Does “Green” Have A Place in Your Product Mix?

Recently, Denise Wymore blogged about Modern Marketing vs. Old Marketing and a spirited discussion ensued about the effectiveness of direct mail. That conversation prompted me to consider how it looks when a credit union wants its members to forgo paper statements, while the credit union peppers its members with direct mail!

My thought at the time was that these messages are in conflict with one another (from the member standpoint), and it bucked the “green” trend that is becoming more common in American households.

So is green the new color of success for credit unions? Old Hickory Credit Union in Tennessee thinks so. Old Hickory created a Green Checking Account a while back and has been the subject of past posts on other blogs. To Old Hickory’s bundle of services and benefits offered by the Green Checking Account (summarized in the link), I would consider adding the following features …

1. Deposit rate premiums and/or loan discounts (more on this below) – saving paper saves the credit union money. Why not pass these cost savings on to members?

2. Automatically opting members in to electronic newsletters — and opting them out of snail mail campaigns. Give members the ability to identify products or services they are interested in hearing more about in these electronic publications.

3. Design other products that reinforce the green concept. Perhaps a Green Auto Loan could have a rate premium relative to other products. I’ve seen green loan programs for mainly hybrid vehicles … but what about offering rate premiums on conventional automobiles if the new vehicle purchase increases fuel economy over the trade-in by 20%?

Other loan products could be designed that help members conserve energy and go to a more sustainable way of life (anything from replacement windows to landscaping).

These thoughts hinge on the belief that green is not a fad but is here to stay. What do you think? Is the move to promote a more environmentally friendly way of life a trend that some credit unions could capitalize on with a formal product line? If so, what products and services would you suggest credit unions offer? And finally, are other credit unions offering green incentives to members?

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4 Responses

  1. There isn’t necessarily a conflict between the estatement effort and “peppering” members w/ direct mail. Look at the CU Warrior’s estatement campaign. I don’t think it was driven by a “green” message (I’m sure he’ll tell me if I was wrong), but instead on a lottery — sign up for estatements ,and get a chance to win money. No conflict there.

    But, if the premise of the estatement campaign is a “green” message, then sending reams of direct mail could send conflicting messages. But I think the bigger crime here is that the message it sends is “we only want you to sign up for estatements so WE can save money — the hell w/ the environment.” And when that message comes across, members start believing that the CU doesn’t really have the members’ best interests at heart.

    And when THAT message comes across, members are less likely to want to do more business with the CU. Bottom line: Message consistency is a subtle, but incredibly important thing to manage.

  2. @ Ron – great points! The CU Warrior’s estatement campaign was great because it shared the wealth with members. State Employees’ CU here in NC has also had a year-long campaign in a monthly “sweeptstakes” format, with great results.

    I agree that the estatement vs. direct mail messages are not necessarily in conflict if the member is not concerned about getting a little snail mail from the credit union (hey, I view it as junk, but I assume that others not only don’t mind getting it, they respond to it).

    But I still wonder how people process the drive to switch people to estatements (for whatever reason), while peppering them with direct mail sales pitches … particularly in an age where people are overwhelmed with junk mail, and becoming more environmentally conscious?

  3. Great post.

    Green may be tagged a ‘fad’ at some point, but it won’t be technically correct. A fad goes away. Green is here to stay because the world requires it.

    My firm works with companies in dozens of categories and the ‘credit union movement’ fascinates me. As CU’s expand their charters, in some small way they are losing their identity, and ultimately the affinity their members have with them.

    That’s a shame, because a connected customer is any company’s greatest asset. When I was in the telecommunications business fifteen plus years ago, I was proud to be a member of Seattle Telco Federal Credit Union. It was my credit union, not the world’s. Now they are known as Watermark Credit Union.

    And since I had an affinity to my industry credit union, I didn’t mind them marketing to me. Now that many CU’s have lost that industry identification (or in the case of Boeing Employees Credit Union, company identification — they market themselves as BECU) it’s important for credit unions to find a new connection with their members.

    Since most consumers want to do the right thing, socially and for the environment, going green may be one way a credit union can do just that. After all, we all members of the human race and occupants of earth, and that’s the ultimate affinity group.

    Happy marketing!

  4. In my opinion the “green” movement has been around for a lot longer than many people think. I feel like it started more in the 60’s and 70’s, but has just now found a mainstream foothold. Its here to stay, it may become a bit less popular as things actually change, but I see the draw of “green” products sticking around for many many years to come.

    Being somewhere that beats the majority to the “green” punch may be something that carries that company to a new level of connection with their target audience. People are looking for ways to change the world for the better…offer them that option first and they’ll probably take it.

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