Pennsylvania credit unions are starting 2018 with more than 4 million members as a more than 10-year long credit union awareness campaign continues to educate residents about what credit unions do, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association announced today.

The association began the iBelong Campaign, the longest-running statewide credit union advocacy effort, in 2007 when Pennsylvania credit union membership totaled 3.2 million, said Michael Wishnow, the association’s vice president of marketing and communications.

The campaign shares the benefits of low-cost financial services through credit union membership. In 2007, the campaign was split between TV (85 percent) and radio (15 percent). Now, through web banners, YouTube pre-roll video ads and ads on Hulu, the campaign is split between digital advertising (40 percent) and television (60 percent). The ads invite consumers to visit iBelong.org to find a credit union in their area.

Spread between seven media markets, the campaign was initially funded by the association and a mandatory assessment on the league's member credit unions. In 2011, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the association made the assessment voluntary.

For the first three years of the campaign, the association tracked results by attitudinal changes measured by surveys. Eventually the association began to determine success by increase in membership. In the first six quarters of the campaign’s existence, the association saw Pennsylvania credit union membership statistics go from being flat or dropping to rising. “Pennsylvania’s population is pretty flat in general,” said Wishnow. “It’s not like we’re in Vegas. Our cities are part of the rustbelt.”

Wishnow attributes the membership growth to the awareness campaign working in tandem with an increased emphasis on marketing by Pennsylvania credit unions themselves.

Michael Wishnow, SVP of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association
Michael Wishnow, SVP of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association

“Before, the larger credit unions spent a lot of money on advertising, ‘What is a credit union?’” Wishnow said. “The cooperative takes away that burden.”

The campaign’s excellence was recognized by the Pennsylvania Society for Association Executives (PaSAE) at the 2016 Laurel Awards.

“We are very proud and excited that Pennsylvania’s credit unions are able to provide the best financial services with great rates and low or no fees to more consumers than ever before,” said Patrick Conway, president and CEO of the association.

PCUA has also licensed the campaign out for usage by other leagues. The Maryland & D.C. Credit Union Association is currently the only other league using iBelong, however it has been licensed out to leagues in Illinois, Indiana and Louisiana, among others.