Every so often, I encounter a person in our industry who says: “Give me one good reason why I should support the Credit Union Awareness Initiative.”

I usually give them two.

The first is based on our research, which shows that people often tune out to the marketing that is done by credit unions because they don’t believe they can join. And for those who think they can join, they figure we’re small mom-and-pop shops that don’t have the modern technologies to connect to their money anytime and anywhere.

Those are powerful, enduring myths about our industry that we need to overcome if people are even going to think about becoming members.

The second reason to support the Awareness Initiative is that big banks spend an overwhelming amount of money to press their advantage in financial services — at our expense. JP Morgan Chase, for one, spends an average of $2 billion a year in marketing. And, last year, it spent another $9 billion on technology. Do consumers think there are barriers to getting a Chase account? Not likely. Nor do they assume they can’t access their money.

Against this relentless push by big banks, the question is this: If we don’t stand up for ourselves and combat the myths that suppress our ability to defend and grow our slice of the financial services market, who will? And how do we fight for our future in the most effective way possible?

With the guidance of our Advisory Group, CUNA created the Credit Union Awareness Initiative to bind us all together to battle back. Initially started to drive greater “awareness” of credit unions, we quickly learned through research that consumers have more general knowledge about our industry than we first believed. What they don’t do is consider us often enough as a viable option for a whole range of financial activities.

We’re missing out — and big banks are cashing in — because too many people simply don’t understand us.

The shame of that is we know that credit unions provide great personal service. We know we treat our members as people rather than numbers. We know we compete very well on rates for loans and savings, and that mobile access to accounts is not an issue. All that shouldn’t be a secret, but our research shows that it is. So how do we convince consumers to look at us anew?

That’s where our initiative has taken a bold turn. By working with three of the best branding, research and strategic communications agencies in the world, CUNA and the Advisory Group have come up with a creative approach for credit unions that directly speaks to Americans in a fun, energetic way, urging them to open their eyes to a credit union and all that it has to offer.

Attendees at the GAC will find out Tuesday exactly what we mean when we pull up the curtain on our campaign. Our intention is to leverage a brand platform for our industry that promotes the outstanding work that credit unions do through video, social media, universal messaging, a website and other tools — all of which have been researched for their effectiveness with consumers across the U.S. and adjusted accordingly.

With our Advisory Group and other key leaders in our industry enthusiastically supporting this creative strategy, we now move on to the most critical phase: roll-out. We’re starting small in 2018 with regional partners who have raised their hands to volunteer time and money to help us launch. These early efforts will enable us to research our effectiveness in the marketplace and make any tweaks necessary before a national roll-out in 2019.

When everyone in our industry fully accepts the challenges we’re up against and embraces a strong, unified response, we stand more than a fighting chance. If credit unions have demonstrated anything since their inception, it’s that we win when we work collectively.

Kiker is the Chief Strategic Communications Officer with the Credit Union National Association and serves as the Liaison for the Creating Awareness Advisory Group.

Douglas Kiker

Douglas Kiker

Douglas Kiker is the Chief Strategic Communications Officer with the Credit Union National Association and serves as the Liaison for the Creating Awareness Advisory Group.