It’s Time To Make Your Credit Union A Lifestyle Brand

Modern marketing connects on values, not stuff. Credit unions can do that by telling their story better.

How well-positioned is your credit union to help members lead more secure and, presumably, better-funded, lives? Quite well, right? But how well are you placing your members at the center of your brand?

Companies nowadays frame their customer relationships as something beyond just transactional. Credit union competitors certainly do. With tag lines like, A finance company that can help you get ahead, SoFi is doing it.And if fintechs are able to get their own bank charter, it could take competition to a whole new level.

In today’s business environment, questions about framing and branding are neither rhetorical nor merely academic.


According to the New York Times article titled When Is A Burrito More Than Just A Burrito?, Brands have long tried to persuade people that they represent something larger than the mere goods they sell. Now, all kinds of companies are trying the strategy of using emotion and shared values’ to build relationships with consumers and to sell them more stuff.

The stuff credit unions sell is not a burrito or a pair of jeans. You know that. I know that. But, do the American people know that? How well are you telling the credit union’s story, connecting its values to the people you’re trying to attract and serve?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in the marketplace. For marketers, it’s easy to get swept up in the shiny sell, like higher rates on CDs or lower rates on car loans. Unfortunately, that’s not going to differentiate credit unions in the marketplace.

You’re not just advertising a product you’re marketing the credit union as an experience, as a way to pursue a lifestyle that also speaks to a member’s values.

Chipotle aims to make its brand stand out by transcending the burrito and becoming a lifestyle brand. To do that, it’s telling a story that’s deeper than food.

For credit unions, they just might have the greatest marketplace story of all time to tell. Look at what credit unions do. They offer financial services. Sure. But dig deeper.

Credit unions fund homes for people to live in, to raise families in, and to send kids to school from.

Credit unions answer to member-owners, not corporate giants that squeeze every dime out of consumers.

Credit unions empower communities well banked and underbanked alike and serve those communities one worker, one household at a time.

That’s what credit unions do. It’s what they’ve always done. It’s why they were created.

Organizations like Peloton (left) and Airbnb (right) successfully tap their marketing into consumer lifestyles.

These are the kinds of real values that consumers recognize, and the movement needs to do a better job of telling that story. You’re not just advertising a product you’re marketing the credit union as an experience, as a way to pursue a lifestyle that also speaks to a member’s values.

Organizations that speak to lifestyle include Airbnb and Peloton. The former is moving beyond connecting travelers with short-term rentals into connecting visitors with local experiences. And the latter is more than an piece of fitness equipment it’s a way for strong, independent women to work out at home while connecting with thousands of like-minded individuals doing the same thing at the same time.

Credit unions can tap into lifestyle, too. Many already are.

Navy Federal’s Pomeranian commercial doesn’t mention rates or terms.

Navy Federal’s ads don’t focus on rates and terms. They’re about an Army dad in full camouflage hiding in the vegetable patch only to be discovered by his delighted children. Or a big, tough, deep-voiced Marine and his wife’s Pomeranian in their new pickup truck.

Spire’ Driven by Midwest Values campaign aims to improve lives and help members achieve financial goals.

Our members are the mission. That’s a motto that speaks to values, connecting military and domestic life. That’s Navy Federal putting members at the center of its brand.

Another good example is Spire Credit Union and its Driven by Midwest Values campaign. Check out its YouTube channel, which stars an animated president/CEO Dan Stoltz and Archie, SPIRE’s 1952 Ford pickup, meeting Minnesotans.

Spire’s goal is clear: Our mission is to improve lives and help you achieve all of your financial goals. We want to be there for you on the big days, and every day in between.

Such a statement would likely resonate with your members, too. But you have to show members why you’re more than a financial institution. You have to tell your story and put your members right there in the middle of it.

This article appeared in Credit Union Strategy & Performance. Read More Today.

August 13, 2018

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