Should Credit Unions Stick to “Credit Union-ing?”

Bo McDonaldby Bo McDonald, Your Marketing Co

“I’m not sure Ford knows why folks listen to the radio, or why people keep listening.” This direct quote from Mark Ramsey of Mark Ramsey Media is perhaps the most arrogant thing I’ve heard in quite some time. If you’ve been following the Great Ideas blog for any length of time, you know that we admire Ford for their growth by looking beyond just “building and selling cars”. Ford has done a superior job to get in tune with car buyers and understanding their lifestyle, and building solutions (cars) that fit into it.

You may also be aware that in addition to working with many credit unions on growth and marketing strategies, I spend a few hours every morning in a radio studio hosting a morning show. Being part of the radio industry, I see many similar issues that industry shares with credit unions in regard to survival.

As I was reading the Mark Ramsey Media blog, I was dumbfounded at his attitude toward Ford. Ramsey’s post stems from an open letter to the radio industry from Ford executive Jim Buczkowski, who made the following points:

Yesterday’s car radio has been transformed into today’s mobile digital infotainment platform. Listeners (drivers) have more choices than ever before including satellite radio, Pandora, Spotify, Music Unlimited, Slacker, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and a wide variety of apps.

Drivers used to be happy with just being able to tune to their favorite radio station. Slowly a change in technology starting with eight tracks, cassettes and eventually CD players (and now the technology listed above) began changing drivers’ habits.

Ford has been at the forefront of recognizing these changes, and adding them to the standard technology available in new vehicles

Consumers have come to expect the same consistent “look and feel” from their in-car media as they experience with their iPods, Smartphone, internet radio and other digital technology, and are looking for seamless integration of all of these entertainment sources into their vehicle.

Buczkowski reminded the radio industry that they have a great “free” service, but the opportunity is there to enhance it with the digital options available, such as HD radio. It seems as though Ford has done the work for the radio industry. With the amount of money spent on research, not to mention the steady rebirth and growth of the Ford brand over the last several years, this is advice I would be taking note of if I were a radio industry executive. Ford is sharing the secret to survive the changing media landscape. Yet some radio industry executives such as Ramsey want to brush this information to the side in favor of business as usual.

Ramsey responds: “People listen to the radio not just because they haven’t yet awakened to radio alternatives.  They listen because they actually enjoy what radio is and what radio does.  They listen because it’s worth it.” Perhaps. But that’s not a very compelling argument. Ramsey gives no figures to back up his passionate statement like Ford does.

Here’s the tough question. Are we in the credit union industry listening to outside sources when they’re handing us research on what our members want? When a company such as Geezeo presents information on financial trends of our members are we brushing that to the side in favor of business as usual? When Filene presents research on trends and new technology to help our members, do we assume that “members just aren’t interested, all they want is a checking account and loan”? So many times I hear from my credit union peers that something new won’t work. Why? Because “this is the way we’ve always done it.” It sure is, and look at where it’s getting us.

Let’s look outside of the box, and heed the information that is being presented to us by folks who have the numbers and research to back up their warnings to us. Those credit unions that adapt to change and not only what consumer want, but give them what they want will enjoy a surprising growth over the next few years, just as Ford has. However those credit unions that continue on “the way they’ve always done it” will join Oldsmobile and Pontiac in the brands-that-have-been graveyard. RIP.

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co, A veteran of major market media sales and programming, Bo got his start in radio working for a variety of large radio conglomerates including Clear Channel Radio and Citadel Broadcasting. After several years and requests from clients Bo went out on his own to form his own marketing firm. Today, that marketing firm has evolved into a boutique firm serving only the needs of credit unions in the form of marketing, business development, and product development. Why credit unions? Thanks to his parents who are avid credit union supporters, Bo has been a member of credit unions from a young age.

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