RAPID CITY, S.D.-The Credit Union Association of the Dakotas is hitting the road this summer to spread the word about credit unions.

CUAD CEO Robbie Thompson told Credit Union Journal that the association lacks the resources for the kind of large, statewide ad campaign being run by some leagues, such as the League of Southeastern CUs ("Ad Campaign By League Of Southeastern CUs Gets Second Run," CU Journal, July 2), but what it can do is target specific markets with short blasts of TV and radio advertising and then visit those areas in person.

It's all part of the "We've Been Waiting For You" campaign ("The Message: 'We've Been Waiting,'" CU Journal, April 9), and Thompson and other CUAD staffers are hitting the road in their "CU on the Road" vehicle, a car wrapped in CU-specific imaging. Thompson said he believes CUAD is the first group ever to do this sort of road trip to promote credit unions, and part of the impetus is research that revealed low awareness of CUs throughout the Dakotas.

"We think this is probably going to be a 3-5 year effort, at which point in time we plan to do research again to find out if we've moved the needle on the awareness of CUs," he said.

Thompson spoke to Credit Union Journal from the road, having spent the past two days meeting with consumers in Rapid City, Sturgis and Deadwood, South Dakota. During that time, he said he and other CUAD staffers met with about 300 people. "We buy them a cup of coffee and talk to them about credit unions," said Thompson.

CUAD is also posting about the project via Facebook (www.facebook.com/WeveBeenWaitingForYou) and Twitter (@CUontheRoadDAK), and is measuring those interactions as a way to gauge growth and interest in the program.

'Eye Opening For Us'

While the league is visiting individual credit unions during its various road trips, league staff is holding the meetings with consumers separate from individual CUs.

"We did a spot in Fargo where about 90% of the population that came in didn't know what a credit union was, and that was pretty eye opening for us," said Thompson. "We're able to sit there and have a conversation with them and tell them what a credit union is in a relaxed, low-pressure, no-sales format. If a credit union is there, they're going to push to sign them up."

Staff are also armed with a list of all CUs in the state and are directing would-be members to the credit union finder at www.ASmarterChoice.org.

"We're doing this on a fraction of the cost you're seeing from other awareness efforts, but I think we're seeing a greater return," said Thompson. "We're saying things in 15-20 minutes that you can't say in 30-second commercials."

More info: www.cuontheroad.org

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