SALEM, Ore.-Maps CU here changed its marketing strategy and cut out nearly all of its newspaper advertising midway through 2011.

The $436-million credit union was spending about $75,000 per year on newspaper ads, but has shifted towards allocating those funds differently as the result of the recession.

"We realized we were better positioned to grow our relationships with existing members, rather than doing mass media paid advertisements to the whole community," explained Jill Nowacki, VP of development. "We redirected those funds into things like our Buy Local partnership and other community partnerships. We improved our relationships with existing members, but we also expanded our reputation as a strong community partner and put our resources where our community needs it."

The Buy Local program-which recently netted Maps a Best Practice Award from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council-partners the CU with local businesses and offers exclusive deals to encourage community members to support those shops. The CU also was able to make a $50,000 contribution to the local school district, which Nowacki said was suffering as a result of budget cuts.

"That has made a huge impact in our recognition in the community," she said.

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The CU still does some newspaper ads, but those are generally focused on promoting loan specials, rather than brand and image advertising, which has been cut completely.

Nowacki said that members didn't notice the reduced presence in the newspaper, "but they noticed the contributions we were making in the community."

She added that that move paid off after Bank Transfer Day, when members joined the CU in droves. "We were thankful that we weren't paying for something that we were getting for free," said Nowacki.

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