Jim Nussle

Awareness: We have the solution

We’re going to open America’s eyes to credit unions.

September 4, 2018

People ask me all the time if credit unions can remain relevant. They point to disruption in the marketplace or increased competition from fintechs or a burdensome regulatory environment that benefits the big banks that can afford to comply.

But regardless of what challenges they point to, my answer remains the same: Yes!

Not only can we remain relevant, I want nothing less than wave after wave of Americans choosing credit unions as their best financial partner.

I want credit unions to be more than relevant—I want them to thrive. That’s my vision for our future.

With S. 2155, we proved that when our movement works together—CUNA, state leagues, credit unions, 110 million members, and strategic partners—we can achieve historic results. We’re competing on advocacy and we’re winning.

Now it’s time to tackle another problem that’s pestered our movement since we came together in Estes Park in 1934—awareness.

CUNA and the leagues are working in concert to raise $100 million to fund and sustain the national Awareness Initiative. We’re going to open America’s eyes to credit unions.

Over the past two years, CUNA has invested $2 million in developing a research-driven, digital-first, consumer-focused marketing program that will benefit all credit unions. We know the problem, and we have the solution.

Banks outspend credit unions on marketing $43 to $1. At the same time, our research found that most Americans don’t believe they can join a credit union, and that even if they do, they won’t be able to access their money because credit unions are too “mom and pop.”

This has contributed to credit unions’ share of the financial market remaining stuck at 7% for decades. The Awareness Initiative solves this problem through the creative program, “Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union.”

A rising tide lifts all boats, and “Open Your Eyes” will benefit all credit unions, complementing local marketing efforts.

You’ll be able to focus on marketing your superior products and services—not spending resources just to explain what you are.

By establishing a national presence with our messaging and working together with the leagues to implement the creative program, we will defeat one of the primary myths hampering credit union growth: The belief among consumers that credit unions are local institutions lacking the scale and scope to be their best financial partners.

We know the “Open Your Eyes” message is compelling because of our extensive research. The concept video generated enormous excitement with 75% of the numerous consumer test groups who viewed it.

Our goal will be to move our core audience segments (millennials and parents ages 35 to 50) to “think” and consider credit unions for financial services.

With a hyper-targeted digital campaign focused on video and social media, we’ll reach these demographics where they are and we’ll measure our success on two primary levels: audience engagement with digital content and progress on increasing consumer consideration of credit unions.

The best way credit unions and leagues can prepare to connect to the national program is by adopting the recommendations found in the Awareness Messaging Guide.

The language is helpful in unifying our consumer voice across the country, and it preserves the brand equity individual credit unions have built with members.

The guide is available at (password: openyoureyes).

We have stacks of consumer satisfaction surveys that say our members prefer us to banks. We know not-for-profit financial cooperatives are a better model.

Next year, all Americans will know this, too.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.