and be funded under a voluntary program.Utilizing print, TV and radio in three major markets of the state, leaders of the “Credit Unions of Washington” consortium, made up of both big and small CUs, plan to hit on a theme of industry attention and concern for the plight of worried consumers, said campaign organizers, including the Washington Credit Union League.“Washington Mutual was a very tough competitor for us, ranking at the very top of consumer service, but we know Chase lacks that service philosophy, and so we intend to dramatically demonstrate the credit union difference,” explained Kevin Foster-Keddie, president/CEO of the $1 billion Washington State Employees CU of Olympia.Foster-Keddie, who says he is “chief cheerleader” and coordinator of the consortium that includes the $8.4 billion BECU, said the new CU branding, created by Seattle agency Big Bang, will stress “how credit unions are here to help.” It may also state that CUs “did not take any of the bailout money,” though regulators might frown on that message, said Foster-Keddie. The idea is a shift from a safety and soundness theme since that “tends to make consumers a little nervous.”The Washington campaign, as compared to previous forays, should enjoy favorable ad rates “from those TV and radio stations which find themselves hurting from a lack of advertisers and revenue” that have dried up because of the economic pall and the end of the election run, said Foster-Keddie.“You would not believe some of the deals now being offered, and so there’s no reason we, as credit unions now in good shape, should not take advantage,” he said.The Olympia CU executive said he was heartened by the huge turnout of CEOs on Oct. 8 for the consortium’s initial meeting to plot strategy.“We knew back in August that was coming,” explained Foster-Keddie, so CUs decided to mobilize with the Oct. 8 session held at the headquarters of BECU in Tukwila.Since that meeting, voluntary contributions have already topped $640,000 toward the $1 million goal, said Foster-Keddie. Just how long the 2009 campaign will run as well as the final media buy will depend upon how much is finally raised.But consortium organizers point to the active participation, some of it by first-timers among the very smallest CUs that have managed $300 and $500 contributions and maintain now is the time to convey a vigorous CU message.“I am not going to tell you how much we are contributing, but you can say it is just shy of 30% of our yearly marketing budget,” said Ruth Bryson, CEO of the $3.6 million Longshore FCU of Hoquiam. “We’ve also allotted funds to pay for ads to be run by the Grays Harbor Chapter following the bigger campaign.”“Credit unions need to work together,” said Bryson.Similarly, Mari Zumbiel, president/CEO of the $45 million Progressions CU of Spokane, which contributed $300, said, “Now is simply a great time to educate people on who we are and that we are an alternative to the banks.”Kristina Walters, vice president-marketing and business development at Washington State Employees here, said the campaign being rolled out in January will stress that CUs are the source for consumers seeking solutions.“The campaign is not about bad mouthing the banks but about credit unions having the money to lend,” said Walters, noting that the public remains attentive to credible financial players in the market.Previous campaigns spearheaded by the league through Big Bank have focused on the differences between banks and CUs, but the 2009 effort will be more focused on the help theme, she said.–[email protected]

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