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Sarah Snell Cooke’s recent column on “Celebrating 100 Years of Anonymity” [Nov. 4] challenged credit unions to get behind a national branding campaign. It fails to recognize, however, that the economic crisis, while very unfortunate, has been a huge boost to the credit union brand. As I noted in my remarks at NAFCU’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, trust has clearly supplanted convenience, and the national news media has notably recognized the value of credit unions, providing our industry unprecedented “earned media.” And, we have been leveraging this earned media for purposes of brand-building to great effect. Our NAFCU Services subsidiary has had two initiatives underway for more than a year now that have borne fruit. To answer the challenge of how to blend a national branding message with a local focus tied directly to a specific credit union, we’ve created a series of video ads, one touting the generic benefits of credit unions and the other focused on how credit unions are a great place for housing finance. In the last year, 94 credit unions across the country (in more than 28 states) have deployed 189 commercials for their specific credit union. We have another set of ads that will be released by the end of the year and plan to continue developing them going forward to provide a library of exceptionally cost-effective commercials for credit unions. You would be hard-pressed to find the funds for a national advertising campaign that would replicate this market impact. More information is available at www.nafcu.org/video-ads. The second initiative is www.CULookup.com, a Web site aimed at helping consumers find a credit union they can join. Listing is free for NAFCU members, and state charters can be listed for a modest fee to help defray the costs of development and maintenance. The site is on track to have more than 40,000 unique visitors in its first year and has garnered press in The New York Times, a Wall Street Journal blog, the “CBS Early Show”, numerous major media markets across the country. We also have other initiatives planned for next year that will enhance and extend these platforms as our contribution to ending “100 years of anonymity.” So why should credit unions spend a lot of money and resources, especially in today’s economic environment, to buy what NAFCU is already providing?

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Peter Westerman

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