What's A CU? Ads Offer An Answer

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TALLAHASSEE-The League of Southeastern Credit Unions-which serves Alabama and Florida-is launching an image campaign that addresses a challenge in both states-credit unions don't have an image.

The campaign is based on league research that has found as many as 60% of consumers don't know what credit unions are. LSCU President & CEO Patrick La Pine explained that Alabama last ran a cooperative brand campaign in 2009, but that Florida had never done so. The two states merged their associations in 2010.

La Pine said the league has been hearing from Florida's CUs in particular expressing interest in a brand campaign, and that slow but steady economic improvement has now made it possible for credit unions to underwrite the media effort.

Credit unions in both states have so far contributed more than $1 million, including a $100,000 donation from LEVERAGE, the LSCU Service Corporation.

In the ads, a man walking down the street addresses that issue, and then compares it to also not knowing what other wonderful things, such as chocolate, puppies and hugs, are like. The spot closes by highlighting how much consumers in each state save as the result of credit union membership.

The ad can be found at www.lscu.coop/Communication-Press-Room/Video). Additionally, a website (www.betternameforbanking.com) is being developed but is not expected to go live until closer to Labor Day.

While the league's $100,000 contribution was used to fund the creative component-which was developed with SCOUT Branding of Birmingham, Ala.-all CU contributions, said La Pine, go toward media time buys. He pointed out that costs for ad buys will vary with each market, but said that with more than half of the league's fund-raising goal already achieved, the campaign is in a solid position well before the ads go on the air. Additionally, he said, there is no cap to how much can be raised, and more money will mean a deeper ad schedule.

Once developed, one component of the website will be the "Find a Credit Union" search functionality, which La Pine explained will be modeled after www.findacreditunion.com. Credit unions that contribute to the cost of the campaign will receive higher priority in the search engine; those that do not contribute will still be included, but further down in the search engine and with only the institution's name and basic information.

Contributions Not Mandatory

Contributing is "not something that's mandatory or equal across the board, so the credit unions that did contribute clearly want to have some higher level of recognition for that," said La Pine, adding that some other state leagues-such as Michigan-have undertaken similar approaches.

To measure effectiveness, LSCU will conduct a pre-campaign consumer survey prior to Labor Day to create an awareness baseline, with a follow-up survey scheduled for after the ads conclude.

"Obviously the goal is to say that we've moved the needle; depending on the geographic area, it may be more in some places than in others, but we want to raise awareness about credit unions and the credit union difference," said La Pine.

Plans call for the campaign to run for at least one year, with CU contributions helping to drive that decision.

"We want this to be a sustainable campaign," said La Pine. "For us to be able to raise $1.2 million at this point allows us to have a good first year and allows us to have momentum to raise more money going forward."

La Pine added that at some point LSCU may even be willing to re-sell the ad to other leagues at a discounted price-a move that could help CUs gain exposure beyond the campaign's immediate markets.

"A lot of people think that we should have a national credit union brand campaign like the 'Got Milk?' campaign," noted La Pine. "That would be great, but until we get to the day that we can get a buy-in from every state, individual states and leagues are going to have to do this on their own."

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