I always enjoy reading Frank Diekmann's weekly column, since he often looks at issues affecting credit unions from a different angle than most. This is particularly true of his editorial in the July 13 issue regarding a national brand campaign for credit unions. In the editorial, he makes the observation that such a national branding campaign is not going to come from the top down; rather it will come from the bottom up. Clearly, that has been the case here in Pennsylvania.
As many are aware, in 2006 our Association convened a task force of credit union leaders and asked them to address the issues of credit union awareness and lack of membership growth. That group made a series of recommendations to our Association board, with the end result of that process being the iBelong campaign. (To view the campaign, go to ibelong.org). As many may also know, iBelong is primarily a credit union awareness/branding campaign that relies on television, radio, Internet, and search engine advertising to inform the general public about the benefits of credit union membership and provide potential members with an avenue to locate a credit union that is right for them.
The first commercials aired in July of 2007 and now, nearly two years later, we are clearly seeing the fruits of our labor. In Pennsylvania, credit union awareness is up significantly, as is the number of consumers who now know they are eligible for credit union membership. In addition, the states of Illinois, Mississippi, and Vermont have also adopted the iBelong campaign and are seeing results in their respective states. In fact, Mississippi just recently completed its research and found remarkable positive increases in consumer perceptions of credit unions.
While a four-state effort does not a national campaign make, we have been in discussions with several other states regarding the iBelong campaign and feel it could form the basis for a national awareness/branding campaign some time down the road. In addition, several other state leagues are running or sponsoring their own credit union awareness/branding campaigns with strong support of their member credit unions.
While we agree with you that a national branding campaign must develop from the bottom up, we do not feel we have to wait for one or two or more extremely large national credit unions to drive this effort. Rather, in the true spirit of credit union cooperation, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mississippi, and Vermont serve as a good example of what credit unions can do cooperatively when we put our minds to it together. Thanks for shining a spotlight on this key credit union issue, Frank. And keep up the good work.
Pennsylvania Credit Union Association
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