Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: strategy (page 1 of 8)

Picking Up Pennies For Marketing?

When was the last time you came up with a truly unique marketing effort?

Let’s back up a bit. Your credit union is always looking for new creatives to promote various services. Really, how many ways can you suggest opening a checking account? (Turns out, a lot) But most of these ideas are just new copy and graphics on the same concept. I get it. I’ve even done it. (Yes, your trusty Credit Union Geek was a marketing copywriter for local credit unions!)

In addition to you coming up with these campaigns, every other credit union was doing the same thing. That’s a lot of ways to recommend a particular service! How can you stand out?

Why don’t we use a current example and analyze it for the “secret sauce”?

Ally Bank hit a grand slam on their latest marketing effort. Playing off the well-known idea of a “lucky penny”, they made just a few of them highly desirable. The bank placed 100 Ally-branded “pennies” on the ground in large cities. If you find one of their coins, follow the instructions on it and get rewarded with $1,000. Now that’s a lucky penny!

Let’s look at what was involved in making this Lucky Penny campaign happen. They commissioned 100 copper coins. Then they built a website. It has details on the program, a promo video, cool penny facts, and a redemption portal. And then they made sure to talk about it like crazy on their social media (with hints on where to find them based on local landmarks). Don’t forget giving everyone a hashtag to use. That’s it.

For an institution like Ally, this campaign cost less than a drop in the bucket. But the rewards have been enormous. Major media outlets covered the promotion, linking to their site and highlighting the social media posts (I’m sure some of that is credit to a great PR team). Even Facebook’s automated Trending feature highlighted the bank (which is based on the number of users talking about it). They put very little, respectively, into keeping the Lucky Penny talk flowing.

Sorry, did I say unique above? My company has done unique many, many times. It doesn’t always pay off. The better approach is to embrace something everyone intuitively knows, then tweak a small part. Like the yogurt company, Dannon. They aligned with the NFL to “find the golden bongo” and win a prize. Remember Charlie and his Golden Ticket? Are these promotions really so different?

What do you think…could your credit union have built these campaigns? I think so. Maybe you would have had only 5 Lucky Pennies, or the same number, but worth $100 instead. Scale the marketing investment to your requirements. Remember, this could also help with your mission to encourage savings (and opening up accounts with you). Anytime you engage the community, issue press releases (or better yet, develop relationships with local media) to get news coverage.

I’m a huge fan of scavenger hunt concepts. With a prize worth putting some time into, almost anyone will take notice. In a previous business, we developed plans for a community-wide volunteering initiative. Each day for a month, we would highlight and encourage volunteer support of a different local charity. There would be surprise rewards (local businesses sponsoring) if you showed up at said non-profit. Am I giving you any ideas?

Your marketing is getting repetitive. It may work to some extent, but if you want to make a mark in the communities you serve, get them excited. And you don’t need to spend your entire marketing budget to do so.

Please share some marketing initiatives you ran which really got your membership buzzing (and tweeting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming)!

Pictures Put Your Brain On Turbo

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but recent research suggests it could be much, much more. Which is more appetizing? A 50-word description of a scrumptious fudge brownie or…:

Fudge Brownies

Dessert, anyone?

Restaurants have known this simple fact for years. Show rather than tell. We don’t eat words! Even if you get 1,000 to a picture.

But what about for marketing? The key is to get people to remember and act upon your strategy. Unless you’re a very different credit union, offerings don’t normally include food service. So what good are pictures? A well-placed picture tells your story in a way words cannot. Or, more accurately, a picture entices the viewer to remember far better than mere words.

Recent research shows good visuals put your brain on turbo. And not just a little bit. Up to 60,000 times faster. That’s right, appropriate imagery triggers memory, emotions, and decision-making up to 60,000 times faster than text alone. And the coolest part? The study wasn’t just looking at photos of favorite entrees. It highlighted the entire idea of visuals.

What do I mean? That’s a great question. We have already established how photos bring a tale to life. No one wants to read a report on your favorite vacation pictures without seeing any! Be honest: When you’re browsing your Facebook News Feed, do you look for the longest text post you can find, or slow down when you get to shared photos and videos of vacations, pets, kids, etc.?

Does that mean littering your website, branch, and marketing materials with photo upon photo? Please don’t. Instead, it supports the idea of telling a story with every aspect of your presentation. One of my favorite credit union websites does this to great success. Heritage Grove CU is situated in the Pacific Northwest. It’s an area built around a love of the outdoors. Of course, the weather and terrain suits this mentality. Be it a relaxing mountain drive, a slow walk, trail running, or any number of activities (remember that post about the bicycle-loan program?), members of Heritage Grove experience plenty of Mother Nature’s air conditioning.

Heritage Grove CU

As a result, their site is built to visually express this mentality. Beyond pictures, the entire experience exudes adventure. What about your website? Is it replicating a bank, or does the visual feel match your mission? This consideration can mean the difference between an engaged member and one which just pays the bills.

So we’ve established that pictures are an effective means to tell a story in an engaging way. Plus, we learned that proper visual design can make your brain work up to 60,000x faster. And this Floridian thought Cuban coffee was potent!

Cuban Coffee Shots

Disclosure: Heritage Grove CU is a client of my company. I receive no compensation for their inclusion.

Image credits:
Flickr: /photos/[email protected]/4282401037

It’s A Party, But Who’s Invited?

Originally published on

Is your social media presence harming your image? More at 11.

Oh yes, folks. We’re talking social media. Again. In more than 140 characters. That’s a Twitter reference for those of you preferring to communicate in more traditional methods. A practice which, sadly, appears to be gaining more aspects of “web-speak” every day. No I will not abandon my capitalized letters and appropriate use of a semicolon!

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, social media and its potential impacts on your credit union.

When it comes to communicating with your members on account information, what’s your preferred method? Phone, in-person, e-mail, or traditional mail? Like Luke in Return of the Jedi, you may not be aware that…”there is another (Skywalker).” Social media can be an alternative for those who prefer it. I’m not suggesting you handle money transfers and loan applications through Twitter (yet, seriously), but there are a number of markets taking advantage of the technology. One which has done an incredible job is the airline industry. Consider this: I was on a JetBlue flight with WiFi and tweeted that my seat’s headphone jack didn’t work. As a result, I could not watch the in-flight TV or listen to SiriusXM. Within a minute, their official support account answered me and asked to continue the conversation in a DM (Direct Message: a private chat, similar to a text message). I obliged and was then prompted by the agent to provide my name and confirmation number. After a few minute exchange (while still sitting in the seat, mind you), they issued a courtesy credit for the inconvenience on my account. Resolved at 35,000 feet.

Another time, and this one pains me to admit, I had issues with my Comcast internet service. I tweeted as such, @ mentioning Comcast (using LTE mobile data when needed). Within a matter of minutes, an agent from their official support account got in touch. They too DMed me requesting my account #. “Woah!” you say. Yes, they deem the Direct Message feature of Twitter to be secure enough to transfer most customer information (most social media platforms also use a Verified Account badge to ensure you’re communicating with the “real thing”). After a few messages back and forth, they identified the issue and resolved it. Do you realize what that meant? I didn’t have to be on the phone with them at all!

I enjoy reading tweets from many credit unions. If you’re one of them, congratulations for sharing valuable information with your members and the world at large. If you haven’t yet joined, that’s ok. You’re not alone. And when you’re ready, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to go at it in the best way possible!

But as much as it can help your institution, there are risks involved. We’re not talking poor underwriting standards causing an implosion of your debt ratios. We’re talking something far more important…your image (social media is much like Hollywood in that respect). Whether you decide to go in-house or a 3rd-party, the rules are the same. Most of the best practices involve just being rational. Don’t share private member information, don’t post things which can be interpreted as insulting, etc. If you wouldn’t send it to your mom, don’t hit Tweet.

Of course, there’s always the risk at being caught up in something which has errors you missed. For example, a few weeks ago, a tweet was shared by Co-Op Credit Unions (@innovatebanking) discussing strategies to increase your savings. Seems to fit, right? Unfortunately, their tweet (since corrected) read, “How to save $100,000 in a year. (link to article)” Wow! I need to know this…now! Not surprisingly, the post was incorrect. Rather, the link described ways the average American can save $10,000 in a year. “What’s an extra 0?” As a financial institution, you should know the answer to that question…a mistake you cannot make. The craziest part? This tweet has 18 retweets (users who shared it to their followers) and 14 likes, yet my reply was the only one calling out the error. Please never be “that guy (or gal)” who retweets or likes something with such blatant errors! It can tarnish your own brand. How? Consider it from your member’s perspective: “How can I believe the claims my credit union makes when they didn’t even bother to check an obvious number error in something they shared, ie. represented as their own?

UPDATE: Co-Op Credit Unions has issued a corrected tweet, fixing the typo. And this is what makes all the difference, because…Generation Z (your youngest and future members) see social media as a way of getting information, not just a tool to communicate with friends. If your information is wrong, how will they regard your ability to help their financial situation?

UPDATE 2: It happened again. During today’s #NCUAChat (great Twitter discussion), the NCUA (under their username @MyCUgov) shared a graphic with 3 tips for financial safety online. A good thing. Except their graphic was so riddled with typos, spelling errors, and bad information that it could be deemed more harmful than good. Unless they were aiming to be ironic – “See, this is the kind of thing we want members to look out for!” Though government agencies aren’t often ironic. And, surprise! Many wonderful people and groups shared it to their own followers. Did anyone read it first? (Probably not…a previous post discusses how liking or sharing something means you’re less likely to read it) Once again, don’t be those people! Share with care!

So, a review:

  • Social media is now being used as an effective customer support tool for industries with some of the poorest records in the category. Yet they make it work. How is your credit union embracing this new opportunity? Perhaps a mention of the strategy during longer hold times or on your support/contact page. What do you need to do to balance security requirements with member convenience?
  • A new outreach venue offers massive opportunities, but can also hide unique risks. Is your in-house or outsourced team on the same page, aware of credit union strategy (yes, include them in your planning meetings)? Are they trained to catch typos and other errors, politely pointing them out or editing after discovered?

Your social media feed is unlikely to be featured on the 11 o’clock news, but, if it is (congratulations to your marketing team), make sure it’s for the reasons you want!

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