Changing the Marketing Game for Credit Unions

By Tim Newbrough 

Newbrough, Tim

Marketing can seem pretty straightforward. You want to achieve an objective, you pick an audience, and you target them with advertisements. In reality, marketing is far more complex and strategic. There are vast differences between direct marketing and brand-building, both of which are necessary to achieve difficult goals like credit union membership and market share growth. 

The CUNA-led Awareness Initiative and Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union campaign is a huge opportunity for credit unions. As a marketer, I see the complexities of this campaign and the diligence that has gone into every detail, from market research to campaign content to targeted placement. 

An Exciting Time

This is an exciting time. We’ve never tried to accomplish a brand-building campaign on this scale, and from my position as a marketing lead at a credit union I can tell you we need this effort now more than ever.

Before I joined the credit union movement, I worked in marketing for a regional newspaper for more than 13 years. I experienced firsthand an industry as it lost relevance with consumers. Newspapers went from a main source of information to the only source asking consumers to pay for information. Free information on the Internet dismantled the newspapers’ business model, and the industry was slow to catch up with consumer demands.

Today, credit unions face relevance challenges of their own. Despite offering some of the best products and services on the market, consumers don’t consider us because they think there will be more hurdles to jump over than working with a bank. 

What Research Has Found

This is what three years of market research from the Awareness campaign revealed: 98% of consumers have heard of credit unions but 72% wouldn’t consider joining a credit union. Consumers either believe they can’t join a credit union or that we’re smaller, less sophisticated institutions and accessing their money will be more difficult than with a bank. 

These nuggets from market research are enormously important to informing how both the Awareness Initiative and credit unions should do marketing. At credit unions, we need to do direct marketing that easily defines our name brand and emphasizes the tools we use to provide great products and services. And as industry, we need build up brand marketing that goes beyond seasonally repetitive sales messaging and taps into consumer mindsets. It’s about building long-term growth by changing perceptions of credit unions and boosting their consideration as a financial option. 

4 Areas of Focus

I’ve been a part of the team at Local Government Federal Credit Union for more than seven years, and every day I’m reminded that we truly live our mission, to improve the lives of our members. Through the efforts of the Awareness initiative, we have a unique opportunity to attract new members who may not have been considering credit unions in the past. 

For conversion at the local level, LGFCU plans to focus heavily in four areas, the first being our social media channels. LGFCU will utilize paid search results and Facebook boosts to align with Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union, expanding our reach to potential members. Geo-Fencing is another area where we have achieved success in the past. LGFCU can geographically identify targets according to our field of membership and deliver localized campaign assets to mobile devices. 

Boots-on-The-Ground Marketing

For real boots-on-the-ground marketing efforts, LGFCU has a team of membership development officers that regionally cover the entire state of North Carolina. The team has been asked to identify OOH (Out-of-Home) advertising opportunities at local sports complexes, such as Little League baseball or soccer fields. And finally, LGFCU plans to activate the more than 550 Advisory Council volunteers made up of dedicated members who believe in the credit union movement. Their voices are a powerful grassroots, word-of-mouth resource that willingly help us spread the word about the benefits of credit union membership.

It’s all about tying our credit union’s marketing plan with the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union campaign’s brand-building effort that’s running in our region. We want consumers to see Open Your Eyes and think credit unions are a good option for them. Then we want them to see LGFCU’s marketing and decide we offer the right products and services for their needs. This marketing funnel is the one-two punch that’s going to help credit unions compete not with each other, but with banks and new FinTech disrupters. 

Nearly 46-Million Impressions

It’s the early days in this initiative but we’re already outperforming industry benchmarks. And if we want to see real changes in our industry so we don’t go the way of newspapers, we need to all come together.  I encourage other marketing professionals to learn more about this initiative, talk to your management team, and get involved at

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Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union has more consumer interaction in North Carolina and overall than we anticipated since we launched in February. As of April 30, the campaign in North Carolina has reached 6.9 million consumers, gained 22.5 million impressions, and 4.2 million targeted campaign videos have been watched from beginning to end. Nationally, those numbers reach 12.1 million consumers, 45.7 million impressions, and seven-million video views.

Something Special

I’ve worked on the full-scope of marketing from planning to design. I’ve seen a lot of campaigns, and I see something special in Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union. The research, concept, and digital strategy are really impressive and they’re different from anything I’ve ever seen from credit unions. We’re talking to consumers in a way we’ve never done before. It’s an exciting time and a huge opportunity for our movement. 

Tim Newbrough is senior vice president at Local Government Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, North Carolina.







Section: Standard
Word Count: 1250
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Copyright Year: 2019
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