National Brand Not Feasible, Series of Promos Might Work

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"No Money, No Campaign-ey" is Publisher Frank Diekmann's way of expressing why CUNA CEO Dan Mica says there will be no national CU branding campaign. I doubt such a campaign could ever work. Effective brands are based on being different from competitors in a way that is motivating to the prospect. To a prospect, credit unions, on average, are little different from banks, on average. "On average" is important because a national campaign must be based on a point of difference that most credits can prove. That generally brings us to "member owned." Unfortunately that doesn't appear to be a big deal to prospects. If it meant a lot to them, credit unions would already have a much larger share of the financial services market.

If a national branding campaign won't work because a powerful differentiator will be hard to find, maybe a national promotional campaign, actually an ongoing series of them might work. If all participating CUs representing let's say 60% of the branching system said in the national campaign that they would pay a significant dividend from any surpluses, then consumers would notice all credit unions. Or if that vast majority said they are open two nights a week until 8 p.m., that would make a difference, at least until individual banks matched it. But it's unlikely that the movement will get such majority support from individual credit unions because they are bound to serve their individual membership, not the movement.

If credit unions are to increase their market share of consumer financial services, each credit union must find and pound away at a unique difference from banks that makes a real difference for consumers.

To that I will add that serving members retains members, but doesn't necessarily bring in members. Turning on prospects leads to growth. I have my doubts that a national brand will do it. A series of national promotions might if the collective will is there.

Kurt Jacobson
President, JayRay Ads & PR

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