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Sh!t Credit Unions Say

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

Have you seen the YouTube video from Summit Federal Credit Union titled Sh!t Banks Say?

Kristen Christian (Bank Transfer Day creator, and hero to thousands of creditunionistas) calls the video “an example of stellar marketing.”

My take: At a minimum, this video is ineffective from a marketing perspective. Potentially, however, it could be damaging to the credit union’s reputation.

Why is this video ineffective?

Because it won’t help it gain new members.

The video might be fine for getting existing members to feel better about the credit union. I don’t find the video funny in the least bit, but maybe some of the CU’s members do. Their opinion is more important than mine.

But for prospective members, this video does nothing.

First, how many bank customers are going to see this and become convinced that they should leave their bank? Answer: Few (and I’m being very generous).

Second, how does the video help bank customers who have already decided to leave their bank decide that Summit is right for them? Answer: It doesn’t.

There’s nothing wrong with using YouTube and humor in your marketing efforts.

It’s a matter of opinion and strategy on whether or not you want to use humor as a marketing approach. There are people in the industry who don’t believe humor has its place in financial services advertising, but all they have are subjective views to back up their position.

The use of video to demonstrate and show off a financial institution and its capabilities can be a powerful influence in the consumer’s decision making process. Unfortunately, Summit’s Sh!t Banks Say video doesn’t support a prospect’s decision process.

Summit does have another video on its YouTube channel, about telling kids about credit unions. This appears to be directed more towards existing members than to prospects, however. And when I checked, it only had 108 views, so it wouldn’t appear that many members or prospects were influenced by it.

The More Potentially Damaging Aspect

There is something else about the Sh!t Banks Says video that I believe could be damaging to the credit union’s repuation. Roughly 30 seconds of the 2 minute video is dedicated to bashing banks for their fees.

What’s that saying about people who live in glass houses?

A quick look at Summit FCU’s fee schedule reveals that the credit union charges:

  • $10 per quarter for inactive accounts. So if you open an account and don’t do anything with it, the credit union will charge you $40 over the course of a year. For doing nothing.
  • $5 for early account closure. Decide there’s a better place for your money within six months of opening an account at Summit? It’ll cost you $5.
  • $20 per hour for statement copies for the previous quarter. I’m not sure who long it actually takes someone at Summit to do this, but the minimum charge is $5. And there’s also a $1 interim statement fee.
  • $5 per month for account maintenance. This fee might not apply depending on the member’s benefit program level. But it’s still a fee.
  • $5 for check copies. Online check copies are free, however.
  • $5 for non-members to cash a check. If the non-member is older than 23, that is.

And the list goes on and on and on and…well, you get it.

The hypocrisy of Summit — and let’s face it, lots of other credit unions, as well — to bash banks for charging fees when its own fee schedule is no better is a shame. Any prospective member who does her homework on the fee schedule should be outraged by the implied claims of the Sh!t Banks Say video.

Each year, Forrester Research surveys consumers and asks them to rate their banks and credit unions on customer advocacy — the extent to which the FI does what right for its customers and not just its own bottom line. Year after year, credit unions score higher than banks on this metric. 

The hypocrisy of the Sh!t Banks Say video isn’t going to put much of a dent in those scores. Mostly because so few people will see it. But if credit unions, as a whole, continue to deploy this marketing technique, it might backfire and harm their collective reputation. 

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Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. @cupassionista says:


    Some mathematical comps:

    When Busyness > (becomes greater than) Business.
    When Feel Good funny > (becomes greater than) Effective “makes me think, then do” marketing.

    Relevancy to the movement, or the credit union in terms of long term sustainability? As my great gramps would say, “Slim to none, and slim left town.”

    So Dearest CU fanbase (loyal employees/team members),

    A plea to all the fine folks who see this as a relevant use of credit union membership dollars – time and effort spent making it, thinking it up, broadcasting it for others to share…

    People’s money matters for them. People have money matters. How does this help them help themselves? Tell and share the stories on why, what and how you can impact people’s lives. Get creative with that. Make that about the business of money matters. Because money matters for people. Help them Help Themselves by engaging them to experience a credit union’s mission. their mission.

    Someone who sees the relevancy of and cares deeply about credit unions and it’s members (potential, new and seasoned)

  2. Is it possible that we are taking this video far more seriously than we should?

    Sometimes a funny video is just a funny video. Not a massive dumping of all other advertising channels and pouring all that money/effort into making a video.

    It is easy to pick on this video, especially by the “traditionals,” it feels good. But they are just something cute. Maybe it works for them/us. Maybe it does not. Either way it does not destroy their entire existence / any possibility of ever acquiring a future customer.

    They try something. They’ll learn. They move on. Yes?


    PS: In case you were keeping score: 4,481 views. 34 likes. 2 dislikes (Ron and Commentator #1 :).

  3. Avinash: Thanks for your comment. I think that there’s context here that I left out (for better or worse) regarding this. Some credit unions (I can’t say many or most) have been employing a “bash the banks” strategy for a number of years now.

    And for years, I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully, obviously) to counter this with reasons why the tactic will fail, and should be avoided:

    This video is anything but a one-off. It’s part of a growing history of tactics designed to make consumers hate banks (more than they already do).

    I think it’s bad marketing, and I’m going to continue to try and prove that to anyone I can get to listen to me.

  4. I appreciate the context Ron. I’m a 100% outsider. I love my credit union (PanFed) and do think well of my banks (Ameriprise, Chase).

    My day to day life is working with a very large cross section of Fortune 500 CxO’s. I frequently advocate developing better mix of advertising media / acquisition channels via experimentation. Far too often there is resistance (“That is not what traditionally works!”).

    (With that context…) I see this video as something new they are trying. They’ll see it is good for employee motivation (and perhaps die hard customers) and not much else. Then they can iterate.

    In no scenario am I, as an outsider, anticipating that they’ll translate the outcome as, to use Ms. Christian’s words, stellar marketing.

    I love my Credit Union because of the service and value it delivers. That is the only way they can win my business (and yours and @cupassionista’s). If the bedrock of their marketing was to make me hate banks… well that would be, to use internet lingo, a #fail.


  5. Maybe fun and fine for internal use, but this is just another knock off and a message we see and hear all the time. It’s little more than a spoof (and I am ok with spoofing). If the people making it had fun and it made them feel good; great (there is a place for that). If it made some members feel good about their relationship; even better.

    I doubt they expect much of a return, (I hope not) other than some smiles, laughs and high-fives in the office.

    This is not “stellar” marketing. It may not even be an attempt at marketing.

  6. BC: If it was for internal use, why post it publicly on YouTube? Why would they be “thrilled” to have Kristen Christian highlight the video in her conference speeches? Sorry, but I’m not buying an “internal use” defense.

  7. Some of the conversation points seam to be about having fun and gaining results.

    This is something we are working hard to deliver over here from Zombies this past fall ( to slapping out annoying pet peeves ( Swap out of it even used internal staff as well for some culture building but was all done in the name of driving credit card and credit card

    So many more examples that can be shared in between but the point is that fun can be had if there is a set goal or objective to obtain.

  8. JRL: Couldn’t agree more. Couple of things, though: The work PTP New Media does is highly professional. I would bet the foresight and planning that went into the Zombies campaign was extensive.

    On the other hand, the Summit video is amateurish, and not particularly well edited. That’s not so bad, in and of itself, if its purpose, as Bryan suggests, is for internal use.

    But I contend that it wasn’t intended for internal use.

    And I think the stream of comments here are missing the more important point: The HYPOCRISY. The video suggests that banks charge inordinate fees, when I think it’s pretty clear that the credit union’s own fee schedule is nothing to write home about.

    My criticism lies with the poor quality and hypocrisy, not the attempt at fun and humor.

  9. I feel you 100% on video production quality and is something that burns @mrjlay. We are seeing this many times over with videos both in and out of the industry. Just b/c you have a camera and some editing software does not mean that you should be making videos yourself for public consumption as video is part of your brand. It’s like just b/c I have a drill, hammer and saw does not mean I should be building something.

    Your point is well taken about the hypocrisy as well. This is something else that drives me up the wall and have lost count of how many times I have been at a conference or in a board room and I ask me what makes your credit union so great and amazing.

    So many times the response is great rates, low fees and service. Blah.

  10. Wayne Brockler says:

    I loved the commercial.. And the fact that you are going on and on about shows it’s impact.
    Time for the Blah Blah Blah guys to take a look at creative marketing instead of that can’t wait to get my remote and change the channel stuff you deem as legitimate marketing.

  11. Yeah, there are far more compelling reasons to join the credit union movement (in theory anyway). We don’t need the bank bashing. This came up at Water Cooler a couple years ago too.

  12. Thanks for commenting, Wayne.

    LinkedIn says there’s a Wayne Brockler in marketing/advertising in Rochester, NY, which is where Summit FCU is located. Is that you? Are you affiliated with the credit union or the creation of the video?

    I’d be interested in hearing why you love the commercial, especially from a business (not personal) perspective. And also what you mean when you say “the fact that you are going on and on about shows it’s impact.” Exactly what “impact” are you referring to?

  13. It’s just a vanity piece for the CU. And Kristin will use it to her advantage.

  14. Just awful, not just in execution but conception. I have to agree that it comes off as mean spirited, and stereotypical and exaggerated and therefore downright dishonest. One of the noticable misses is that it highlights ordinary people, portraying them as incompetent and perverse, placing a wedge between people just like us, and ultimately reflecting back on our own self image. with all the negative campaigning coming out of Washington these days, the timing couldn’t be worse.

    The question you raise – who does this appeal to? is spot on. Not to the educated Gen Y (the 99%) who are particularly astute to manipulative advertising. Nor does the video hit the core issues of social equity that concern them. Not busy boomers who won’t have the time and patience to sit through a video of perceived Gen Y slackers. Not to the senior market who don’t care for snarkiness. And, as you say, it will cause CU members to question exactly what sort of institution they’re doing business with.

    The subtleties of messaging are all sacrificed for a transparent strategy of blatent slander.

    A finanical institution needs to sow a value-laden brand, one that speaks to the core values of the target audience. It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

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