Does Creativity Stand A Chance At Credit Unions?

If you work in marketing at your credit union, “creativity” should rank high in your job description. In the ad biz, this makes you what’s known as an “in-house creative.”

The double-edged sword of working as an in-house creative? Yes, you’ve got an insider’s understanding and deeper level of ownership that no outside creative firm ever could. But those working at ad agencies typically get to work on a wider range of concepts for diverse clients in different industries. Your creative challenge working in-house is that you don’t have much variety. Everything — every drivethru banner, every billboard, every email campaign, every promotion — all boils down to marketing the same darn thing: a credit union.

So the question is, when all your ideas have to be “credit union” 24/7, can creativity even stand a chance?

Creative Burnout vs. The Creative Blahs

If you have too many creative problems to solve in too little time, you’ll get creative burnout. But working in-house, you wear lots of hats… and sadly creativity is the one you get to wear the least, so you don’t usually have to worry about burnout. The challenge working in-house isn’t the number of creative problems you have to solve, it’s having too little room for creative freedom. This is what’s giving you the creative blahs. How many ways can you compellingly, cleverly or just plain clearly talk about “member-owned?” Seriously.

The two favorite cures for creative blahs in-house marketers like to prescribe themselves:

  1. Cute/Crazy Theme + Punny Headline
  2. Boring Stock Photo + Stuffy Headline

These trusted approaches might get the job done, but they’re just treating the symptoms not the problem. And they can be a big disservice to your credit union’s brand.

What’s The Cure For The Common CU Blahs?

To keep your ideas fresh, you need to find ways to constantly keep your creativity muscle active. For instance, I like to draw in meetings, routinely saving my illustrated snippets for future inspiration. But at a fundamental level, you need to find ways to stay creative and avoid getting stale without getting just plain silly.

So here’s a way to diagnose and prescribe a meaningful treatment for the common in-house creative challenge: Ask yourself, “Is this creative project ‘promotion’ or ‘brand’?” Ask this question before you begin any project, every single time.

Vanilla is Not Blah. It’s The Base.

Your brand is like vanilla ice cream. It’s how you explain the difference between your credit union’s and  the other credit union down the street. So back to the question of how many ways you can say member-owned? Pick one. Figure out your brand message + style and stick to it — no matter what. This is going to be the vanilla base of your brand. Just be sure to craft it with care — like a marble slab of well-made fine vanilla ice cream.

Think of it as the intentional base. Not boring!

Toppings Are The Variety

Even the finest plain can still be… well, kinda plain. That’s where your promotions come in. They are the toppings. The loan push, the home equity push, the credit card push — that’s where you can avoid the creative blahs. But don’t go overboard. Don’t douse your vanilla in hot sauce. It should still compliment the base. Think about your brand’s personality and your audience before choosing the toppings, then sprinkle the appropriate creative flavors into your mix. That’s your chance to tap all that inspiration you’ve been gathering, or time to pull out your markers and start drawing in your next staff meeting.

Where you can exercise your creative muscles. But use responsibly!

Striking Creative Balance

When it comes to brand pieces, replace “boring” with “deliberate” and “intentional.” But when it comes to promotional pieces, you can brush off your creative hat and have fun (responsibly!). Hopefully you’ll soon be able to replace those routine creative blahs with some creatively rewarding bright spots.

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