The Credit Union Awareness Initiative remains in concept stage, but the final product must boldly explain how credit unions stand apart from other traditional and emerging financial services options, says CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle.
And the messaging must break from the traditional messaging credit unions have used in the past.
“We did testing with consumers on the street with what we’ve been doing. It didn’t work,” says Nussle, who held a town hall meeting Tuesday to kick off the inaugural CUNA CEO Council Conference in San Diego.
“We’re trying to break through a lot of information; a lot of clutter to get consumers’ brain space to think about why a credit union ought to be on their radar,” he continues. “We’ve got to cut through that. We’ve got to be a little edgy.”
The initiative aims to create a brand platform that will guide and augment individual credit unions’ marketing messages, Nussle says, and sow the seeds for earning greater market share.
For comparison, he uses a sports analogy: His beloved Chicago Cubs have their own identity but function within the framework of Major League Baseball and benefit from the awareness that affiliation generates.
Credit unions must knock down four pervasive consumer misconceptions through this initiative, Nussle says:
1. The word “membership” is a barrier. “We hear value, they hear barrier—like a gym membership you can’t escape,” Nussle says. “It doesn’t mean you stop using the term, but you can’t just say it and not explain it.”
2. Only low-income people do business there. “I’m not suggesting we stop serving the underserved—that’s a mission we should put on steroids,” he says. “But we also need to be sure people know we offer sophisticated financial services.”
3. It’s not easy to access my money. In reality, through shared networking, credit unions are second nationally in account access to just one of the megabanks, Nussle says.
4. They’re not technologically advanced. Many consumers perceive that big banks have better banking platforms, products, and services than credit unions—which isn’t true, Nussle says.
Nussle says he wants to unveil elements of the brand platform at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in late February in Washington, D.C., and that he’ll seek support from the CUNA CEO Council and other professional industry groups.
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