WASHINGTON—Americans know what a credit union is, but don’t think they are eligible to join one.

That’s the marketing issue a team put together by the Credit Union National Association set out to solve through thousands of interviews with American’s who don’t currently belong to a credit union, and the solution was unveiled today during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference here.

Teresa Freeborn, president and CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo, Calif., speaking during the 2018 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington.
Teresa Freeborn, president and CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo, Calif., speaking during the 2018 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington.

“As an industry, we have a history of falling into bad habits,” said Teresa Freeborn, president and CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo, Calif. “We rely on messages we have always used because they resonate with our ideas and validate what we’ve been taught for years.”

To counter that, CUNA’s Credit Union Awareness Initiative is a global message guide that can serve as a document to better give credit unions a unified marketing message, explained Douglas Kiker, CUNA’s Chief Strategic Communications Officer.

According to Graeme Trayner, VP of brand and communications practice for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., the team’s research identified four components used to drive a marketing campaign:

  • Show credit unions are distinctive. The cooperative model of credit unions is boiled down to one image: a pie. “A piece of the pie is a very pithy and highly accessible way to explain how you benefit from membership,” Trayner said.
  • Highlight ease of access. Participants who watched the campaign explained that they were surprised to find out that a credit union account was accessible nationwide and 24/7. “They feared that if they went on vacation or went to a conference or moved from one state to another that they might not have an ATM or wouldn’t have the right apps,” Traynor said.
  • Create a modern look for credit unions. The campaign features a variety of young, dynamic, energetic faces. Since credit unions are often seen as old fashioned, about two-thirds of respondents to the initiative said they did not expect the ad to be from a credit union.
  • Trigger curiosity. The researchers received questions from respondents about how they could learn more and how credit unions’ rates compared to banks. Three-quarters of respondents said the ad piqued their interest.

The video and other marketing materials with the slogan “Open Your Eyes” will be distributed through social media channels and traditional media.

“We talk about a zombie march to their bank,” said Ed Bolton, creative director of BandCap. “They are a number in the machine, expecting what’s safe and easy, and they don’t know that there is a better alternative. All you need to do is open your eyes to a credit union.”

Kiker hopes the campaign brings one clear, consistent and cohesive voice to the industry.

“We all believe in the same things,” he said, “but it seems that we don’t have one voice. It seems like we have 6,000 voices.”

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