Delusions Of Brandeur

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How important is a national branding campaign to credit unions?

CUES (Credit Union Executive Society) put that question to attendees of a recent Combined Council of America’s Credit Unions meeting (comprised mostly of automotive company credit unions, I believe).

One in five respondents said “essential”, while another 47% said “very important”.

We need to be careful in extrapolating these results since the sample may not be representative of the broader base of credit unions.

If it is representative, then I’m somewhat confounded.

Is there consensus about what the credit union “brand” should be?
Is there consensus about what the objectives of a national branding campaign would be?
Is there even consensus about what the concept of a “brand” means?

My bet is that the answer to these questions is NO.

If CU executives are yearning for greater awareness of credit unions and how they’re different from banks, that’s fine. But that’s not “branding.”

If CU executives are yearning to differentiate themselves from their competitors, that’s fine. But determining what the points of differentiation are, and how to communicate those points, is not an easy process.

And even if someone did lead a national branding CU campaign, and achieved some kind of consensus about what the brand should be, I wouldn’t be surprised if that “brand” took on a “we’re not like the big bad evil banks” flavor.

What’s wrong with that? Big banks are NOT credit unions’ biggest enemy. The biggest enemy CUs have is consumers’ lack of engagement and involvement with their financial lives. Consumers who are engaged and involved with their financial lives take the time and make the effort to make informed decisions about their choice of financial providers. And consumers that make carefully considered and informed decisions are more likely to choose credit unions.

I find it hard to believe that two-thirds of credit union execs think a national CU branding campaign is essential or very important. It’s far from a panacea.

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