Credit unions in the Twilight Zone 3: The tools of conquest

Years ago when I was getting into the credit union industry one of the first blogs I wrote was based on a Twilight Zone episode. Fast forward to 2014. The thoughts from that post are even more relevant today. So I replay it for you in the third edition of Credit Unions in the Twilight Zone.

First, picture this scene in black and white in your mind:

Maple Street, somewhere in the USA.  The block is full of children playing and adults talking.  All of the sudden a shadow passes over, accompanied by a flash of light, with a bizarre sound. The residents soon discover that their electricity has been cut off. After several people gather in the street to discuss the matter, one volunteers to walk out of the neighborhood to discover the extent of the problem. He wants to check the power station. Another person tries to go into town but Tommy, a boy from the neighborhood, tells him not to leave the street. The boy has read a story of an alien invasion causing similar phenomena, and he predicts that the intruders will not allow the man to leave. Tommy explains that in the story the invaders are living as a family that appears human.  He adds that the power outage is meant to isolate and contain the area.

Enter a street full of paranoid humans lacking facts, armed only with sci-fi stories and ballpark guesses as to what exactly has happened. Imaginations run wild, as each tries to figure out which of their neighbors are the aliens. Fingers begin pointing until mass chaos ensues.

The plot of the story is so simple that even a 7th grader was able to capture the meaning in just a few words: I think it’s how people are so insecure with each other and so quick to turn on each other just for a scapegoat.

Replace Maple Street with your credit union. Swap the neighbors with your co-workers, leaders, and board.  It becomes your very own Twilight Zone episode, full of insecure folks looking for a scapegoat to blame their troubles on.

Q: Why are loans down?

A: Marketing isn’t doing their job.


Q: Why are we behind membership goals?

A: The board is too old fashioned and won’t change X.


Q: Why is income down?

A: If only NCUA would stop taking our money…


The questions above are real, and so are the answers. However, the answers are wrong.

–          Loans are down because you can’t answer the simple question as to WHY consumers should choose your credit union over the myriad of other choices they have.

–          New members aren’t knocking down your doors because you’re not giving them a reason to leave their current banking relationship. Your story is your latest auto loan rate and the often empty promise of better service.

–          Income is down because you’re not making loans and growing members.

“But you don’t know my particular situation.” You’re right. But I do know that if you took some time to craft the story of your credit union, you would have a much better chance of turning things around. Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” Your rate is logical, but your story is emotional. Understand that you cannot easily immediately change your board, you most likely cannot ditch the NCUA for a private insurer very easily, and your marketing folks need better ammunition than a rate that’s .25% lower than your competition.

Rod Serling ended the episode with these words: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own.”

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details