John Kenjar’s back-of-the-napkin credit union marketing philosophy goes something like this:
If Starbucks can make coffee hip, why can’t credit unions do the same for financial services?
“Banking and coffee have both been around for 600 years, and what’s being revolutionized is how you market those products,” says Kenjar, the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s 2021 Marketing Professional of the Year.
“Financial services, way back when, were built on cooperative concepts within communities,” he says. “Credit unions are still doing that today, and they’re focused on people. They’re better positioned than anyone in the market.”
As vice president of marketing and community outreach at $1.3 billion US Eagle Federal Credit Union in Albuquerque, N.M., Kenjar uses that philosophy as a touchstone to lead marketing and branding efforts.
“Everything we say and do internally and externally is focused on people,” he says. “If we can bring out the best of ourselves and those around us, everyone succeeds.”
One way US Eagle Federal helps members succeed is through financial wellness. For students, the credit union has partnered with a provider of classroom and online interactive learning.
It also certifies employees as financial wellness coaches to help members navigate the day-to-day nuances of budgeting and personal finance.
“The universal application to all of this is that we’ve made it accessible,” Kenjar says. “If this movement is about people helping people, then financial literacy is not simply a task for us to check off our list, it’s a mission.
“Heightened financial literacy increases member well-being and satisfaction in their credit union relationship,” he continues. “This is one of the ways we are well-positioned to assist the people we serve.”
Kenjar has also positioned US Eagle Federal to serve its greater community through outreach. In 2020, credit union employees contributed more than 1,000 volunteer services hours, helped establish the Community Action Fund, partnered with a local utility company to offset gas bills for those hit by the pandemic, and repositioned its financial education classroom to meet COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Aligning your community involvement with your branding requires you to make a strategic decision of whether you want to take a more philanthropic or altruistic approach to helping others,” Kenjar says. “Philanthropy aligns to your brand strategy while altruism will always be present in the credit union mission of people helping people.
“For us, that balance is the key in delivering our brand promise of ‘people mean more.’”