Open your eyes, CU leaders. CUNA’s Open Your Eyes campaign works!

Maybe you’ve heard of the credit union awareness campaign spearheaded by CUNA, Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union, and perhaps you’ve wondered how it’s going. After all, if you’re a credit union leader of a certain age, you’d probably never see the ads in their natural habitat — you’re not the target. But where the campaign is running, the campaign is working! 

That points directly to the research-based approach taken with this campaign and to the strength of the team running it. More than anything, though, it should be the impetus that any bystander credit unions need to get off the sidelines, get onboard and help us bring the campaign to more states.

In Minnesota and the Carolina’s — areas where the campaign has run the longest and most consistently – credit union ad recall and consumer consideration have already started trending in the right direction. Between 2019 and 2020, both saw a 5% increase in ad recall and a 5% increase in consideration. And since the campaign launched in January 2019, (initially in only 25 states) it’s driven five million consumers to the website in search of information about credit unions, three million of those in the seven months of July 2020 through January 2021. As one who rose through the marketing side of our business, I can tell you that’s a pretty impressive start for this type of category-building effort.

Now, having served on the Board of Directors for CUNA since 2018, I have an even clearer perspective on credit unions’ potential and power when we act as a unified group, which we can and should do with this campaign. Nearly 1,200 credit unions are currently supporting the campaign, and their leaders are to be applauded for their strategic vision. Building on our solid foundation, we launched in Montana in February and are carrying that momentum forward with fundraising now taking place for 2021 launches planned for Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Wyoming, New York and Louisiana.

But remember, our movement includes 5,000 credit unions in the United States. It’s just a travesty that we aren’t taking full advantage of our collective power in all 50 states to ensure our own futures and to safeguard the financial cooperative model for our members.

Let’s revisit some inconvenient truths. Credit union market share has remained stagnant at 7% for more than two decades. Today’s credit union members are older, somewhere between 47 and 55 years old, and they don’t borrow as frequently. The credit union category (that’s all of us) has a consideration problem — while most consumers have heard of a credit union, most won’t consider using us because they either think they can’t join or that it would be hard to access their money or do business with us. And one more statistic: a May 2020 Google survey of credit union members with children found that 60% of those children elected not to bank with their parents’ credit union.

Meanwhile, fintech’s like Marcus, SoFi, and N26 created market share. In 2019 alone, they made over 36% of the personal loans in the U.S. Any guesses who they’re targeting? Yep, Millennials. Those younger consumers (aka, our members’ children) who could become credit union members instead have FinTechs selling to them directly via digital advertising on their mobile devices.

We don’t have to let those competitors continue to eat our lunch.

Open Your Eyes is a strategic and cost-effective way to deploy the collective power of credit unions to fight back and reverse our stagnant market share, because it engages with young people on their terms, with marketing and messaging that speaks specifically to their needs and aligns with their values. Unlike most credit unions’ day-to-day marketing, it doesn’t promote loans, services or products. Rather, it builds the “credit union brand” — debunking the myths that keep people from considering credit unions.

The timing right now couldn’t be better. The pandemic has consumers across the board evaluating everything from how they eat to how they save. Millennials, in particular, have shown a clear preference for the bespoke and entrepreneurial enterprise, and our “mission over margin” and “people helping people” principles are major differentiators that make credit unions the obvious choice for young people.

But they’ll only make that choice if we can overcome the myths that hold us back. The Open Your Eyes campaign is our industry’s best shot at breaking through, growing market share for all of us, and ultimately securing the future of the credit union movement for generations to come. Now, with the campaign research we’re doing and the results we’re seeing, there are no viable excuses left. It’s time for every credit union leader to get off the sidelines and join this fight for our future. We can do this!

Teresa Freeborn

Teresa Freeborn

Teresa Freeborn is President of Kinecta Federal Credit Union, the 35th largest credit union in the nation with approximately $6 billion in assets and 300,000 members. A key policy ... Web: Details

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