Teresa Freeborn, president and CEO of $948 million Xceed Financial Credit Union, El Segundo, Calif., and chair of CUNA’s Awareness Advisory Group, said the overarching goal of the awareness initiative is to create top-of-mind consumer awareness of the credit union difference. She said the initiative – which was introduced 17 months ago at CUNA’s ACUC in Seattle
– is still in the research phase.
“It takes a lot of resources to get all that research,” she noted. “It has to be research driven, because we have to know what consumers think and what they want. We have designated Brand Cap as the creative agency, which works closely with our consultants, The Glover Park Group.”
Freeborn said Brand Cap offers expertise on design, digital and branding, and is tasked with brand platform and creative development. “The important thing is they ‘get’ credit unions,” she said of Brand Cap.
One question Freeborn fields frequently: what is a brand platform? Her answer: a brand platform is something that becomes the organizing principle for the category of credit unions. She said it will drive all of the decisions the awareness committee makes, and it will drive how the committee members think. She noted Starbucks is guided by the principle of the third space – apart from home and work. A brand platform drives strategy, not just marketing, she added.
The committee is still working on the language of the brand platform, but Freeborn hinted it will have to do with getting ahead, with members having a better financial future by being affiliated with credit unions. She said the brand platform also will highlight the “unique business model” CUs have, one that treats people as people, not account numbers, and the fact credit unions are small enough to care but big enough to matter.
So far the research effort has identified perhaps the biggest obstacles to credit union growth: four myths associated with every CU – I can’t join, it is more for those in need, accessing my money may be hard, and they are too small.
These myths are found in consumers from every part of the country, Freeborn said.
“Our research shows 65% of people know all about credit unions. They are aware of the positives, but they simply think they cannot join. As a result, we have sharpened the brief to address the ‘I can’t join’ myth.”
Another common belief is a CU is only local, or is a mom and pop shop. “People think if they move or go on vacation they cannot access their money,” Freeborn said. “As we go forward with this initiative, we have to emphasize anyone can join, and we are big enough.”
All of those involved in the awareness initiative currently are developing creative concepts. Freeborn said these will be designed to be “bold and disruptive,” and promised they would be tested with both members and non-members. These concepts will be unveiled at CUNA’s Government Affairs Conference 2018.
“Whatever we do it has to work; it has to resonate with people,” she said. “Before we do a national rollout, we will test it in a number of markets.”