Credit unions are too small, hard to join, and unable to protect people’s money or guard against security breaches.
They haven’t kept up with technology, and they mainly serve unsophisticated people who can’t obtain financial services elsewhere.
CUNA research indicates these common misconceptions discourage people from joining credit unions, according to Steve Langley, senior vice president of member services/chief retail officer for Schools Financial Credit Union in Sacramento, Calif., and Michelle Hunter, senior vice president of marketing and development for the Credit Union of Southern California in Anaheim.
They addressed the co-located CUNA Technology Council and CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council Conferences on Monday in Phoenix.
“Credit unions have an identity crisis,” Langley says. “How many times do I have to tell consumers they can join credit unions?”
“The heart of the matter lies in one or all of these myths,” Hunter says. “We need to come up with a way to dispel them.”
That’s where the Credit Union Awareness Initiative comes in. CUNA, leagues, credit unions, and related organizations came together to support this initiative to create top-of-mind consumer awareness of credit unions as the best choice in financial services.
The initiative stems from the recommendations of the Creating Awareness Advisory Group, which CUNA formed to determine the best way to communicate the value of credit unions to consumers.
The group commissioned research to identify gaps in credit union awareness among consumers, identify consumers’ financial services preferences, and find the most compelling credit union definition possible.
A brand platform, Hunter notes, is not a marketing campaign but a high-level definition of credit unions that will supplement current credit union and league marketing efforts.
The brand platform for McDonald’s, for example, is “simple, easy, enjoyment,” which is different from its marketing campaign, “I’m loving it.”
“We don’t intend to cloud the marketing space with more messages,” Hunter says. “We want a single message to have a stronger voice. We need to find a message that resonates with consumers.”
Credit unions have many strengths in the consumer space. According to the Advisory Group’s research, consumers see credit unions as good for auto loans, competitive with rates, warm and friendly, trusted, and on the side of consumers.
Credit unions resonate especially strongly with parents ages 35 to 49, although the appeal has less to do with age and more to do with the consumer’s financial life stage, Langley says.
“We need to get across that we’re a benefit and that it’s easy to use your credit union,” he says. “Also, that we spend a lot of money keeping the credit union safe. We meet members where they are and help them reach their aspirations.”
The Creating Awareness Advisory Group will brief credit unions on its progress at the 2018 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
►Click here for more conference coverage from CUNA News, and get live updates on Twitter via @CUNACraig, @cumagazine, and @CUNACouncils, and by using the #TechOpSS hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA Councils, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at cunacouncils.org.
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.