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Filene report urges CU digital branding
MADISON, Wis. (4/10/12)--Digital branding and social strategies are becoming the necessary norm for all businesses, including credit unions. But there is a danger that managers, while acknowledging this new norm, can get in trouble by not approaching it strategically, according to a recent report from the Filene Research Institute.

Filene convened a panel of expert researchers and practitioners in November to discuss and show how credit unions should think about their own branding and digital presence as marketing moves to an increasingly electronic format. Filene wanted to know what tools are out there--and what's coming down the pike--along with what digital messages and channels resonate with today's consumers.

It is not enough to turn traditional collateral and messaging into digital collateral and messaging, the report noted. Instead, credit unions need to capitalize on the deeper trend of social connections to make sure their marketing reaches the right audience in the first place and has its intended effect when it arrives. Mobile usage, more emphasis on design, and social marketing are trends that every credit union needs to consider, especially as it looks for new members, said Filene.

The colloquium included a cross-section of social media practitioners and researchers and strategists from Google and Facebook. Each brought a different message, but the unspoken message was that digital marketing is becoming ever more important. Adopting it won't be enough; embracing it is the only acceptable route, said the report.

Other credit union implications the colloquium noted:

  • Consumers trust other consumers' opinions more than any form of advertising. Now that consumers can meet each other online, credit unions should facilitate the interaction around their brands, according to Hope Schau, associate professor of marketing at the University of Arizona.
  • Bank Transfer Day proved two things when its founder, Kristin Christian, began the movement. One is that social media have undisputed power in today's communications world. The other is that credit union ethos resonates among a large number of consumers.
  • Measuring impact is much more important and harder to do than measuring output.  Maximizing impact among Gen Yers requires promoting emotionally rewarding concepts; rational advertising is not enough, said Maya Bourdeau, partner, Attune. Work within what the credit union target already believes--social responsibility and collaboration--instead of trying to bring Gen Yers to the credit union message.
  • Good social media correlate with important performance measures but not in every category. Credit unions that perceived their social media efforts as successful were more likely to see loan growth, more website visits and higher deposit volume, according to Beth Austin, principal, Crescendo Consulting.
  • Search functions and social media are essential platforms for every financial institution because online is the preferred banking channel and because of the huge increase in mobile searches during the past three years, said Payton Dobbs, head of industry, banking & lending at Google.
  • The inherent advantage social media bring to marketing is the ability to find members/customers that look a lot like and have a reason to listen to existing members/customers, said Christine Trodella, national sales manager, Facebook. The colloquium presenters agreed that credit unions have an advantage on the social media playing field because--unlike big banks--they need fewer efforts to convince consumers that they are authentic and that they have members' best interests at heart.
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