Open your eyes, credit unions!

Last week at the closing day of the GAC, Teresa Freeborn, CEO of Xceed CU and Chairman of the Creating Awareness Advisory Group unveiled the new credit union national brand campaign.

I’ve been around a long time so I’ve seen many attempts at this beast. A national brand that can unify the credit union industry and raise awareness of our difference. I was a bit skeptical going in – after all, I’ve been called a “Brand Guru” and sometimes a “Brand Nazi” so my antennas were up. I have to say from a brand perspective they ticked all my boxes and get an A plus. There was tons of research, focus group after focus group, clearly got that the target audience HAS to be young (lest we died of old age) and visually it’s stunning.

When they rolled the much anticipated video the main message was this:

Everything we make, goes back to our owners. Higher rates on savings, lower rates on loans, good honest advice. Small, but big. We’ll help you get there quicker. Your Fantastic Future Faster.

David Martin from Brand Cap, the agency that worked up this creative said “People are aware of CUs – our challenge is consideration. Or re-consideration.”

Your Fantastic Future Faster, this is the mantra that was delivered. Or as I like to say, a brand filter, … and it’s good.

But here’s the rub. Can your credit union live up to this promise? Are you faster than the competition when it comes to answering the phone, replacing a compromised debit card, getting a mortgage loan? Will you even make a loan to someone with a credit score of zero? Also known as every potential member at age 18.

The problem, as I see it, is that our products are really the same. Our return to the member is not big enough to motivate people to go through the pain of moving their checking account. If we could figure out a way to lessen THAT pain (and don’t tell me you have a switch kit) we would win.

Then Ed Bolting from Brand Cap with his sexy British accent took the stage to unveil the creative. Again lots of lots of research went into coming up with the tagline, which is “Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union.” CUNA had a great booth at the entrance of the vendor area where a professional photographer was there to take pictures of attendees “opening their eyes.” I even got in line to participate. It’s very clever and really fresh looking.

The presentation mentioned several times that members need to RE-consider a credit union. Their research showed that people know about us (wow – finally after over 100 years) but still don’t see us as a viable option.

We need to change that. And only way we can is to work together, not just with the brand campaign, but cooperate as a movement to create a real differentiator. I always felt that shared branching could have been that. Can you imagine if we could say today that every single branch and ATM in America can serve any credit union member? Boom. Mic drop. Game over. Banks could not compete with that. And since convenience is often still mentioned as the reason a potential member chooses a big bank over a credit union, that argument is no longer relevant.

We have a second chance to get it right. With a new CUSO that started with CUNA, MWCUA and Best Innovation Group. It’s called CULedger and their break-out session at the GAC was standing room only. You may have already heard about it but don’t quite understand it.

I attended one of their investor meetings a few months ago and going in I have to admit I knew very little about blockchain technology, except it had something to do with Bitcoin which seems like smoke and mirrors to me. Boy was I wrong.  Get blockchain’s image out of your head and picture a honeypot filled with the identity of millions of our members. Put Winnie the Pooh with his hand in it if you must, makes it more fun. Honeypot is a phrase I learned that illustrates what is wrong with the current way we “protect” our identity, our passwords, our debit card numbers. It’s in one giant honeypot. It’s far too tempting because all I must do to breach it … is break it, which fraudsters do on a daily basis.  

Now picture the world’s largest safety deposit box vault with thousands and thousands of tiny drawers. All of the data is distributed evenly so that it basically has to match to stay “balanced.” If information enters even one of those boxes does not match, that interaction or transaction is denied. That’s the blockchain security that is CULedger and the information in that box is your identity. CULedger’s technology allows me to know and trust an interaction is truly righteous.   CULedger greatly improves on MFA or 2FA that fraudsters are finding ways to hack. Finally, there can be real trust that, as a credit union, you know who I am as a member, and I, as a member, know who you are as a credit union, almost instantaneously.

During GAC, CULedger announced MyCUID, a new consumer-focused global digital identity solution currently under development. With MyCUID, credit union members can confidently protect themselves from financial fraud and identity theft, while enriching the trusted relationships members have with their credit unions. With the help of Evernym’s Sovrin Identity Network, MyCUID uses a person-to-person network to give credit union members a lifetime portable digital identity that does not depend on any central authority and can never be taken away. By enabling selective disclosure, identity owners can control how much data is shared.

The only way this becomes a global initiative is for your credit union to engage either as an owner/investor or a user as the network is developed.  Their initial pilot is with call centers. It’s kind of funny when I call my credit union and they ask me a series of questions to confirm my identity. First of all I’m answering them out loud and many times I’m in public. Secondly I’m pretty sure my sister could commit fraud with my “security questions.” It’s ridiculous when you think about it.  Now we can fix it and fix it globally. CULedger is already working with Canadian credit unions and has an international partnership with the World Council of Credit Unions.

So Open Your Eyes Credit Unions – this is the “brand campaign” that makes the other one really work.

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: Details

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