Norman Rockwell never really showed us America. He painted America as it might have been, could have been, should have been. His images left generations vividly remembering experiences they never had. Rockwell portrayed a wishful thinking America. Many believed it –in the same way many marketers portray a fictional credit union in their branding.
What promises are you making in your marketing? As a professional, you’re the Norman Rockwell of your brand. Each day you sit at the canvas with brush in hand and paint the picture that you want people to see. Each day you convey a beautiful scene of a dozen members joined by credit union staff and volunteers singing Kumbaya in the spirit of all things that are good about financial cooperatives.
But what would happen if Julian Assange showed up in your lobby with briefcases full of internal documents from planning sessions, staff meetings, and transcripts of dialogue from office banter? Would that line up with the touching Norman Rockwell style message of being a financial cooperative that cares? In many cases, I fear that would not be the case.
How many conversations and notes from planning sessions would be inwardly focused leading only to padding the bottom line? How many of those conversations would sound more like a bank than a financial cooperative? I used to think the larger the credit union, the more “bank-like” they are. I quickly found that to be false. There are some smaller credit unions that are pulling Wells Fargo-style antics. Many larger credit unions are passionate about serving the types of members that they were founded to serve decades ago. They follow the Louise Herring mindset of staying true to doing the work you were founded to do while using modern techniques to stay relevant.
According to a study by AdAge, consumers don’t trust your ads. In fact, fewer than 25% of U.S. online consumers trust ads in print publications, and the numbers are even worse for digital media. Despite these numbers being consistent for several years, ad campaigns get all the action because “hitting your numbers” means finding the right customer segment in the right channel with the right message. In 2017 though, even the most advanced campaigns won’t deliver competitive advantage anymore. Your competitors are as skilled as you – if not better – at the campaign game. You can keep painting your Normal Rockwell images of a zen-like financial cooperative, but if it’s nothing more than lipstick on the pig, consumers are smart enough today to see right through it.
Stop trying to cram the Norman Rockwell image down consumers’ throats. Change your focus from member acquisition to interaction management. Downplay media buys, focus on member experiences that will be memorable and shareable. Move from transactions to exchanges in value. Your members will spread the word and they will be believed.