Credit Union Marketers to Focus on Values, Financial Wellness in 2020

Americans' concerns that the nation’s division is threatening their shared core values may create opportunities for CU marketers


Americans are anxious and concerned that their core shared values – privacy, preserving the environment, safety, fairness, open-mindedness, independence, compassion and honesty – are being threatened because the state of the union is divided, according to one marketing firm. It is a prevailing national sentiment, the firm said, which may open opportunities for the cooperative movement to create positive marketing messages that genuinely express unity and support for those core shared values, and will appeal to members and non-members alike.

“As we look ahead to what is certain to be a highly-charged political climate in 2020, we see an opportunity to use data and insights to help marketers and brands create winning strategies for the year ahead,” said Alan Brown, CEO and co-founder of DNA, a Seattle-based creative agency that serves some of the industry’s largest credit unions such as the $21.8 billion BECU in Tukwila, Wash., and the $12.8 billion Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento.

In early 2019, DNA conducted a national representative study of 2,000 adults to examine the current state of American sentiment, the values they hold most dear, how they perceive the issues of the day and what they see as the role/responsibility of brands. The survey has a margin of error of 2% and a 95% confidence level. “Just as political candidates are courting independent votes, brands can broaden their relevance to more people by championing common ground than by firmly planting a flag on the side of any single issue or candidate. Staying authentic and doubling down
on important shared values may be the best way for brands to add value and bring people together in today’s landmine-filled political landscape.”

Brown said credit unions in particular should look for ways to step up their people helping people principle, which is inextricably fused to those core shared values. What’s more, the survey showed that improving physical health and finances top the list of personal priorities for 2020 across all generations. Younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) differed from older generations, placing additional importance on advancing their job/career, improving their personal relationships, trying new things, maintaining a sense of balance and improving their mental health. Credit union marketers observed that credit unions think they have a done a good job of delivering financial education, but have come to the realization that they really haven’t.

“I keep hearing that time after time at the strategic planning sessions we’ve done as part of [2020] marketing plans for credit unions,” Bo McDonald, president of Your Marketing Co. in Greenville, S.C., said. “That’s something that’s really been a hot topic for not just financial education, but how we can deliver it in a better way. Not on how you balance your share account or your passbook, but more so on how to help people with the real [financial] problems they are dealing with and how credit unions can deliver that to them.” McDonald said credit unions are looking at how to customize this type of content for specific groups of members and integrate it into credit union websites through short videos and print articles because some people may not feel comfortable, at least initially, to talk about their finances with people they don’t know.“By delivering that online, you’re removing that judgement, that fear of ignorance of not knowing about money,” McDonald said. “If we can deliver that content first online, then they are going to get to a better place to talk about it, and they may want to come in and have that conversation with the credit union.”

Indeed, this focus on helping members and nonmembers improve their financial health is gaining traction because money-strapped consumers are looking for solutions. A survey by the New York City-based investment firm Stash Financial Inc. found more than 60% of Americans are stressed out about money, about 34% of them are too embarrassed to talk about money issues because they think they are worse off than their peers, and 20% don’t want to talk about money because they are ashamed of their personal financial habits. James Robert Lay, CEO of the Digital Growth Institute in Houston,
said he expects credit unions to invest more resources in improving the member experience in 2020.

“I’m finding so many credit unions define [member experience], they’ll apply it but they don’t come back to make it even that much better,” Lay said. “So member experience and member retention is something I’ve heard more credit unions talk about.” And marketing empathy may be another way to improve the overall member experience when it comes to promoting financial health.

Lay said he believes the $747 million Tropical Financial Credit Union in Miramar, Fla., effectively markets empathy through its Get Beyond Money website, which provides members with judgement-free financial guidance to alleviate the personal stresses that money pressures create on a person’s health, relationships and overall sense of
well-being.

Last year, the credit union helped the Get Beyond Money community save more than $9.5 million at Tropical Financial. Those who sign up to get updates on money management are also offered services from a money coach to help them address and resolve their financial issues without judgement.

“I think empathy is a big strategic differentiator as we move further and further down in this digital world,” Lay said.

What may also be a big strategic differentiator is protecting consumer privacy. In April 2019, the $1.4 billion APGFCU in Aberdeen, Md., launched a member protection checking product that provides members with more than a dozen online security features such as ID theft protection, three bureau credit monitoring, Dark Web monitoring, and monitoring for high-risk transactions, social media and their IP address. These monitoring features send members alerts for suspicious activities, compromises, threats and malicious scans. The credit union provides all of these services to members through its partnership with NXG Strategies, which offers lowcost packages for online fraud protection and prevention.

The checking product also provides mobile device protection, and solicitation reduction that assists members in opting in or out of the National Do Not Call Registry, credit offers and junk mail. On the digital and social media marketing fronts, Justin Ramb, president of Bigeye, a full-service agency in Orlando, said he expects credit unions will continue to invest more resources in hyper-targeted marketing campaigns to reach specific audiences through data analytics, including their buying patterns and where they consume their media.

When reading articles online, most people tend to ignore the surrounding banner ads, he said. “Because you’re focused on reading the article, we’re looking at a very dynamic creative [feature] where as you scroll down the page the ads are embedded within the article and they scroll with you for a few seconds,” Ramb explained. “If you are thinking about buying a car, there might be a [loan cost] calculator within that ad.

We’re seeing engagement with those ads. We’re all concerned about privacy, but we sure like the personalization when the ad is speaking directly to us for what we need at that time. I think credit unions can continue to build on that. They’ve got some great data about their members. They know who they are, and they can target them
and others very, very well.”

Ramb also said he sees more affordable marketing opportunities next year for credit unions on some social media sites such as Pinterest. “For the last six months of this year, we’ve seen a rise in Pinterest advertising,” he said. “It’s an economical platform and there’s a huge audience that skews very heavily female, obviously, so we have been placing campaigns on Pinterest and we’re seeing great engagement from it.”

Ramb has also been looking at TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service, but he is not certain yet if it’s for credit unions. “It’s an interesting advertising platform. It has a very large audience, so we are
exploring that as well,” he said.

While the traditional go-to social media sites are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, McDonald of Your Marketing Co. said a lot of his clients are now using other social media sites such as Reddit, Nextdoor, Spotify and Zillow, because the sites, which tend to attract a younger demographic, have become more affordable and easier to use.

Article originally from CreditUnionTimes: https://www.cutimes.com/2020/01/03/credit-union-marketers-to-focus-on-values-financial-wellness-in-2020/
Image credit: Justin Cron, Unsplash

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