On Branding: Top Five Pitfalls To Avoid When Developing, Evaluating Creative

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The push for growth among financial services providers has a lot of managers reconsidering the way they do a lot of things–and especially the way they market. Historically a lot of CUs have been reluctant to invest in a professional marketing effort. Instead they chose to save money by promoting marketing managers from within instead of bringing in real expertise. And they work with graphics houses that peddle the same basic creative to all their clients with a “put your credit union name here” mentality.

When credit unions existed to serve one or two major member groups this was enough to bring in membership and assets. The purpose of advertising and marketing was to let members know about the latest loan rates or to introduce new products or services. But times have changed.

If you walk through your credit union and find a cluttered collection of posters and brochures from vendors, identity theft protection providers, auto buying services and more you need to ask yourself what that says about your brand to members and prospective members who visit your branch. And if they are interspersed with cookie cutter posters featuring bad stock photos of smiling people under a “clever” headline with a small logo in the corner, is that helping your CU or sending a message of mediocrity?

Creative matters. And in the credit union industry too few people making marketing decisions understand how to develop an effective message; how to evaluate creative; and how to make sure all your messages–from posters to newsletter, statement stuffer, ads and more–help people to identify and appreciate your brand. Below are the top five mistakes I see credit union management make all over the country when it comes to evaluating creative.

1. Thinking about what they like, not how the member or prospective member will react to the message.

2. Assuming that the people reading the message know more about managing their money than they actually know. This is often the issue when a credit union promotes a very competitive rate yet fails to demonstrate what a good deal it is.

3. Telling every fact, detail, and thing about a subject instead of just saying enough to get the reader (or listener) interested. Don’t clutter up the message. If you have a great checking account let the world know–but save the list of 15 detailed features for the Internet instead of stuffing them into a print ad.

4. Believing that people will see the ad (or poster or whatever), read every detail and act immediately. It doesn’t even happen that way in the movies; it’s not going to work for you.

5. Letting a clever headline and irrelevant photo obscure the real message.

How can you get better creative? First, turn to a professional with a track record of success. Then let the professional do the job. Remember, if the CEO or board starts rewriting the ads, redesigning the logo or ending a presentation of tag lines by trying to write their own, the credit union is doomed.

It’s a tough marketplace out there and it’s not going to get any easier in 2008. You need to make every dollar invested in marketing count.

Paul J Lucas is a national marketing and branding consultant. He can be reached at www.pauljlucas.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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