I’m a huge fan of the credit union mission and all it contributes to our communities. You’d know that if you’ve read more than a few lines of any previous post. Of course, you’d also know that I’m not afraid to call out things when they could be improved.
On that note, I have just a few suggestions for this year’s International Credit Union Day campaign. In case you weren’t aware, the theme is, “Find Your Platinum Lining” (at a credit union). Because it’s the 70th anniversary of the event. And 70 means platinum. You knew that, right? I didn’t. Honestly, I thought it was for 75. Turns out that’s diamond (jewelry, to be precise). In fact, all I could find about the 70th anniversary linked it to UK tradition. Thus, Americans will have limited exposure to this “platinum year”. I’d be curious how many people under the age of 70 even make the connection. I asked some people of a variety of ages; none knew that Platinum and 70 went together.
Which raises another point: If our goal is to attract younger members, why use a terminology which they are unlikely to understand or relate? Of course, we’re not only looking to attract younger people, but, let’s be honest, they’re who you want. More Boomers are great, but a member with 50 years of major purchases and life changes ahead of them is substantially more valuable.
Slogan aside, let’s take a look at the unified messaging of the credit union movement (at least here in America). Their newest endeavor is “Open Your Eyes” (to a credit union). It’s a major investment with substantial marketing targeting, ahem, eyesnationwide, from TV to streaming services and even subway banners. Yet it isn’t connected to this ICU Day effort at all. Perhaps it’s not quite ready, because this seems like a missed opportunity.
Another point relating to the Open Your Eyes campaign; a major part was to study what people’s actual reasons for not joining a credit union really were. Turns out, it was two main points:
- Thinking you had to be part of a certain company or group.
- Concern that you had to leave if you moved, or risk not being able to access your money.
Those are valid concerns which we need to address as an industry. So does the ICU Day campaign do that? Not quite. It reiterates the tired, “we’re different and unique” platform. Great, you give back to your members. You have low rates. Some of the larger banks are already playing the same game. And, frankly, they’re better at it. Capital One just launched a new effort featuring their friendlier branches (“Cafés”), free checking, and other customer-centric offerings, while separating themselves from the “Big Banks”. Never mind they are one; their marketing presents them otherwise. And it is reallygood. Ally takes a similar approach, setting themselves apart from the “Big Bankers” who don’t care about you while making billions off your money.
More than a third of Americans are members of credit unions. Yet they have only 7% market share. That’s an enormous gap. And it won’t be solved by saying how low your rates are or that you give back. It’s providing reassurance that people can join, money can be accessed anywhere, and then empowering each CU to go deep on mission.
The big banks are better at differentiating themselves from “The Big Banks” than credit unions. This ICU Day, let’s open peoples’ eyes to credit unions by showing how they make each community better. And how, if you join (because you can!), you can both reap the benefits and help inspire growth as well.
That’s a platinum lining everyone can enjoy!
Happy International Credit Union Day!