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Using Newspaper Ads & Web Site, Triad-Area Credit Unions Educate Public About Deposit Insurance

Daily stock market moves are becoming the stuff of Disney E-Ticket rides, and economic concerns continue to grow across the country. These key facts ensure that the financial crisis is with us for the foreseeable future.

In order to inform and educate credit union members and consumers about share insurance, 18 credit unions in the  the Northwest and North Piedmont Chapters (which covers the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point areas) have joined forces to advertise in seven local newspapers over the next month. The half-page ads will underscore the safety of credit union deposits, and direct consumers to a web site (www.triadcreditunions.com) where they can learn more about the NCUSIF and credit unions.

This is a remarkable campaign on many fronts. The first conference call to put the effort together happened exactly two weeks ago today. The 18 credit unions on the initial call represent a lot of different types of organizations, from large to small, and community charter to single sponsor. But they all saw the need to come together to put out this vital message, and in the end all 18 committed dollars to purchase the ad space.

This outreach comes in addition to their own aggressive efforts to educate and inform their members about share insurance.

The ads roll out in most of the major newspapers of the region beginning this Sunday. The ad series was designed by Todd Lewis in the NCCUL Marketing Department.

Kudos to all these credit unions for working together not only in the good times – but especially now when times are tough!        

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A Very Well Deserved Friday Funny

The headlines are pretty bleak these days and we’ve been pretty busy at the League fielding questions from a lot of folks. From what I hear, it’s the same at credit unions as members check in and ask a lot of questions about deposit insurance (it’s a lot of work to be sure, but what a great moment for credit unions to reassure & educate members about their safety and soundness!).

So let’s take a moment on Friday and enjoy one of the funniest ads I’ve ever seen a credit union produce. The “Fee Pig” ad from Charlotte Metro Credit Union brought me a few belly laughs — and these days, that’s a very good thing.

Enjoy your weekend folks, and keep on doing great things on behalf of your members!

Truliant FCU Ad Spots Win Telly Awards

Congratulations are in order to Truliant FCU and its Chapel Hill-based advertising agency, Jennings. The credit union, which worked with Jennings to produce two television ads designed to differentiate the credit union, won two Telly Awards!

The Telly Awards, which began in 1978, honor the very best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions, and work created for the Web. The Truliant spots competed against more than 13,500 TV spots submitted from across the world.

Congratulations to the teams at Truliant and Jennings for these well-deserved awards! In a world of advertising filled with airbrushed models and soon-forgotten messages, these funky ads & the microsite that accompanies them stand out in the crowd.

Truliant FCU Ads Score Points by Pointing out Differences

True confession time from the FWIW (for what it’s worth) department – most of the bank and credit union television ads I’ve seen over the years stink. Replete with airbrushed models, canned music and formulaic jargon, the end message I get is: “We’re unique – just like everyone else.”

It was refreshing then to get a look at Truliant Federal Credit Union’s new flight of fun television ads, which are currently appearing in the Charlotte and Piedmont Triad markets. These ads use real members of the credit union with real stories about how Truliant is different.

Truliant’s Marketing/Communications Supervisor, Ryan Shell, noted that the members in the ads were pulled from success stories that the Truliant staff received. He said all of them were enthusiastic about volunteering their time to participate in the commercials.

The central message is also key here, because it relates the value of membership – but from the member’s perspective, not the credit union’s. We can get on the “member-owner-cooperative-not-for-profit-people-helping-people” soapbox every day of the week and twice on Sunday – but the truth of the matter is: it’s what credit union members understand on a personal level about those differences that matter.

In other words, it’s all just pretty rhetoric until someone discovers that these words actually mean something that is very relevant to their lives.   

On that topic of relevance – I can relate to the people I see in these ads. When I lived in Reno several years ago, I always laughed at the casino commercials that came on TV. Everybody looked like they were straight out of central casting: J-Lo and Ryan Phillippe knockoffs throwing the dice and pulling the slots. Then when you actually went to the casinos, you’d see a bunch of chain-smoking grandmas trying to score the big payoff.

While the folks in the Truliant spots don’t look like chain-smoking grandmas, they do look like people I see and interact with every day. That’s refreshing, and a wise choice.    

These TV spots are part of a broader campaign that includes print & billboard ads, as well as a micro-site called trudifferences.org. (Complete details are summarized in the press release here.)   

If I could make one suggestion, it would be that Truliant use this as a springboard to start a two-way conversation by hosting a blog tied to the campaign. I mean, they’re already asking people about their member experience on a regular basis. Why not throw it open to a wider (and less filtered) discussion?
At any rate, check out the ads and feel free to share your opinion.   

Community Involvement As Brand Building: A Conversation with SECU’s Jim Blaine

One of the things that has always impressed me about State Employees’ Credit Union is that from the standpoint of member service and culture, the credit union acts like a tiny shop. As most people know, SECU is instead one of the largest credit unions in the world, holding more than $15 billion in assets.

This culture of service and absolute dedication to the cooperative philosophy shines through in the credit union, from the membership at the grassroots all the way up the chain through its board and senior management.

Many of the ideas and much of the credit union passion that you might hear from the CEO of a small shop shine through in the few moments I got to spend with SECU CEO Jim Blaine. Jim graciously spent some time with me to reflect on the Herb Wegner Award the SECU Foundation received as the outstanding credit union organization.  

The SECU Foundation has only been around a few short years, but it has already left a tremendous footprint across all 100 counties in NC. The video interview focuses on the Foundation’s scholarship program, which has awarded scholarships to one student in every NC public high school for the past three years or so.

The Foundation has also embarked on some other outstanding projects that are making an impact in NC. Some of these projects are summarized in the video presentation below that we got to see at the Herb Wegner Awards in Washington, DC last week.

The leadership of the credit union views these activities as its advertising campaign. From my vantage point, I’d have to say that it’s clearly working. Every week when the newspaper clippings arrive in the mail, the activities of the credit union and its foundation get consistent mention in papers of all sizes.

The scholarship winners, which are generally pictured with a local SECU representative, get mentioned the most in papers across the State. At the same time, and I don’t have hard stats to back this up — I’d say clearly the newspapers and other media outlets have become much more likely to pick up press releases that come from the credit union over the past couple of years.  

As the notion of a national branding campaign continues to get kicked around, the SECU Foundation has put together an impressive narrative that suggests that collective philanthropy and community building will get the credit union movement a lot more mileage than a national advertising campaign.

What do you think?

Of Rorschach and “The Video”

I am here to confess my sins when it comes to the masterful CU Difference video that debuted last week courtesy of Larissa Walkiw, who is the Young & Free Alberta spokesperson. The video, which I first saw Thursday on the CU Brand Blog, is making big waves.

But an exchange on the CU Skeptic Blog yesterday has brought me in touch with a real problem with my personal reaction to this video, and my sense is that others might be falling into the same trap when viewing this terrific piece of work.

The problem? Essentially, “The Video” became a Rorschach test for what I think the movement lacks.

In looking at the video, I thought it had great potential as a CU viral campaign. In my fantasy, we’d take out the Common Wealth CU and Y&F references and throw this thing on out our web sites. And boy howdy, the young folks would literally melt down servers and bust down doors to join credit unions in response.

At long last, the average age of members would plummet, and the CU Nip Tuck we’ve all imagined would happen!

There’s just one little problem with my fantasy: this video is a specific marketing message that is intended for a specific audience … and that audience is living in a financial service system that is quite a bit different from the one here in the States. (Thanks to Tim McAlpine, I understand that now.)

Taking that thought just one step further – as a marketing message, there’s no way to know five days after rollout whether this video is effective. Unless I’ve missed something, it remains to be seen whether Common Wealth’s ultimate goal – to put fannies into the Young & Free Checking Account – will actually work out … and whether the video is helpful in achieving that goal.

So let’s take a step back here and take a couple of useful lessons from the video based on what we know:

First of all, Larissa is a very talented young woman, and a gifted communicator. But in our rush to praise her, let’s not deify her. There are other Larissas out there waiting to be discovered. All they need is an opportunity.

And that leads me to my second point: the true genius of the Young & Free Campaign lies in its risk. Think about it: Common Wealth literally handed the keys to their brand over to a 19 year old. How many credit unions CEOs, boards and marketers are willing to take that chance?

And perhaps that’s the real issue, and why so many seem to be Rohrschaching this thing. After all, it would be easy for Larissa & Common Wealth to edit their video to fit our perceived needs, but would doing so make our individual credit unions any more palatable to people 25 and under?

Charlotte Metro Credit Union Rolls out Latest TV Ad

The NBA Charlotte Bobcats take center stage in this latest TV ad for Charlotte Metro Credit Union. The ad spotlights the products and services offered by CMCU, and the fact that membership is open to people in the Charlotte area. Check it out!

Charlotte Metro CU Rolls out Latest Muggsy Ad

Charlotte Metro Credit Union, which rolled out an advertising campaign featuring former NBA star (and CMCU member) Muggsy Bogues in 2007, recently rolled out a new ad in the series. The spot, which is airing on the Charlotte FOX, ABC and NBC affiliates, focuses on the CMCU web site, which got a complete makeover last year.

CMCU Director of Marketing Nathan Tothrow said that in the months since the television advertising debuted, the credit union has noted strong asset and core deposit growth. He added that web hits spiked 10% in December – the same time the newest ad hit the airwaves.

Nathan and I had the pleasure of working together on the attempt to bring credit union co-operative advertising to the Charlotte market in 2006. Even though that campaign did not see the light of day, it is great to see Nathan’s vision and dedication to the advertising medium pay off in terrific growth for CMCU.

The ad is linked below – enjoy!

Social Media Spotlight … Young & Free Alberta Gets Ready to Announce Winner After Wildly Successful Campaign

(Note: this is an update to a previous post about a Social Media Campaign that is both eye-catching and innovative.)

The applications have been processed, video blogs recorded and the votes tallied in Common Wealth Credit Union’s Young & Free campaign! Young & Free, developed and rolled out a few months ago for Common Wealth by Currency Marketing, enjoyed wild success – much more I’m betting than even the credit union and Currency envisioned.

The campaign was created to call attention to Common Wealth’s free checking product for young adults under the age of 25. The concept is for applicants aged 18-25 to record videos sharing why the credit union should hire them on as a spokesperson for the credit union, as well as a blogger about the social scene in Northern Alberta. Blog readers then got to vote on who they thought should be the spokesperson.

All told, 11 people submitted video applications. From this pool, three finalists … Shane Lamotte, Larissa Walkiw and Paula Mickelson emerged. During the voting period last week, the finalists nabbed a ton of attention on local news and radio programs, and thousands of people visited the blog site to watch the videos and cast their votes.

I wonder how much money it would have cost Common Wealth to garner that kind of media and public attention in a more traditional advertising campaign?  

The winner will be announced Monday, December 10th on the Young & Free site. I suspect that Currency’s Tim McAlpine will have plenty to say about this campaign once it concludes (and he has the chance to catch his breath!). When we hear from Tim, we’ll pass along that information.

Kudos to Tim and Currency for the concept, and to Common Wealth CU for taking a very public chance on this Social Media Campaign. Anyone in credit union land giving serious thought to Social Media should spend a few hours scanning the Y&F site!      

Credit Unions Are Not-for-Profit … BLAH BLAH BLAH!

I’ve been checking out the “About Us” sections of a few credit union web sites lately, and a common verbiage I’m finding is the stalwart “credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives” stuff, and little else. Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that our structure is an important distinction. What I’m saying is … I know all about “we” – but who are you? What sets you apart?

If you think about that section of your web site, it’s your clearest and best opportunity to state what makes your credit union different to lurkers. And it’s the only message channel for this type of information that’s open 24/7.

You can live, breathe, roll around and revel in this credit union industry, and impress your industry friends with clever jargony phrases … but keep in mind that the structure stuff means absolutely nothing to someone who doesn’t know about credit unions. The verbiage might as well be Latin (why not use a dead language to communicate a meaningless message to the public?).

But how could such an essential message be meaningless, you ask? Simple – the worst credit union in the world in terms of return to the member is a not-for-profit cooperative. Just like yours.

Your brand, your service and your policies set you apart. So with that as a backdrop – what should the “About Us” section of credit union web sites say? Feel free to share your thoughts … and links to any red-hot-smokin’ About Us sections you’ve come across in not-for-profit, member-owned-cooperative-land.