The easiest way for credit unions to market

Make up something that sounds really good – that’s the easiest way to market your credit union. Utilize some corporate bullshittery business dude lorem ipsum that sounds flowery and pleasant and cross your fingers that you can deliver.

I was recently working with a brand-new client, and one of the first discussions we had was about their brand. It was cool and funky. It was new, but the credit union’s brand story seemed like it was more of a hope and dream than who they really are.

In his latest book, “How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business,” advertising agency expert Ty Montague writes, “in the modern world, brands and products are language” and that “the products and brands with which we surround ourselves serve as the words in the sentences we weave together to tell our story.”

Montague’s thoughts fundamentally change the dime a dozen marketing process because it shifts the process we normally use to market. Most marketers can and do create a story to use as the way to explain a product or service to consumers. In this old and tired scenario, the story is constructed as an afterthought after the brand is created, and the mission of the brand story is to get people to like something that already exists.

But if Montague is correct, the story cannot simply be tacked on at the end of the process. It must be the starting point from the very beginning.

I believe he is correct.

I recall a branding project my team worked on a decade ago. We spent three years working with this credit union to define who they were through their culture and brand, and then embarked on renaming and rebranding the credit union. Our Vice President of Brand Experience Frank Allgood gathered the credit union staff the morning of the rebrand, all of whom had not yet learned what the new name would be. “What is one word that describes this credit union?” Each team member responded, “hope.” We nailed it. The new name we were unveiling was HopeSouth Federal Credit Union. It was their authentic selves. They were already walking and talking their brand of bringing financial hope to their community.

Fast forward to the meeting I started this story with, of a new credit union client that had paid for a beautiful new brand but didn’t know how to connect it to action. By the end of our time together, the leadership team was in unison on how to move forward and take action on the credit union’s brand promise. We helped connect the dots from words to actions to begin acting authentically on its brand promise.

A company without a story is a company without a strategy. For three years this credit union struggled to understand their story, and therefore had no strategy and the lack of growth said so.

Two things you should learn from this credit union marketing and branding mismatch:

  1. The products and services you sell exist to solve problems that people have. I recall a credit union leader opening a strategic planning session with the quote, “People don’t buy a shovel, they buy a hole.” If you will stop and understand that a problem has a beginning, middle and end, then Montague is right. The entire transaction – from the time a consumer recognizes their problem to finding the right product to buying that solution – it all actually is a story. And it’s your job to understand, create and tell that story before someone does it for you.
  2. If stories are not merely vehicles for brands but the DNA of them, then brands that actually live their stories through their actions and don’t just tell them, will be the ones who are successful. I can point to HopeSouth Federal Credit Union, Maple Federal Credit Union and so many others who are authentically walking the walk and demonstrating the legitimacy of their claim and growing because of it. They are actually acting in the way consumers expect brands to act when they make a promise. It isn’t just marketing speak, but the DNA of their culture.

What is the story your credit union is telling? Is it compelling enough to cut through the noise and catch the attention of your ideal member? Can someone understand your credit union’s brand story by the way you act without having to be told? It’s not the easy way to market, but it is the most successful way.


Contact the author: Your Marketing Co

Contact the author: Your Marketing Co

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