Hold The Clicker: Some Advice On Your CU's Advertising

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The average American will spend 9-11/42 hours in a 24-hour day with some form of media, according to a report in February by MediaPost. Are you penetrating print, online and/or television to reach your members? Did you know you already possess distinct advantages you can leverage to advertise effectively?

Most industries (retailers, fast food, etc.) have to pay an outside source to research their current client base to glean many of the questions vital to have answered before you begin to advertise. These include:

* Which members use us most often?

* Which members are the most profitable for us and represent the most growth opportunity?

* How did we acquire our 100 most recent members, and do they have anything in common from a demographic or geographic standpoint?

* If common denominators exist, how can we target those from a media perspective?

Credit union executives have their demographic database at hand. You know who your current users are, their ages, addresses, financial bracket and how they use your products and services. And, media is much better adapted when a "target" is established and narrowed. With this said, how loud is your credit union shouting compared to everyone else in the media landscape? Answering that question could help you determine how, and where, your credit union can market itself in the various forms of media.

Take This Into Consideration

Examine the geographic size of where you are, the size of your target and the size of your competition in the market.

Specifically, what are banks or other financial institutions in your market doing? What market share do they have compared to your credit union? Are they reaching a certain demographic you should be pursuing?

Consider, too, how credit unions' competitive set is changing. It exists on a larger scale than ever before. Credit unions compete with Internet-based financial institutions that advertise nationally that are putting their brands out there. Credit unions compete directly against ING, Lending Tree, and Washington Mutual, as a few examples. Perhaps one way to fight these competitors is to purchase media in partnership with other credit unions in your area, pooling strengths for the common good.

So, which mediums are best? And how do you match the media with the target you've defined? Generally, you need to look at consumption. Television is far and away where people spend the majority of their time. However, a challenge most credit unions will face is, the price of that media in and of itself, as well as high costs in producing a "spot" or advertising segment.

Also note within viewing hours of the day, half of TV is consumed through cable networks, the other half via broadcast networks. But don't assume an even share in reaching your audience. The half of viewership on broadcast's side (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and the CW Network-as well as certain markets that may have a UPN affiliate) is broken primarily over those networks. Cable is fragmented; more than 60-70 networks reach viewers. Broadcast TV allows you to reach more people, faster, at one time. On the cable side, you can target better, i.e., men age 18-34, who like investing, with that investment being real estate.

Start Getting Creative

Consumers are also forcing advertisers and companies to find different ways to reach them. The huge TV ratings of 10 years ago are starting to erode, channels are starting to splinter. That's why you see more product placement within shows. For example, "American Idol" is one of the highest rated programs on TV, and you never see the judges without a Coke cup in their hands.

Other broadcast media such as outdoor, radio, newspaper, magazine, movies, and the web follow in popularity, but even that line is blurring. Consumers are consuming multiple medias at the same time, and are more and more directing media strategies. They're able to select their media in the context they want to receive it, making it more efficient to their needs.

One for instance is the youth market, an audience credit unions are tapping exponentially. Teen People cut its print magazine in favor of an electronic version, responding to this target. They felt their audience was living through MySpace, whose social circles connected on the Internet.

Moreover, purchasing influencers can be specific to a certain industry. Among credit unions with which I've worked, data found females drive the financial decision making process. Women tend to be more consistent in their consumption habits as opposed to men. It's easier to reach women given that continuity.

Time To Get Out There

Given all aforementioned considerations, credit unions have to get creative within traditional media, as well as find opportunities outside that realm. Get into the mindset and the daily lives of your target audience, and where they are. Look for opportunities to sponsor events at a local coffee house, the local library, or a public swimming pool in the middle of summer when half the people there are women ages 25-54 with their kids.

From a grassroots standpoint, credit unions can research local vendors and go it alone buying media. Keep close contact with those vendors, however, to ensure they follow through, maintain the media promised and the delivery. Vendors can be big on up front sales, but sometimes what's promised is lost in translation.

Credit unions can also approach an agency. Agencies have certain contacts within the market, would purchase media on your behalf, and verify goals are being met. The cost all depends on the budget a credit union allots. Agencies can be commission based, flat-fee based, hourly, etc.

Regardless of the decision, be as focused as you're able to. Look at the radius of your trade zone. Most importantly, don't communicate for the sake of communicating or put unfocused messages out to the public. In trying to be everything to all people, your message will be lost in the clutter.

Holly Arter is Media Director with Third Degree Advertising, Oklahoma City, Okla.

For info: 405-235-3020 or www.thirddegreeadv.com. This article was first published April 2007, in Connection magazine, reprinted with permission from the New York State Credit Union League Inc.

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