Column A Reminder Of Our Story

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I enjoyed Frank Diekmann's Jan. 12 column about his CU experiences over the years, as credit unions in America celebrate their 100 anniversary. We all have some stories to tell, don't we?  And, that's what's so powerful about member testimonials because they are real-just like our credit unions. Georgia FCU celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008, starting with $35 in deposits and now $500 million in assets. After 25 years personally with GFCU, I can't imagine working any where else or loving it more!  And, could there be a better time to share the good news about credit unions being "safe havens" for consumers than during the current recession?

GFCU, like many of our credit union peers, strives to constantly "evolve" and ensure that our products, delivery systems and our messages are still relevant to today's consumer. So, as you would expect, we are including some very specific brand initiatives in this year's strategic plan.  That's why I had to write and note that I especially appreciated Frank's observation in his column about branding: "There's been so much talk of branding that credit union conferences sound like rodeos. Your brand isn't your corporate colors, it isn't your tagline, and it isn't your logo. Your brand is what comes to mind when some one hears your credit union's name. That's it." To which I said, "Amen! Preach on, and keep on speaking the truth!"

Marketing for a credit union today is certainly much different than it was in those early years-we have so many different tools at our disposal and many more market segments to target.  And, yet there are still so many that haven't heard the good news about credit unions or even know what a credit union is.  When we ask members how they heard about us at GFCU, the majority say "referred by a family member, friend or co-worker," so the statistics are true about the importance of "word of mouth" advertising being the most effective. I know we do have "raving fans" out there-but the challenge is how do we get everyone to share their story? And, how do we get that message out in time to reach the next generation? (I feel like an evangelist sometimes, especially as the current credit union member continues to age!)  

This point really hit home with me, as I attended an AMA luncheon on marketing to "millennials" (today's hot market) and "multiculturals" (tomorrow's hot market). It was fascinating. And since I have a 22-year-old millennial daughter who is now in grad school, I could REALLY relate! The amount of data and trend information that we have today is almost overwhelming, as are the choices we have to reach our targeted markets: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs, text messaging and IM, direct mail, print, radio, billboard, campus publications, event marketing, mobile messages, The list goes on and on, unfortunately our budget does not. We must prioritize and choose those that make the most sense and deliver measurable ROI.

Georgia's CUs have a co-op campaign running right now "Safe, Secure and Ready to Lend," but wouldn't be great if we had a consistent national CU image campaign. Something with a "younger tone" that would appeal to the millennials (Gen. Y)?  That's a column that I hope Credt Union Journal will be reporting on soon!

Kim Wall, VP-Marketing

Georgia FCU, Duluth, Ga.

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