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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

In an effort to promote responsible credit and debit card usage among college students, credit unions from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are hosting an online video contest.  The campaign, called Get Carducated, invites college students or college-bound students between the ages of 16-21 to “make a short video about the importance of using debit, credit and/or ATM cards responsibly.”  The winners will be determined by the number of views the videos receive by October 31, 2010; the videos with the most views will be among three winners.

While there have been numerous video contests hosted by financial institutions, this effort is noteworthy for a few important reasons.  First, the effort involves sixty-seven credit unions across three states; the overall effort is sponsored (and appears to be organized) by Covera Card Solutions.  Second, the contest’s website (www.getcarducated.com) is memorable (both the web address and actual site are memorable), it’s simple, and it’s likely to appeal to the target demographic.  Third, the prizes – including a college scholarship, MacBook, and iPhone – are real incentives for 16-21 year olds to participate in the contest.  Additionally, the contest is not a contest where viewers vote on their favorite video.  Rather, the winner will be determined by the number of total video views.

The contest recently launched, so as of now there aren’t any video submissions on the campaign’s YouTube channel page.  However, that is likely to change given the reach of the participating credit unions, who, according to Covera, will be receiving customized in-branch promotional materials to promote the contest.  And again, the incentive to participate should be enough to encourage a good number of entrants.

While there are some good elements to this campaign, there appear to be some missing pieces that would likely generate more awareness and allow the campaign to be more effective overall.  Most notably, is the absence of a real social media presence (beyond the use of YouTube to host the video entries).  Get Carducated does have a Facebook page, but the information is limited to an overview of the contest which was posted more than a month ago.  A search for “get carducated” and “carducator” on Twitter returned zero results.  In-branch promotions can only be expected to do so much, especially when the target audience is 16-21 year olds.  It seems that a more robust social media presence would do a lot to support this campaign.

The winners of the contest will be announced on November 1st.

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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.

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As Crain’s Chicago Business reports, Banco Popular is testing a potential name change in the Chicagoland market in an effort to shift perceptions and appeal to non-Hispanic market segments.  According to the report, “Manuel Chinea, senior vice-president of retail banking operations at Banco Popular North America, says the current name makes many non-Hispanics believe the bank isn’t interested in their business.”  The bank will introduce the new name, Popular Community Bank, at its 14 Chicagoland branch locations in August.

While appealing to a broader audience appears to be the primary reason for the name change, the change is not without risk.  The name change could drive current customers away.  It may not be enough to attract a significant number of new customers.  It will likely dilute the bank’s current brand position.  And, in today’s marketplace – with so many name changes, mergers, and acquisitions – the change may raise questions about the overall condition of the bank.  The effort begs the question: Is the move from a different and recognizable name to a more generic and unremarkable name really what’s needed here?

In some ways, it feels like Banco Popular is looking for a quick fix with this effort.  A name change alone isn’t enough to completely shift perceptions.  Rather than focusing on the name change, it seems that the bank would be better off focusing on messaging and outreach targeting non-Hispanic customers.  With or without a name change, the bank’s marketing efforts will need to act as a driver in creating or reshaping peoples’ perceptions about the bank.  The name change seems like an unnecessary (not to mention costly, with the proposition to change the name at 97 branch locations) addition to the mix.

It sounds like Banco Popular expects to make a decision about whether the new name will be rolled out across the entire network after about six months of testing.   In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how the bank’s campaign supports the effort, how it’s received among Hispanic and non-Hispanic consumers, and perhaps most importantly – how the bank introduces and delivers a brand position that appeals to such a broad target.

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Over the past few months, I’ve watched construction progress on a new Umpqua Bank branch in my neighborhood in Portland.  The Alberta branch is set to open this week, and the efforts to generate awareness locally have been impressive.

In addition to promoting the branch opening on the Umpqua Bank website and  launching a branch-specific Facebook page, Umpqua Bank has also worked to generate awareness about the new branch in a few pretty innovative ways as well.  As an example, the bank’s Facebook page documents the branch team’s visits to local businesses, its random acts of kindness for businesses and people in the neighborhood, and volunteering at the local elementary school.   During the last week, flyers were distributed to local business owners letting them know about the branch’s opening – which will include food, drink and entertainment from a variety of local small businesses.

the plant delivered to my house announcing the new Umpqua Bank branch opening

As a neighborhood resident, I was surprised to find a small plant and note delivered by Umpqua Bank’s team to my doorstep yesterday.  The lead message on the note was: “It’s not every day that you get something nice from a bank.”  This was accompanied by an invitation to the branch “to say hello, pickup a free bag of Umpqua Blend coffee and bank like you live.”  On the chance that I didn’t know where the branch was located, the note also included a small map. The piece was well-branded, but also worked to promote another local small business; a stick in the dirt included the contact info of the business where the plant was purchased.

Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is the $10,000 Build Your Block Challenge, described by the bank as, “an opportunity for Alberta neighbors to share their ideas for neighborhood enhancements.”  Submissions will be accepted through the bank’s Facebook page from July 22nd until August 20th.  Umpqua Bank’s team will select three of those submissions, and allow the community to vote for their favorite from August 30th until September 10th.  A winner will be announced on September 15th.

The Alberta Umpqua Bank branch is set to open tomorrow.  Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I’d imagine that most will view the branch as a welcome addition to the neighborhood; I’m certainly looking forward to checking it out.

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Earlier this month, American Banker published an article by Larry Cohen titled, Viewpoint: Understanding the New ‘Normal’ for Consumers.  While were  “the new normal”  has become a commonly used phrase, both within and beyond financial services,  it seems to hold a different meaning for everyone using it.  In this case, Cohen refers to the new normal as it relates to shifts in consumer behaviors.  He offers the following insights in the article:

“The last two years ended a decade that changed the landscape of financial services. Huge uncertainties exist in the economy and, most importantly, among consumers. People tend to make changes slowly, but inexorably, by almost all measures and in most areas, they are changing. Examining the shifts in the interconnected trends of demographics, products, services, channel use, goals and financial attitudes over the past two decades can yield significant insights into how and why consumers are changing — and where they are headed.

We are all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Some claim that consumers have not changed, but our examination of comprehensive consumer data, integrating trends within components including demographics, financial attitudes, product incidences and use — along with life stages and triggers like life events — found significant evidence of consumer change. And based on our long-term experience analyzing these trends, the shifts pervade virtually every financial need.”

As Cohen suggests, an evaluation of shifts over the past two decades may yield significant insights.  But because consumer behaviors have been impacted so dramatically by recent shifts in the economy, an evaluation of changes and trends in consumer behaviors over the past two years is likely to yield more relevant and timely insights than one spanning decades.

Further, because we have experienced such dramatic change in the past couple years, it’s amazing to think that “some claim that consumers have not changed.”  These people are either not paying attention or are in denial; consumer attitudes and behaviors have changed.  Now, marketers are challenged with what to do next.  The new normal requires us to look at post-recession consumer behaviors (more on the post-recession consumer can be found here and here).

As Cohen suggests, demographics, products, services, channel use, goals and financial attitudes have changed.  It’s likely that they’ll continue to change.  But acknowledging these changes is only the first step.  More important than recognizing the change is the response with which that change is met.  How will you respond?

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There has been a lot of talk this week about changes happening with Facebook.  Much of the talk is centered around Facebook’s decision to change a feature used by most credit unions and community banks with Facebook accounts.  No longer will people interested in showing support for an organization (like a financial institution)  ‘become a fan’ of that organization.  Rather, they’ll show support by clicking a ‘like’ button instead. 

All of this is part of Facebook’s efforts to place more emphasis on the like feature and introduce it to other websites, blogs, and publications.  If you’re not familiar with Facebook, this may not be relevant.  For those that do have Facebook accounts for their banks or credit unions, it’s time to tweak your messages to reflect these changes.

Truliant Credit Union is on the ball.  Truliant Credit Union has changed it’s message from asking visitors to ‘become a fan of Truliant’ to ‘Like Truliant on Facebook.’  It’s a simple change, but one that needs to be made to reflect the changes Facebook has made.

On the other hand, most other institutions have yet to change the become a fan message.  As an example, Day Air Credit Union has an advertisement on its Facebook page that relies heavily on the use of the word fan and the become a fan call to action.   Day Air Credit Union is not alone; a quick search online returned several institutions using the become a fan message on their Facebook pages and on their institutions’ websites.

While this change may frustrate some, it’s a great example of how companies using social media platforms need to monitor and adapt to unexpected changes.  For institutions like Truliant, the quick change demonstrates responsiveness and keeps the institution’s messages relevant.  For some others, unfortunately, we’ll likely see slow change or no change at all.  And those who don’t respond quickly risk negative effects of disconnected and outdated marketing messages.

If your institution uses the become a fan message in its marketing messages, take some time this week and make the necessary changes. 

On a side note – once the dust settles, it will be interesting to see how organizations refer to the group formerly referred to as fans.  As a friend asked me yesterday, will these people become ‘likers’?

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A couple weeks ago, I came across the article Foursquare Promotion Nets this Bank Positive Results written by Jason Sherrill from Inetsolution.  The brief article highlighted North Shore Bank’s (Brookfield, WI) use of Foursquare, and directed readers to a previous article he wrote called An idea for banks and credit unions to use Foursquare.

More recently, Luke Owen from Truebridge Financial Marketing published the article Can Foursquare be the saving grace for a banks fading branch traffic?  Again, the article centered on North Shore Bank’s use of Foursquare. 

These articles prompted me to reach out to Tim Gluth and Kate Knox from North Shore Bank to learn more about the bank’s use of Foursquare, but more broadly, about the bank’s social media efforts in general.  While our conversation initially focused in Twitter and Foursquare (for some good background information about the bank’s use of Foursquare, please check out the articles written by Jason and Luke), I was most impressed with something Kate mentioned during our call:

“We see our involvement with social media as an opportunity to listen”

In financial services, where many social media efforts are dominated by one-way conversations, it was refreshing to hear this.  Unfortunately, many institutions have it backwards.  Rather than viewing social media as an extension of the conversations they’re already having, they view social media as another venue to promote their marketing messages – most of which are nothing more than one-way communications.  There’s nothing social about these efforts.

In my conversations with Tim and Kate, we talked about an initial step they took that was different from how I’ve seen most marketers start their social media efforts.  Both Tim and Kate became personally involved with social media before launching an effort on behalf of the bank.  And, they used this time as an opportunity to observe how other companies – both within and outside of financial services – used social media to enhance their marketing efforts.   In my mind, this separates North Shore Bank’s efforts from the rest – it gave them an understanding of how to effectively use social media, and they’ve been rightly recognized for these efforts.

I’d like to see more financial services executives and marketers become involved initially in social media as active observers – taking time to really listen.   This requires patience and restraint, but it pays off in the end.

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