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Gaming & Your Credit Union

First version published on CUInsight.com. 2019 (current) version is CU Geek exclusive.

“Savings aren’t a game!” Except when it is.

Gaming Our Money Challenges

In many ways, the opening quote is correct. Money is an important topic for everyone. Plus, we know too many Americans don’t have adequate savings (I mean $400 or less) for a range of reasons.

So isn’t it a bit improper to compare their situation with Mario Kart (N64 version, obviously the best)?. But what if you did treat it like a game? Or, at least, make learning about it and how to escape the cycle feel like a game.

What is Gamification?

What I described above isn’t a new concept. Known as “gamification”, the idea is that by making an activity feel like a game rather than a chore, users are more likely to participate. When given the choice between fun and boring, which would you rather do?

An article by The Financial Brand dives deep into this topic.

Gamification in Sport and Banking

Think of going for a run. Many people don’t enjoy putting feet to pavement and will make any excuse to avoid it. But what if you were part of an adventure and needed to outrun a hoard of zombies? Their rotted fingers are nearly scraping your back…pick up the pace!

Come to think of it, I’ve written about this before. Here. And here.

Plus, that pennies post? It discussed a marketing campaign Ally bank put on across the country. Check it out, because it’s way cool. Though perhaps not as awesome as their latest endeavor. Yes, you may pass go and collect $200.

Oh, and that “don’t get eaten by zombies” running inspiration app? It exists, by the way. It’s called Running with Zombies. I don’t use it, because everyone knows the best way to deal with them is a shotgun, shovel, and old records. Bonus points if you got that reference (no, I’m not a Walking Dead fan).

Gamification Tips You Can Do Today

So instead, as the previous post discussed, of puzzling your members through a convoluted rewards program or other service, get them in the game! Where to start?

You already reframed their credit union relationship as game levels, right? Perfect, because that is a great opportunity to have virtual and real-world badges, rewards, and accomplishments. Make sure they have value, otherwise it’s just a hollow effort. And remember, value could mean, “look at my Instagram post here…this is so awesome!”

Ok, so you’ve taken the first gamification step, and members show their interest in person and across social media. If you can connect this with more traditional account rewards, do that, too.

What next?

For this, I’d suggest a brain storm session with your team. And a copy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Why this game? Because it’s the best puzzle adventure/level growth game ever made. Also, your staff will have fun.

And the N64 will probably remain in your branch. Tell me that won’t encourage people to stick around.

Using Big Boring Data For Appealing Awesome Games

How do you gamify your credit union without it being tacky or feeling like an afterthought? That is a great question. And it brings us to (cue deep announcer voice): Big Data!

Yep, that essential concept emerges again. Now, it’s going to help empower your members with useful analysis of their own data. Combine the appeal of sports stats (as in, their own financial relationship’s metrics) with playing a video game (as in, progressing through towards goals).

Hey, wait a minute! This is what Ally did with their Monopoly campaign! And they also encouraged “players” (of which nearly half became prospects for a banking relationship) to help support local charitable efforts. Sounds very “people helping people” to me.

Data Precautions

Turns out, taking big pools of data and applying it to all your members doesn’t work. It has to be their own data, not estimated metrics. A study found that some Fitbit (now a Google company) users actually gained weight while using the activity trackers. What? Why? How?

It’s believed that participants trusted the averaged metrics so strongly that they just didn’t listen to their bodies. If you provide useful data, useful suggestions can follow, ending with beneficial results.

Gamification For Everyone’s Success

Look at that. Once again, we come around to the inescapable conclusion: When you frame your services around the specific needs of your members, engagement, excitement, and loyalty will increase.

And we all get to enjoy some fabulous classic games. What are you waiting for? Go smash some pots and collect your rupees!

Image credit: http://www.digitallydownloaded.net/2012/05/review-mario-kart-64-wii-virtual.html

Are You A Dumb Pipe? (Part 1)

Article updated 11/30/21, then 10/27/22, because Google Plex came, then didn’t appear, then was gone. But meanwhile, other companies are still building tomorrow’s financial service platforms today, like Apple and their Apple Card. Did you know it’s Goldman Sachs’ largest consumer banking product?

Are dark days ahead for credit unions? I hope not. Changing my name will be a real pain.

You’ve heard the rumblings. “Credit unions don’t adopt modern technology, so Millenials will abandon them.” “Traditional financial institutions are the analog film of our time.”

Just as computers did not herald the end of paper, mobile and other technologies will not doom the bank.

There is another possibility, however, and the term originates as a descriptor of the telecom industry as content providers (Netflix, YouTube, etc.) grew in leaps and bounds. They did not want to be stuck delivering only the signal, but to get a piece of the action.

To be an active participant, instead of…A Dumb Pipe.

Where’s Your Member?

I am a member of a credit union (duh), but I’ll be honest: I use their app solely for deposits. All my other financial management, from account balances to budgeting, is managed elsewhere.

I use a platform called Mint, though there are others delivering a similar service. In one place, I can see (but not change) my entire financial life and how trends, budgets, and savings coexist.

Do I want to know how much I’ve dedicated towards taxes this year? Easy. What is my total debt to income ratio? Done. Compared to the six-month period prior? Still not a challenge.

Mint is owned by a little company called Intuit. I bet you’ve heard of them. TurboTax? Yep. QuickBooks? Them too. Even Credit Karma. And now, MailChimp. Their goal is to create a “global technology platform” to foster “complete financial confidence”.

In other words, they’re building the user interfaces that people actually use. While your systems are only connected through APIs in the background. Which isn’t great for your brand recognition. It makes your institution a dumb bank.

That’s a Mighty Fine Safe You’ve Got There

Imagine a future where all your members want from you is a place to hold their money, a big safe. All member-facing products and services are managed by other companies.

Not only do you rarely become front stage for your members (unless something goes wrong), you have few opportunities to discuss the programs which support the institution. Guess someone else will reap the profits of your debit cards.

Or, at minimum, you’re getting all those “free” interchange revenues, but none will ever consider you for a loan. Mostly because they don’t even know they’re a member.

Too bad Google Plex never happened. After Ron Shevlin posted about it, I shared my thoughts that Google simply ditches products because it’s what they do. That comment is one of the top-rated in his expansive thread.

It’s also that the division lost most of their team, had no direction, and was destined to fail.

Too bad, as it could have addressed some of my concerns (Each word is a separate link! I’ve mentioned it a LOT.) with your costs being borne by those least able to pay.

Opportunities in the Challenges

But all is not darkness ahead! This is an important topic, so to ensure I’m covering it sufficiently, the discussion is separated into three parts. Next post, we look at new technologies and strategies in the financial services industry.

We will work together to figure out how you can become a leader through partnerships and smart growth, because “dumb” and “credit unions” should not be uttered in the same sentence.

The final discussion addresses the challenges of adopting new tech and avoiding alienation of your comfortable members; is there a way to be future-ready while preserving your core?  That’s a question for another post.

Be sure to subscribe to the Credit Union Geek (on your right) so you don’t miss anything!

Be Where Your Members Are

For the month of June, all posts will pertain to your website and how it can serve as springboard for your growth. Don’t underestimate this first impression!

“Look, there in the mural, just above the dragonfly! The wings form the Mickey ears!”

My Disney trips have always been unique. Since a young age, I was one of the Hidden Mickey hunters. If the term is new to you, that’s alright; you now count as “nearly everyone”. In a clever choice of design, Disney Imagineers added tiny Mickey Mouse ears (the three circles) into various attractions. This was part of the culture since the earliest parks, so if you look closely, every ride has at least one Hidden Mickey to find. Feel free to ask about my favorites. Right now, I’m particularly fond of the Conservation Station mural in Animal Kingdom (I’ve never seen so many in one place!).

Disney has never confirmed the existence of these Hidden Mickeys, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. They don’t have to; I know they exist. In fact, an entire cottage industry of websites and books devoted to cataloging every last one speaks for itself. I was giddy when, on this past visit, while searching for a few myself, I saw a fellow couple hunting down their own. Instant bond formed. We identified a few Mickeys together, then parted ways to resume our independent journeys.

Hidden Mickeys add a layer of excitement to the parks. It’s a little thing only a small group of us recognize. Sure, millions of people pass through Spaceship Earth, but how many notice the too-perfectly-arranged coffee stains on the 1800s desk? I’ve seen it dozens of times, yet still make a point to identify it every visit. Disney and I have a special bond; just a few more of her secrets are visible.

How about your members? Most of them likely pass through your website with nary a glance at anything but that Log In To Home Banking link. Preliminary surveys of credit unions just like yours say over 90% of site visitors do nothing but log in. And you have that whole site!

Connect with members where they are. Disney put some of their Hidden Mickeys on the lines, a place you may find yourself often. Why not represent your priority services behind the log-in, along with their home banking? Just a simple banner, nothing intrusive.

I go on excursions to find new Hidden Mickeys and often find new parts of the theme park or ride I would not have seen otherwise. Give your members a reason to explore your website! A small giveaway based on collecting scavenger hunt answers throughout your site will promote new voyages. Integrate your social media team; it’s one thing to spread a hashtag on the wider Internet, another to guide members through your own products and services.

Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing about members discussing their latest Hidden CU Clues in the lobby!

Image: Me at Country Bear Jamboree, Magic Kingdom (I looked for Hidden Mickeys there too!)

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