THINK Big

Three days of inspiration, innovation, and evolution at Co-Op’s THINK 14 conference.

Co-Op hosted its annual THINK conference this week in New Orleans, and like its predecessors, THINK 14 has delivered three days of speakers and events that offer a fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities the credit union industry faces every day. The conference has featured thought-provoking speakers from other industries such as design, wine making, and fundraising as well as an announcement of a new initiative called Empowering People. Amplifying Dreams. The initiative, which you can learn more about at co-opcreditunions.org, includes a professionally produced video that credit unions can brand and use on their own sites and social media channels, in their communities, and on television.

But back to the speakers. They offered us the chance to really think BIG, think BOLD about the industry…but I’m going to need Memorial Day Weekend to really synthesize what I heard on a strategic level. I could write a book, and will definitely write an entire Callahan Report, about what I’ve experienced over the past 72 hours. In the interim, I’ll try to boil down a couple of the great lessons and takeaways into bite-sized bits for a quick read.

THINK 14 Highlights

  • Debbie Millman writer, educator, brand consultant, etc. offered a thought-provoking talk on the 5 Waves of Branding. The key take-away for credit unions is that the industry is past the experiential branding typical of wave 4 companies, think Nordstrom and Starbucks, and has moved on to become a connector that is typical of wave 5 brands. These are brands like Facebook and Twitter that have the ability to create mutual experiences. Wave 5 companies must also face the question from their consumers: What does this brand do for me? Companies like Amazon and Zappos have answered that question in notable ways.
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    CO-OP hired an illustrator to document the presentations while the speakers were on stage.
  • Welby Altidor executive create director of creations at Cirque du Soleil offered one lesson that really resonated to me: The need to choreograph feedback. You need the right people to hear and process your feedback it to make it useful; otherwise, hard-to-hear-but-important feedback can just create discouragement. And words matter. Even just chaning a feedback session to a Jam session made the give and take easier to process.
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    CO-OP hired an illustrator to document the presentations while the speakers were on stage.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk entrepreneur, investor, wine maker held nothing back. According to Vaynerchuk, credit unions are doing everything wrong and really dropped the ball by not capitalizing on Bank Transfer Day. Now, that window of opportunity is closing as banks rebuild their reputation. And he used some salty language to make sure we really heard his message! Two tactical takeaways for credit unions: 1) for three years his online wine retailer company called half its new customers after their first order and left a 40-second voicemail that said, Thank you for ordering from Wine Library, hope you enjoy your order. Customers that received the call spent 8,000% (!) more than those that did not. That 40-second up-front thank you generated a LOT of business. Now, instead of a defensive customer service department he has an offensive thank you department. I guarantee that at least 5 credit union customer service departments are renamed next week! 2) He repeatedly hammered on data data data and said to spend where it makes the most sense because it’s all about making the business grow.
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    CO-OP hired an illustrator to document the presentations while the speakers were on stage.
  • Randi Zuckerbergfounder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, early executive at Facebook, and sister of Mark Zuckerberg talked about the need to engage on all social media channels. She’d done a lot of credit union research and used them in some of her examples. She also talked about the importance of adapting to a new kind of worker: the entre ployee (entrepreneur + employee). These employees are exploring other pursuits and innovating on the job. They can be a great asset. She invited attendees and others to write on personal finance for her blog. One ideak to surface new ideas that really resonated with the credit union audience was the concept of a hackathon. Started by coders, this word is now used to describe almost any free form, intense (often overnight), and bottom-up method of idea creation.
  • Daria Musksinger, songwriter, CO-OP spokesperson made a surprise appearance as a Day 2 morning presenter. Musk built fame using Google+ to live stream concerts from her living room. She performed the same night before at the House of Blues, marking the first Google Hangout event to take place at a House of Blues. She’s an incredibly authentic and articulate person who works with large companies on their social media strategy and other ventures all while being her own indie music sensation.
  • Kate Featherexecutive vice president of PeopleMetrics kicked off the afternoon’s theme of Rethinking the Business Modelwith the key message: Customer Service Customer Experience. Her analogy? Customer service is the net in a trapeze act if you have to use it, something went wrong.
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    CO-OP hired an illustrator to document the presentations while the speakers were on stage.
  • Ivan Askwith the guy behind the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign offered a message about customer versus fan and challenged credit unions to really understand fandom. Fans find a way to get people who are ignoring you to pay attention. Credit unions are a much better option for financial services, so why do Americans ignore us? Do we need to pay better attention and build our fan base rather than our member base? His message was truly inspiring. Ask yourself: If your credit union went away tomorrow, would your fans demand that you come back?
    blog_askwith

    CO-OP hired an illustrator to document the presentations while the speakers were on stage.
  • We ended the day with a parade through the French Quarter complete with police escort and concert at the House of Blues New Orleans. No credit union takeaways, but don’t you wish you were here?
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THINK 14: Final Thoughts

What COOP is doing to reach and engage Gen Y could be a tipping point, but we as an industry need to get our heads out of the sand and start living really living the credit union promise. Some credit unions do that. Some don’t. We need to be willing to call that out, and willing to acknowledge when we get called out, to ensure we all live to the highest standards. We have a business model that puts members first. No one can compete with. But we actually have to put members first and fall back on better rates to save us.

That’s enough of the soup box, but that’s what this conference inspires. See you May 5-8, 2015, for Think 15 in Colorado Springs, CO.

May 23, 2014

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