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AIG bonuses, banker bailouts, Ponzi schemes, high unemployment and a recession spelled marketing O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y for credit unions.Despite all the bad news, 2009 marked the best chance for credit unions to shine. Rather than slashing their marketing budgets, credit unions made the most with what they had to get consumers to take another look at the alternative to big banks. From creative word-of-mouth campaigns and hosting “banker interventions” to joining forces with community banks to play up the local bank angle, marketers pulled out the stops to spread the message that there’s never been a better time to switch to a credit union.With an eye on the bottom line, credit union marketers also ramped up innovative social media efforts, such as creating a practical Twitter application (TweetMyMoney), tapping a local mom to be a spokesperson and blogger, and sponsoring TweetUps where the online member community can meet face to face. The online conversations didn’t stop there. Some industrious marketing professionals would also keep the conversations going by launching new sites like TweetTrack.com and CU Water Cooler or even offering their own weeklyInternet radio show-all aimed at sharing ideasand resources.Community partnerships continued to play a role this year as some credit unions hit the ice by wrapping a Zamboni, creating microsites to help the unemployed or providing a forum to give local charities some much needed community exposure. Credit unions also made the most of renewed consumer concerns about debt and rolled out savings challenges, debt in focus programs and more in an effort to step up financial literacy efforts across generations. The youth educational push continued to grow whether it was more credit union leagues adopting the FoolProof financial literacy program, credit unions banding together to spread the brass STUDENT program to every high school in Oregon or hosting financial literacy concerts. As for the Young & Free revolution, it expanded into South Carolina and Alabama and now includes a biweekly video show.Looking ahead, experts said if credit unions can continue to innovate and demonstrate the credit union difference by highlighting their stance on being the socially responsible financial institution of choice created with the sole goal of helping members, the opportunities to build awareness and grow will continue well into 2010.–[email protected]

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