As awkward as it might sound, some people do use the term credit unioning. Most commonly, it’s used by credit union marketers as a replacement for the often-used and well-understood verb banking. Those that use it usually make the argument that the term credit unioning somehow helps further differentiate credit unions from banks. But in today’s marketplace – where the difference between credit unions and banks is often unclear, unknown, or misunderstood by many consumers – is the term helping to make that distinction, or is it further confusing consumers who may be unfamiliar with credit unions and/or the term credit unioning?
The idea behind using the term credit unioning is not new (thanks to Open Source CU for sharing this Credit Unioning video from 1985). And while discussion about the term’s use comes up from time to time in conversations with credit union marketers, I was prompted to write this post after watching this video from CU Grow. The opening question, “What do you think about using the word bank as a verb?” certainly demonstrates that credit union marketers have given this idea some considerable thought. At the same time, the justification for using and encouraging the use of the term is unclear.
The use of the verb has also translated into the names of online banking platforms as well. As an example, Eastern Michigan Credit Union offers online credit unioning, but the homepage requires this description: “Welcome to Home Financial Services (aka HFS – Version 2.5.6). This is an Internet based financial service (I am sure you figured that out) offered to members of the Credit Union.” It raises the question: is the effort to completely avoid the words bank and banking really just confusing consumers?
I’m reminded of a great article published by the Credit Union Times earlier this year called, Exclude the “Credit Union” to Save the Credit Union. Sarah Snell Cooke, the author of the article, challenges readers to think about dropping the words “credit union” from their marketing efforts. It’s a complete departure from the credit unioning argument.
Rather than trying to find additional ways to make the same-old bank vs. credit union argument in their marketing efforts, marketers would be better served finding ways to emphasize (or create) real differences that separate their individual institution from all others – including both banks or credit unions. Until then, consumers will continue to do their “banking” – most likely at an institution that really doesn’t seem much different from the rest.