Attendees of the America’s Credit Union Conference received an update on the progress of the Credit Union Awareness Initiative Tuesday.
Launched last year by the CUNA Board, the Awareness Initiative aims to raise broad-based consumer awareness of credit unions by establishing a new, national brand platform for the industry.
“The credit union industry is truly at a crossroads,” says Teresa Freeborn, chair of the Creating Awareness Advisory Group, the committee appointed by the CUNA Board to lead the initiative. “For four decades we've hung on to 6-7% market share with little upward movement.
“In this day of fintech and near-daily new entrants into the market, credit unions have to work so much harder to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.”
To create that greater awareness, the Advisory Group decided to create a brand platform for the industry based on extensive national consumer research, the first round of which it conducted earlier this year.
The research identified where consumers have weak or no awareness of credit unions, Freeborn says, and determined current trends in consumer preferences for financial services.
The results of that research will allow the Advisory Group to build a brand platform that both resonates with consumers and begins to erase the myths surrounding the industry.
“I want to be clear here: The brand platform is not a marketing campaign,” Freeborn says. “We're not proposing to replace credit union advertising and marketing campaigns. We’re not looking to take away any individual state league campaigns. This is a level way above that. This is a national definition for credit unions on which market work could then be based.”
To provide a better understanding of how brand platforms work, David Martin, U.S. chairman of the creative consulting firm BrandCap, which is supporting the Advisory Group on this effort, presented examples of brand platforms corporations have created to better establish their brands.
Examples included Walmart, whose brand platform was “making life affordable,” and Disney World, with “making magical experiences come to life.”
“It's not an external manifestation,” Martin says. “You don’t see [these examples of brand platforms] in the tagline, but it articulates the experience you want to give to your customers.”
That’s what the Advisory Group is working toward for credit unions at the national level, Martin says.
As for next steps in building the brand platform, Freeborn says the Advisory Group will:
• Refine several potential brand concepts based on the research.
• Perform validation testing in the market to determine which is most effective in terms of raising awareness of credit unions.
• Finalize the brand platform.
• Conduct a series of pilot programs starting in 2018 to begin testing the brand platform in the market.
“This is how we'll put credit unions in a position of strength for the future,” Freeborn says. “This is how we’re going to place credit unions in that consideration set. If we get this right, we could have a real game-changer.”