How Currency Marketing duped the CU world (and what you need to learn from it)

This may sound weird, but I think Tim McAlpine and I have some kind of psychic connection. The other day I was reading some CU blogs, both past and present, thinking about the CU koolaid and how CU people seem to love the thought of people that love their movement. I was thinking of companies that have capitalized on this self involvement and Currency Marketing (and others) immediately came to mind. Not in a “those dirty marketers” way, but in a “wow that is genius” way. Today Tim wrote an article that I believe confirms this thought and it deserves addressing.

What are you even talking about?

Please go read the whole article, but if you don’t here is my favorite quote from the piece:

My decision to limit Currency (and therefore Young & Free) to just credit unions is not entirely about holding hands and believing in a larger movement. It is also about branding. A strong brand needs to be simple, needs to be focussed and needs to stand for something.

Whether credit unions realize it or not, many CU exclusive vendors are exclusive not because they believe that the CU way is right or better than the bank way, they simply believe it strengthens their brand. Now in order to have a strong CU exclusive brand, you have to sell out to the CU way, but I believe that the brand commitment comes first, and the movement commitment second. Credit unions just love to hear people blow their “movement” trumpet so much, that for the most part I doubt they notice or even care.

The thing is, there’s nothing really that objectionable about choosing a CU exclusive brand and then championing the CU cause to strengthen your brand. In fact, it’s actually a very smart. Not only does Currency Marketing initially differentiate themselves by not serving banks, by getting behind the CU movement and enhancing the thought that Banks are enemy #1, they make their CU exclusive brand even stronger.

What can you learn from the CU exclusivity branding strategy?

What Tim and Currency Marketing have just successfully demonstrated to us is how to work an audience and as a CU you need to pay attention. Not in fear of being taken advantage of (because I don’t believe that’s happening too much) but because it’s how you should be looking at your field of membership and your members!

That’s right, when looking at bringing in new members, you need to take that big ol FOM and cut it down, drastically. I’m not talking about just a targeted campaign. I’m talking about knowing what you want your actual membership to look like and going after that. Next, find out what they like, hate, need, want and then as a CU you need to start liking, hating, needing, and wanting, the same things.

I really want to say “If you build it, they will come” but I can’t be that naive, can I?

I’m glad some people are and wish those that do, both credit unions and vendors continued success! 🙂

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2 comments so far

  1. Eric on

    Great post and great advice for CU’s. As we all grow, diversify business lines and try to be all things to all consumers, we become much more like our competitors than different. I once heard it simply put as “you don’t know your strategy unless you know who to say no to”.

  2. Mike on

    I absolutely love reading your comments. As someone who spent over 20 years in the CU industry, it’s my opinion that you are EXACTLY right in your contention that there is very little difference between a bank and a CU from the end-user’s perspective. This post strikes to the real heart of many of the struggles CUs are experiencing today. I’ve seen far too many that have expanded their FOM, are not doing ANY focused marketing or doing anything to identify their quality members, and are wondering why things are so tough. As Joe Jackson said roughly 20 years ago – “you can’t get what you want, ’til you know what you want”…


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