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Cornerstone's CU Awareness Initiative Gaining Momentum with 41M Consumer Impressions
Thursday, September 21, 2017 6:50 AM

Ten months after the public unveiling of the "Feel the Difference" awareness initiative and six months after Cornerstone Credit Union League launched paid advertising across its three-state region of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the results show an impressive public response that continues to gain momentum. 

The goal of "Feel the Difference" is to grow the public's awareness of the many benefits of joining a credit union and to differentiate credit unions from other financial services institutions. The initiative is also designed to drive traffic to individual credit unions and provide them with tools and resources they can use to impact the public's consideration of and commitment to credit union membership. 

The initiative is highly focused on four narratives that were developed following extensive research and branding discussions across the Cornerstone region specifically executed to support "Feel the Difference." The narratives are focused on how credit unions advance individual achievement, inspire confidence and trust, remove financial burdens to make lives easier, and champion humanity by doing what is right for the good of members, employees, and communities served.

"Feel the Difference is an empowering initiative for credit unions and consumers alike," said Cornerstone President/CEO Caroline Willard. "In the first few months since its launch, we have been very encouraged by results that seem indicative of a long-term solution for credit union awareness, relevance, and sustainability." 

Cornerstone has established two websites related to "Feel the Difference," including a consumer site at which consumers can search for and gain access to a credit union in their geographic area.

Additionally, Cornerstone member credit unions have access to a "Feel the Difference" toolkit on Cornerstone's website at where they can review or download strategy documents, customizable messaging, and creative assets to complement or supplement their own marketing materials and efforts. 

Cornerstone launched its "Feel the Difference" member toolkit in November 2016 and has run paid advertising across the region since March 2017. Startup costs and the first year of paid advertising costs were absorbed by the league, resulting in member credit unions having had to pay $0 to fund these efforts for the first full year. 

"From March through August 31, Cornerstone's combined media buy resulted in 41.7 million advertising impressions—paid and added value," said SVP Communications and Outreach Jon Gorman. "That's a fairly significant number for the dollars we've spent. These impressions are largely targeted at consumers 18-34 and the underserved Hispanic population."

As research revealed, the more consumers hear about credit unions, the more likely they are to consider a credit union to meet their financial needs. The longer the campaign runs, the more visitors. Repeat visitors are increasing the longer the campaign has run. During the first three months of paid advertising, only 7.74 percent of the traffic represented returning visitors. During the past three months of paid advertising, 30.6 percent of the traffic represented returning visitors.

The top ten individual markets around the region show traffic to credituniondifference.com highest in Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, Ark., Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Tulsa, Okla., Fort Smith, Ark., Jonesboro, Ark., El Paso, and Fayetteville, Ark. 

Gorman goes on to say, "The click-through rate to the consumer-facing website for the various paid media campaigns is well above industry average, and we're pleased with these results so far. Somewhat surprisingly though, we're receiving traffic from states outside the Cornerstone footprint with 8 percent of total traffic from outside Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas."

Cornerstone's Awareness and Outreach Committee, made up of credit union executives and marketers, was instrumental in the initiative's development, which spanned more than two years of research, development, and execution with the collaborative efforts of the association's agency of record, San Antonio-based GDC. 

Cornerstone is also working closely with the Credit Union National Association as part of its Credit Union Awareness Initiative. 

"We appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively with CUNA, credit unions, and system partners from across the country in the development of CUNA's initiative. Together, we will continue to work to dispel the myths that exist around credit unions while differentiating credit unions from other financial services providers. Working with CUNA to support 'Feel the Difference' as well as individual credit union brands is important in clearly defining the credit union category with consistency at the national level and locally," added Gorman.

"Credit unions really are unique in the realm of financial institutions, and we think the 'Feel the Difference' messaging shows the advantages for consumers who become members," said Willard. "When consumers understand what credit unions are and how they can benefit from the credit union difference, one they can feel with every transaction and through every service, they respond positively. Side by side, credit unions are the clear choice, and we think the 'Feel the Difference' awareness initiative has the potential to grow awareness significantly, while also supporting credit union membership growth."