On Branding: The Dow Swoons: Why You Can’t Afford To Follow Suit

As I write this column the Dow just plunged 400 points because the price of oil went up–again–to a record high. The oil news, the Dow, mortgage foreclosures, skyrocketing food prices, and unemployment fears. The news today is filled with reasons to fear for our economy and to predict job losses and more loan defaults.

The credit union executives I work with across the country are nervous and frustrated. Nervous that soon even this time of gloom-filled headlines will feel like the good old days. And frustrated that they are battling for market share and they feel the hot breath of many types of competitors on their backs in ways they haven’t felt it for decades.

I don’t want to add to the gloom and doom. I want credit union people everywhere to understand that the faltering economy is not your personal failure. Sure, your numbers aren’t trending up the way they were a couple of years ago. But your peers in the industry are facing the same market share conflicts just like you are.

You are not alone.

That doesn’t fix your balance sheet or shore up your board report. But it’s important to depersonalize the numbers so you can make clear-headed, solid decisions devoid of desperation or defensiveness. So what does this have to do with branding? Potentially–everything.

In a rush to make a quick fix for declining mortgage business and vehicle loans it’s easy to abandon your brand in favor of fast, cheap marketing pieces and ads from companies that provide “put your credit union logo here” creative. Or worse, to ask that new teller who took a graphics art course in college to design your new promotion or to hire a marketing person without a proven and successful track record in retail marketing.

As the market becomes more competitive your brand becomes even more important. Every dime you spend needs to be part of a cohesive, strategic marketing effort with specific goals and objectives. And every message you put out needs to present your CU as a solution to higher prices and a cloudy future.

The credit union industry has an exciting and compelling story for worried consumers. You can help members reduce their credit card and loan rates. You can save people who don’t maintain high account deposits significant dollars in fees they probably don’t even know they’re paying to the bank.

Spend your marketing dollars to create a trusted brand. Make your brand stand for solutions at a time when people don’t know where to turn and they’re looking for help.

Paul Lucas is a Virginia-based marketing consultant. He be reached at paul<at>pauljlucas.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com