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Open Your Eyes: CUNA Reveals Brand Platform for National Awareness Initiative
Friday, March 2, 2018 6:45 AM

More than two years ago, Credit Union National Association set out to tackle the awareness gap in the credit union space. This came on the heels of Cornerstone delivering an awareness initiative in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas for its member credit unions in November 2016.

During the past two years, CUNA has been working with a Creating Awareness Advisory Group made up of credit union executives and marketers, as well as league credit union system influencers, including Cornerstone. During this time, CUNA learned that awareness is already an asset, but that consumer misperceptions continue to exist. These findings were consistent with Cornerstone’s findings as part of its “Feel the Difference” consumer awareness initiative.

The challenge discovered by CUNA’s advisory group is consumers' consideration of credit unions and, in some cases, reconsideration. The result of their research team was the "Open Your Eyes” initiative layered on top of a “Your Financial Future, Faster” brand platform.

During the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference this week, Teresa Freeborn, chair of the Creating Awareness Advisory Group and president/CEO of Xceed Financial Credit Union, updated attendees and viewers of CUNA’s Facebook Live feed on the brand platform and creative concepts that have been developed to date—the result of top creative professionals' research aimed at showing Americans that credit unions are their best financial partner.

"Research is the bedrock of what supports the new awareness initiative," Freeborn said.

The awareness initiative team conducted thousands of qualitative and quantitative national research and interviews and evaluated scores of focus groups.

Freeborn pointed to other financial services competition as part of the barrier to consumer consideration of credit unions. Last year alone, JP Morgan spent over $2 billion on advertising. For every dollar that credit unions spend on marketing and advertising, banks spend $43. $800 million spent by the big five in NYC alone just last year.

"So it's a pretty daunting challenge before us," Freeborn said. "The awareness committee built a program that research has proven will move the needle in debunking the myths associated with consideration of CUs among consumers."

Consumer Myth #1: "I can't join." People don't believe they're able or eligible to join a credit union, and there's a lot of outdated thinking in the consumer space. But they do like what credit unions are all about.

Consumer Myth #2: "It's only local." People believe credit unions are only local, which in their minds equates to a lack of sophistication, smallness, limited offerings, and weak technology. Researchers heard things such as, "Credit unions don't have ATMs nationwide." "If I go on vacation, can I get cash?" "What if I move?" and "A credit union can't possibly offer me what I need financially."

CUNA’s research findings mirrored findings from research executed by Cornerstone in 2016 to support its awareness initiative. In Cornerstone’s research, the consumer misperceptions that are needed to overcome through awareness include lack of services, behind in technology, who can join, and lack of footprint (access to money and ATMs).

During the presentation at GAC, staff from business management consultancy BrandCap described how initially they focused on trying to simply raise awareness, but instead found many Americans are aware of credit unions, yet are hampered by myths about their ability to join, and security and accessibility of their money.

The team described their efforts to show how credit unions are a fully modern part of today’s financial services marketplace, yet are distinctive enough to help members achieve their goals faster.

GAC attendees then witnessed the unveiling of a concept video telling consumers to “Open Your Eyes” to a credit union—financial institutions that are right in front of them that offer better rates on loans and accounts, all while ensuring members, as owners, get a “piece of the pie” of their institution.

“CUNA’s awareness initiative has thus far aligned with our own efforts for Cornerstone-member credit unions,” explained Advisory Group member and Cornerstone Senior Vice President of Communications and Outreach Jon Gorman. “CUNA’s research validated and supported our own findings, the brand narrative aligns very naturally with what we’ve been communicating to credit unions and consumers during the past two years, and the creative concept, while different, is very similar in tone."

The goal of both CUNA and Cornerstone is to support and complement individual credit union or chapter brand initiatives. CUNA has developed a brand platform for the entire category that supports and complements individual league efforts as well as chapter and credit union marketing efforts. This is another example of the power of the league/CUNA system working at a national and local level to support and drive the success of credit unions.

“The challenge now will be to find synergies and connection points between what we’re doing for Cornerstone credit unions and what CUNA expects to do at a national level,” added Gorman. “We intend to continue to drive awareness for Cornerstone-member credit unions through our ‘Feel the Difference’ initiative, while looking for creative ways to integrate CUNA’s initiative into what we’re doing locally. We remain focused on overcoming consumer misperceptions while providing tools and resources to credit unions to effect consideration and commitment to membership."

“Last year, we created 65 million opportunities for consumers to learn about credit unions and discover one for themselves through digital advertising in our first year of paid advertising across our region,” continued Gorman. “We are looking ahead at another year of paid digital advertising, continuing to test our creative deliverables, and looking at new channels and new materials we can deliver to credit unions to support their efforts in their markets. Cornerstone has done this for our members without having to ask for a single dollar to execute the research, develop the brand platform, deliver creative assets to credit unions, and execute the first two full years of paid digital advertising across our region. We look forward to integrating CUNA’s initiative into our own as a means to add additional air cover for credit unions and create further understanding and awareness of how a credit union can help members reach their financial futures, faster.”

View CUNA’s Open Your Eyes campaign, at Password is openyoureyes.

View Cornerstone’s “Feel the Difference” materials.