While new marketing technology such as predictive analytics will take credit unions far, marketers must remember the power of storytelling and explaining who you are and what you stand for.
That approach served Jon Reske well during his 23 years as vice president of marketing at $540 million asset UMassFive College Federal Credit Union in Hadley, Mass.
Recently retired, Reske earned the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Reske: Since I've been retired there's been a pandemic, a stock-market crash, and racial unrest, and it's only been six months. So I'm interested to see what the next six months will be like.
I was doing volunteer tax preparation at a community action center in downtown Springfield in January and February before things started to get a little crazy in mid-March. Other than that, I bought a bike and I have a Fitbit, and I'm doing some home renovations.
A: First of all, I was surprised—and honored. It's nice to have your peers recognize what you've done. It’s great to have that recognition after 23 years at the credit union.
A: You need to have some level of differentiation. Why should people buy from you? You need to find something that differentiates you in some way.
As I mentioned when I was accepting the award, marketing is the only department that's allowed to fail. You should be expected to take some risks and try new things. You're on the leading edge of what's happening in the marketplace. Hopefully, organizations are confident enough to let marketing reach out a bit and be a change agent.
A: One of the first things we did was to condense our official name, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, to UMassFive—not even with the term “credit union.” And if you go into our market and say “UMassFive,” people know it’s a credit union.
We also embraced the cooperative model and being a cooperative through and through. We saw that model as a differentiator—having a volunteer board of directors and educating members. In the late '90s or early 2000s we instituted what has become a robust financial literacy program. That differentiated us because we’re all about the member. That's a mantra at the credit union.
A: I came from the packaged goods industry, where I was a brand manager at a wine and spirits company, Nabisco, and Hanes hosiery. I brought that brand management expertise to the credit union, and that’s how I sold myself at the job. I said the last thing you want is a marketing person from a financial institution. What you really want is someone from a brand management standpoint who knows nothing about financial institution marketing but understands brand and brand marketing.
NEXT: How credit union marketing will evolve in the future