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Wanted CU global brand identity
MADISON, Wis. (4/20/12)--
Click to view larger image Participants at World Council of Credit Unions' Build a Brand Workshop include, standing from left, Mary De Sousa, Canada; Lynda Savoit, U.S.; Trish Shermot, U.S.; Rich Harries, Canada; Mark Wolff, U.S.; Daniel McDougall, Australia; Denise Gabel, U.S.; Peter Challis, Australia; Sue Mitchell, U.S.; Nathalie LaChance, Canada; Paula Martin, Canada; and Suzanne Gendron, Canada; kneeling, WOCCU staffers Liliana Tangwell, left, and Tiffany Litscher.
Credit unions have made great strides worldwide from consumers' disillusionment with banks during the recession. However, they still need to better articulate the credit union difference in a way that resonates with consumers, according to an international group gathered by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to take the first step toward developing a global credit union brand.

The Build a Brand Workshop, funded by a grant from Vancity CU, Vancouver, B.C., brought together 12 credit union and trade association executives from Australia, Canada and the U.S. earlier this week. Its goal was to identify best practices in current credit union messaging and work together toward a refreshed approach as part of the larger strategy to build a global credit union brand, said WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch.

"We have learned a lot about changes in consumer preferences, and our members around the world are adapting their messages to today's changing market," Branch said.

In addition to Branch and WOCCU staff, participants included: 

  • Peter Challis, CEO of WAW CU and Daniel McDougall, senior media adviser for Abacus-Australian Mutuals, both from Australia;
  • Suzanne Gendron, vice president of executive services, and Nathalie LaChance, vice president of brand management and public relations, from the Desjardins Group in Canada;
  • Paula Martin, adviser to the CEO of Vancity; Mary De Sousa, assistant vice president of marketing at FirstOntario CU; and Rich Harries, community development manager, Affinity CU, all from Canada;
  • Denise Gabel, chief financial officer and strategy officer for the Filene Research Institute; Sue Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates; Trish Shermot, marketing manager of CTCE FCU in Pennsylvania; Lynda Savoit, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Orange County's CU in California; and Mark Wolff, senior vice president of communications at the Credit Union National Association, all from the U.S.
Click to view larger image Peter Challis, left, explains marketing challenges Australia credit unions face to Canada's Nathalie LaChance, and World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch.
The session was moderated by Maya Bourdeau and Jiao Zhang, partners of consulting firm Attune LLC.  The group told of these challenges facing credit unions:

  • In Australia, credit unions have worked hard and improved their brand identity among consumers, but some consumers still perceive them as less safe than for-profit financial institutions.
  • In Canada, credit unions have done a good job differentiating themselves, but banks have begun marketing similar social values, and consumers tend not to know or care about the difference.
  • In the U.S., credit unions have made great strides as well as faced great challenges in recent years largely due to social turmoil, which has made the situation for credit unions complex and the resulting marketing messages mixed.
  • In all three countries, credit unions are challenged to attract Generation Y and other younger consumers whose personal values closely match those of cooperatives, but whose communications methods and lack of interest in traditional media make marketing credit unions to them difficult.
Click to view larger image Credit unions need to have a clear voice and clear choice, explained Canada's Mary De Sousa at the World Council of Credit Unions' Build a Brand Workshop. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Changing consumer behavior is always a challenge, and one made even more complicated by the complex process of changing financial institutions, said Bourdeau.  "People need a compelling reason to switch financial institutions," Bourdeau said, adding, "There is a distinct difference between awareness and action. Action occurs when it can be easily accomplished."

Participants agreed, also citing a need for clear, simple articulation of the credit union difference presented as a benefit to consumers.  "In a world where banks hold us for ransom, we need to have a voice and choice," said First Ontario's De Sousa, herself a former banker.

Bourdeau advised participants to keep their marketing consumer-centric, pitch a solid benefit and choose an engaging emotional hook in their explanations of the credit union difference.  If a messaging strategy incorporates those attributes, the credit union difference has a better chance of resonating with more consumers, including the Gen Ys.

Results from the workshop and the next steps of the brand development process will take place during a session at WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference July 15-18 in Gdansk, Poland, during which the panelists will present the workshop's results.
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