Brand Message Focuses On Making Members' Lives Easier

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Washington State Employees Credit Union has a new logo, new branches and an expanded online presence. And now it has launched a nine-month ad campaign to let its members know about all of that.

Denise McCollum, vice president of marketing for WSECU, told The Credit Union Journal the advertising campaign is the culmination of a "brand migration" effort.

"We are committed to making our members' lives easier," she said. "Through research, we learned the one thing they wanted more than anything else is access. In both large and small cities across the state, people complained about what a hassle traffic is. In response, we added shared branching, indirect lending at car dealerships and more electronic services on our website. We are also adding branches in more convenient locations. The campaign will help us launch our new brand, and it will emphasize how things are easier for our members."

"This is not revolutionary," she added. "But we are reinforcing how it makes it that much easier to do business with the credit union."

The ad campaign was produced by JayRay, a Tacoma, Wash.-based communications consultancy. Kurt Jacobson, president of JayRay, said the company has worked with WSECU for about two-and-a-half years.

"They are a fun client because they have 19 branches statewide and are the second-largest credit union in Washington," he said. "The credit union went through a lengthy process and came up with their brand promise, 'Close to You.' They actually moved a couple of branches, and opened new branches, to be closer to their market."

The advertising campaign has three prongs: outdoor billboards, transit displays and radio spots. Jacobson said different markets in the Evergreen State are getting a mixture of the three.

For example, in the Seattle/Tacoma area, there are five billboards, 40 transit signs and approximately 80 radio spots per month. "This is an adequate campaign, not overkill," he appraised.

In Everett, north of Seattle but still within the city's radio reach, there are 10 billboards and 20 transit signs. To the south, Olympia, the state capital and headquarters of WSECU, has its own radio market, plus some Seattle stations can be heard. About 30 radio spots per month are on Olympia radio stations (see scripts, below).

On Feb. 17, WSECU opened a new branch in Yakima, which is in central Washington. Radio spots are scheduled to begin shortly to promote the new addition. Jacobson said Yakima will get transit displays and radio, but no billboards. In Spokane, on Washington's eastern border with Idaho, there will be only radio spots.

McCollum said WSECU will be moving its location near the University of Washington in Seattle to a more convenient space in May. Presently, the branch is in a strip mall, has little interior room and parking is virtually nonexistent. When the new location is ready to open, the CU will launch new radio spots to promote its features, such as free parking and a drive-thru window. "The drive-thru will be very rare in downtown."

According to McCollum, the three ad methods have different purposes. "The billboards and transit ads are more general. The radio spots educate people on how they qualify for membership," she said. "Before we started the campaign, we informed members about our new logo. This allowed us to keep in touch with our past while reaching out to prospective new members."

The advertisements seem to be having their desired effect. McCollum said membership growth for the first two months of 2004 is 5%. In 2003, that figure was 3%. The campaign began in late January and will run through the first week of September.

McCollum said when JayRay first began working with WSECU, it produced a campaign to raise awareness of membership eligibility.

JayRay does public relations work for one other credit union client - Harborstone CU, which also is based in Tacoma. Jacobson said it has done work with banks in the past, but presently does not have a bank client.

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