Merger Over-But Awareness Lags- So Ads Debut

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Bayer Federal Credit Union equals Michiana Credit Union.

It sounds simple enough. But, say officials of the credit unions that merged in 1999, members just don't get it.

They're hoping that a newly launched "ditto" campaign will change that, said Tammy Bowling, marketing specialist. With $10,000 and the help of a local advertising agency, TaigMarks, Inc., the marketer hopes to help members realize that the two credit unions are one and the same.

"This whole merger and name recognition has been a challenge to market,'' Bowling said, explaining that while the two merged, each kept its own name.

The reason, she said, is that Bayer FCU still has direct ties to its sponsor, Bayer Corp. , in five locations outside of Indiana. "We want to keep our Bayer name for branches out of state,'' Bowling said. "But at our corporate office in Elkhart, we slowly fazed out the name (and replaced it with Michiana)."

The new Michiana logo does include a tagline that reads "A division of Bayer,'' she said.

It hasn't helped that Bayer was headquartered in Elkhart and Michiana was headquartered in Mishawaka, 20 minutes away. "They're completely segregated from each other."

She said members who live closer to Mishawaka are still driving to Elkhart to take care of financial matters and vice versa. And, according to the results of a focus group study, some members of Bayer FCU said they were familiar with the other CU's connection, but didn't feel comfortable going into its branches.

After several years of trying to tie the two together, first with T-shirts donning either logo worn by front line personnel, letters to members, newsletter articles and a new signage giving Michiana the dominant space, they called in TaigMarks, Inc. to come up with a plan that wouldn't leave any doubt in member's minds about the connection, said Lisa Sandefer, marketing and business development manager.

The credit union invested $10,000 in the year-long "ditto" campaign that emphasizes, "Bayer Federal Credit Union equals Michiana Credit Union. Same services, great conveniences, more locations."

The word "ditto'' is also prominently displayed in all of the ads (see above).

Sandefer said $206-million the CU plans to run the campaign for a year via billboards, newspaper advertisements, direct mail postcards and posters in its five branches within Northern Indiana and lower Michigan.

In addition, a popular loan officer from the Bayer location in Elkhart was relocated to the Michiana branch and staff has been taking time during SEG visits to emphasize the connection and draw more attention to the Michiana name.

Before Michiana merged into Bayer, it was a single-sponsor credit union serving employees of Uniroyal.

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