Rock & Roll for Credit Unions 3: Sugarland

by  Bo McDonald, Your Marketing Co.

The YMC team recently had the pleasure of spending the day at Turner Field listening to some awesome stories from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.  I about wiped out the battery on my iPad taking notes during the opening keynote.

You may be familiar with the country band Sugarland, but have you ever heard of Kristian Bush? Kristian is one of the band members alongside Jennifer Nettles. Sugarland has bucked the system to achieve success and connect with listeners differently than other bands.  Kristian opened the session with a question: Why would someone spend $100 on a concert ticket? If they weren’t familiar with the band, there’s a slim chance anyone would shell out that much money to go see their show.

That was an ah-ha moment for me. It’s the equivalent of asking the question: Why would someone trust your credit union with their personal finances if they have no idea who you are?  Too often you put up a billboard or run a television ad promoting the latest and greatest product to a bunch of people who don’t know you.

Kristian said: “Maintain stories and include others in what you’re doing.”

Just like the band Sugarland isn’t just about a song; your credit union isn’t just about a checking account or a car loan. The song is all about the lyrics and how it makes you feel. Meaningful song lyrics end up becoming tattoos, and beacons of comfort during dark times for many. And likewise, your credit union products end up becoming a second chance or source of hope, or maybe just the opportunity to realize a dream.

Without fans, Sugarland isn’t successful. Kristian pointed out that fans aren’t mythical. They’re real people. The same goes for your members. And without fans of your credit union, there’s not a huge opportunity for success. Kristian uses social media to keep in touch with his fans. Many times his tweets contain behind the scenes photos from concerts. Sometimes it’s a post about his feelings. But they never read: “Hey download our new song” or “In Texas today, come to our concert.”

How does your credit union connect with members? Is it simply “Rates as low as 1.99%” and “Closed for Presidents Day?” Or are you treating your fans and followers like real people, communicating in their language in a way that personally connects them to your brand?

Are you scared of innovation? It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and follow the formula of the way you’ve “always done it.” When a new idea is presented you often worry about what the board may think. Worse yet, you’re concerned about what your peers in the credit union industry will think if we step outside of the norm and try something different. “Explorers are always the ones with arrows in their ass” Kristian said. Isn’t that true? Think of Steve Jobs. He was labeled as crazy, but without his innovation and forward thinking I would probably be typing this article on an IBM word processor.

Sugarland dared to be different. Sure, they were chastised by the know-it-alls on Music Row in Nashville. But without their willingness to be innovative, we may have never heard of Sugarland. Their innovation created stories, and people talked about the band. Good or bad, it created a buzz and a cult following.

Bill Cosby once said: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” If you’re trying to be all things to all people at your credit union, you’ll never blaze a trail and be on the leading edge of success.

I challenge you make a list of the “normal” things at your credit union. Products, services, brand messaging, etc. And then brainstorm several ideas about how you can make those things “talkable.” You don’t have to be outrageous like Howard Stern to get people talking; you just have to dare to be different.

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