Socially-Distanced Marketing, Strategy, and The Force

Tag: new ideas

Geeks Make the Impossible Possible

“If we can dream it, we can do it!”

Millions of people experienced those words as they rode my favorite theme park ride: Horizons in Epcot.

While the attraction is relegated to memory, pieces of it will always live on. If you are in line for Mission: Space, you may notice the badge in the center of the spinning station; it is the Horizons logo. In true Disney nerd fashion, I may or may not have the ride soundtrack and narration in my music library. And I ride Soarin’ for the orange scent borrowed from Horizons.

The ride was a unique challenge for the time. Imagineers were tasked with creating an experience tailored to the preferences and, well, dreams, of the guests. But each ride vehicle had to take the same track and finish at the exact same time. The idea was to provide this choice as the ride went on, not before boarding, so the attraction had to adapt to your whims.

How did the Imagineers make the impossible possible? Taking advice from their own attraction’s narration, they dreamed big. Upon Choosing your Tommorow Simulation (on a touchscreen appearing out of nowhere on the ride vehicle), you were sent into a future world of sights, movements, and sound. They decided on unifying the music and synchronizing the video experiences to each other. That way, everyone finished their own ride at the same time. No temporal distortions here.

This was in the 80s, when technologies powering your iPad were dreams seen only in sci-fi. But that’s what made it real, those dreams, fulfilled by a strong desire to make the future better.

Your credit unions began as a group of people pooling together their funds for the benefit of the community. What would they dream for tomorrow?

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse” – Walt Disney

Image from Horizons1 dedication to the Horizons attraction

R&D…Not Just for Tech Firms

When you hear R&D (Research and Development), what comes to mind? Lab coats? Wind tunnels? Endless lines of code?

Ask an engineer with one of many technology firms, and they’ll often give those responses. Good thing, too, since we all want our planes tested before flight, chemicals evaluated before addition to everyday products, and computers that don’t crash.

What if I asked your credit union loan manager? What’s R&D to them? If you’re like most institutions, it’s an acronym they don’t have time to review. The here and now creates value. A loan application just arrived; time to get them approved! Other leads on member vehicle purchases were collected; each member will be contacted for refinancing. Someone else just e-mailed for information on a HELOC. Now there’s an acronym that makes money!

It may not surprise you to learn Apple devoted $1.6 billion to research and development this past quarter. Not year, quarter. With a bank account like theirs, money does grow on trees, so while the rest of us might view a billion dollar investment as a few branches above our reach, that doesn’t mean a smaller scale program cannot hold value. Let’s look at it from a percentage, instead. Apple devoted approximately 4% of sales to their research and development initiatives.

How could you use 4% of your quarterly financials to improve your credit union, the member experience, and come up with new ways to do business? Remember, your competition is not other credit unions and banks; it’s the next new idea that is conceived and implemented so as to make what you do seem outdated and inefficient in comparison. Think about online loan applications or mobile check deposit. Did your team think of those before they were introduced en masse? Once they did become popular, how long until you were able to incorporate them into your own system? In terms of member revenue, how much do you feel was lost by taking more time?

And we’re not even talking about the next big idea. What is it? Ask your research and development team!

Bike Loans. No, not those bikes.

Thanks, cities of the Pacific Northwest. You keep making us look bad! First, you’re all about giving back, then you come around and show us all up with your fantastic bicycling culture. Last time I was on a bicycle was in my own community. I rode to our local Farmer’s Market (yeah, we’re cool too) to pick up some fresh produce. On the ride home, the tire went flat. No, both of them went flat. Suffice it to say, the bike doesn’t get used all that often. And it isn’t because of a lack of desire. Without hauling your bike on the back of the car, it’s difficult to ride anywhere in our area safely. Our bike lanes consist of a white line divided shoulder that looks about 12 inches wide. Naturally, this area intersects with vehicle turning lanes. Since I have a dark sense of humor, whenever I’m in a car which overlaps this “lane”, I comment how another cyclist was just hit by a car. It’s not funny by any means; it’s a sad commentary on our relationship with human-powered two-wheeled transportation. Down here in South Florida, it’s not uncommon to find people who feel bicycles should not even be on roads, and that they deserve to be run off them by aggressive drivers.

Because that makes sense. In a world with traffic jams, increasing fuel costs, carbon emissions, and obesity, we should obviously focus on demonizing the portion of the population which said: “No more”, and paved their own path on pedal power alone.

Commentary complete. Here’s how it connects with credit unions (because I can definitely geek out about the technology available for bicycle riding, but in the spirit of brevity, I won’t…today):

Those in the cycling community will read this and say, “well, yeah”, but for those of us not in the know, apparently a really nice bicycle is expensive. As in, not $75, expensive. Enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars on their bicycle.

A few credit unions in the Northwest, amongst some of the popular bicycle communities of Portland, Eugene, and Seattle, have taken steps to capitalize on this market. How, you ask? With bicycle loans! Just like a car, people want the best they can comfortably afford, and paying a small amount monthly enables many to get the premium ride they always wanted. The average loan amount is $1,500, which is small by most institution’s standards, but some borrowers are also becoming full-fledged members, creating relationships for years to come. Helping put more people on the bikes they love only grows the already large cycling community, enhancing the potential for their lending program’s expansion.

These credit unions are finding opportunities for growth while focusing on serving their members. The environmentalist in me loves it. The credit union agent is excited about a prospect of new lending products. The health nut sees healthier people from this endeavor. And of course, the geek in me wants to learn all about the tech specs on these custom-designed machines of human propulsion!

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