Friday, December 21, 2007

Brand Me, Credit Union!

Yesterday, Morriss Partee of and I were Twittering back and forth on the subject of a national credit union ad campaign. I was arguing that if the ads were done in a way similar to that it might be worth it to raise awareness for credit unions. Morriss was arguing that it would only be a giant waste of money. After sleeping on it, I've come to realize the danger of launching such an ad campaign.

This realization springs from a single thought that hadn't really crossed my mind, "where does the money come from for this ad?"

Here's how I see it. CUNA pays for the ad campaign, local credit unions pay CUNA, and members pay local credit unions in the form of rates and fees. We have always prided ourselves in offering free services and better rates than banks. If CUNA starts pushing for a national campaign of some form, more and more of the money coming from members is going to be funneled into the effort. More money spent on a national campaign means less being redistributed to members' accounts as dividends.

Once credit unions are being recognized as a national entity it will be hard not to continue with that image...which means more ads. More ads mean more money. If dividends are already stretched to the breaking point, and the ads don't bring the influx of members they were intended to, where will it come from? Thats right, Higher rates and more fee's. This in itself would defeat the whole purpose of the ad campaign. We would lose our very image to a national cu branding effort.

A national ad campaign has the potential to force credit unions into a position where we blur the line between bank and credit union even more than it already is. If we lose our image, we lose the battle, and I don't want to see that.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

For me, a big problem in the debate is how the issue is being framed as a "branding" campaign, when most people are really talking about an awareness advertising campaign. Branding and advertising are very different things.

An awareness campaign has potential... especially if it celebrates the diversity of the credit union movement.

Glad to have your voice in the ongoing CU conversation. You're making everyone think- always a good thing.

Andy said...

I guess for me its a bit difficult to differentiate the two. I know that an awareness campaign is totally different from actually branding credit unions as one big "thing". Once everyone is tied together, even in celebrating diversity, its hard to stay separate. If that makes any sense.

Mike Templeton said...

I love the idea of a national CU awareness campaign, but looking at Andy's post, I can see where problems arise when it comes to the funding.

As for a national branding of CUs, don't we already have that with the "America's Credit Unions" brand that CUNA developed? There is a page here that gives marketing materials, TV spots and radio ads. SO it looks like everything is already there, its just up to somebody to start using it and promote it.

I think the problem then lies in whether or not CUs want to promote "America's Credit Unions" over their own brand.

Andy said...


Excellent points, I think an issue is that many credit unions are so caught up in competing not only with banks for brand recognition, but also with other credit unions. I also think there is a more intuitive answer to raising awareness than dampening the individual credit union's brand with a nationwide "stamp". We need to find a balance of individual "style" and a unity between credit unions in purpose.

Mike Templeton said...

Maybe a good solution would be to form some sort of credit union awareness commission that could be made up of CU members from across the country that would come up with ways to promote CUs and raise awareness. Basically they would serve as a group who's goal was to tell more people about CUs and start turning more "banking consumers" into CU members.

Perhaps if it was organized as a collaborative effort between CU employees and staff it could better serve its purpose? I think the ultimate outcome out of all of this talk is that we (CUs and CUSOs) want more people to know about CUs and how they can benefit them.

Andy said...

I think a commission would be a great idea to get a sense of what credit unions as a whole are putting forward as a message. It would be nice to see the message of the credit union movement become the "brand" that unites us all.