There’s a superhero in our midst, born out of the frustration of big banking and sent to teach us all a better way to handle our money.
Immune to the gravitational pull of traditional banking, this consumer champion is strong enough to obliterate high fees, able to leap predatory interest rates in a single bound—and lightning fast with loan approvals.
Who is this conquistador of credit; this subduer of subpar financial providers?
It’s Credit Union Man, a.k.a. Fred Brown, mild-mannered director of marketing/member development for Northeast Family Federal Credit Union, Manchester, Conn., by day—and credit union superhero some nights and weekends during youth events, trade shows, annual meetings, and other special events.
Credit Union Man’s mission initially was to entertain and teach kids about credit unions and smart money management. But the appeal of Brown’s message—and superhero threads—quickly spread to a wider audience.
“The kids get a kick out of the costume, but I seem to get a better reaction from adults,” says Brown. “When people see me, they ask what I’m doing—and that gives me the perfect opening to start a conversation about banks versus credit unions. People let their guard down when they see me making a fool out myself.”
People are receptive to Brown’s message, sometimes sharing impassioned stories of poor treatment at the hands of banks.
“When people know they can receive the same services at a credit union—a cooperative that cares about them as much as the bottom line—most will move their accounts, or at least begin making the transition,” he says.
What does the future hold for Credit Union Man? More of the same, Brown says: special appearances to spread the credit union gospel.
“Most people don’t understand credit unions,” he says. “They think we’re labor unions or teamsters. We need to let people know credit unions are the same as banks—we just don’t suck.”
Brown feels fortunate that his chosen method of spreading this message has been so successful. “I’m lucky to work in an industry that embraces that special kind of crazy all credit union marketers have within us.”
The Credit Union Man persona is one way Brown maintains a fresh marketing approach on a limited budget. That’s important for all credit unions.
“We can’t be everything to everyone,” he says. “You need to put forth the effort to identify your market and then market to them. Use social media, use guerilla marketing—dress up in a superhero costume if need be.”
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.