Credit unions can create even more impact by leveraging big games

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, home of Superbowl LIII in 2019.

I’m a big fan of the Super Bowl. It’s such a tradition to enjoy the game with those we love, and there is something for everyone. In my house, my husband loves football, my daughter, MacKenzie, loves the music and showmanship of halftime, and I love the creative advertising. As a curious observer of humans, I’m intrigued by what sticks with MacKenzie as she watches the commercials. There are insights brimming through the commercials she repeats and even memorizes.

For those of you who lean into the creative advertising like I do, it’s fun to talk about the commercials. We all have opinions about what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes, the spots even start trends as we learn new slang and catchphrases that grow into our vocabulary, or the vocabulary of our kiddos. Remember, the “It’s a Tide ad” from 2018, or Budweiser’s “Dilly Dilly!” in 2017, or Jake from State Farm in 2011? I’m willing to bet that you just said the word “khakis” in your head.

What does any of this have to do with credit unions? Leveraging the Super Bowl can be part of the answer to a decades-long dilemma: Credit unions need to improve awareness and make it stick. CUNA’s Open Your Eyes campaign research shows we have to make changes to be considered by people looking for a financial institution. We must educate consumers that they’re able to join a credit union and overcome misconceptions like, “Accessing my money is more challenging at a credit union,” or “Credit unions are too small to meet my needs.

Of course, on its own, a Super Bowl ad cannot address all of those challenges. It can, within the context of a broader branding strategy be an important tactic. In order to take advantage of the visibility the Super Bowl creates and capture viewers’ attention, it must be done fearlessly. Our invitation to credit unions is: Go big. Do it now. Do it well.

A year ago, as part of our strategy to become a household name in the communities we serve, Canvas leapt at the opportunity to reach the broader Colorado audience. On February 3, 2019, we ran a local 30-second Super Bowl commercial.

Gasp! How could we do such a thing? Isn’t that expensive? How is generating a commercial within budget possible? It’s possible because our CEO, Todd Marksberry believes in telling our story. He and our entire leadership team trusted in our internal creative agency’s ability to build the creative in-house. They also knew what a commercial with that much exposure could mean to a growing brand.

In our commercial, we announced our new mortgage product: “100% Home.” Through our research and surveys, we heard our members’ voices. They shared that the idea of buying a home as a millennial felt like an unattainable goal in the hot Colorado housing market. For many, a large down payment prevented them from reaching their dream. In response, we developed our “100% Home” product which has a zero-down payment and 100% financing option to support qualified consumers who are stuck in the endless cycle of renting. Our marketing team wrote the script, storyboarded the shots, filmed the commercial, and ran the advertising, all with the goal of bringing awareness to our new mortgage product, ultimately helping more Coloradoans become homeowners.

And guess what? It worked.

By the end of 2019, we received 542 applications for 100% Home, totaling roughly $167,000,000 and closed on 28 of those loans for just shy of $10,000,000. Our purchase volume grew by 58% that year. And the Super Bowl commercial that started it all? It cost under $20,000 because we purchased the spot locally and managed all the creative in-house.

Beyond a reasonable investment, what made the entire campaign work so well was that it was grounded in the voice of our members. The investment in ongoing, member-fueled research infuses key insights into our organization that drive all of our decisions as a member-owned financial cooperative. These insights make our advertising much more impactful.

During this year’s Super Bowl, we did it again with a campaign built from our community and members’ feedback about wanting to work with financial institutions that make communication easy and engaging. Our message is simple: Canvas is B.S. Free. Being B.S. (a.k.a. Bank Slang) Free means we commit to eliminating confusing financial jargon from our language as an organization.

One or two Super Bowl commercials will not single-handedly solve our awareness and consideration-based challenges. If credit unions invest in these larger spots and do the creative well, kiddos will start memorizing our creative, more people will talk about credit unions, and ultimately, do more business with our organizations. Most importantly as more people use credit unions, our impact will grow. While it’s not a magic wand, when we tell our story well, the possibilities are endless.

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns

Tansley is a dynamic force of nature, fiercely crusading on behalf of all credit unions while tirelessly driving forward the brand image and family spirit of Canvas. She joined us ... Web: https://www.canvas.org Details

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