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I’m speaking to a group of marketers today in the DC area. Just for fun, last night I Googled some of them to look at their calling cards – their website. It’s 2010. The world wide web just celebrated it’s 20th birthday – I expect great things.

I am not kidding when I say that the first 8 sites I pulled had the SAME look, tone and feel….and more importantly they all used SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE stock art. All of them.

Isn’t the marketer’s goal to differentiate? Especially in a crowded, noisy, over communicated market like DC? Can we find no better way to tell our story than with pictures of paid models appearing to love us?

Oh, it’s gonna be a fun day. Stay tuned……

What if you had $0 dollars in your marketing budget this year? How would you spend it?

Chris Tissue, Industry Analyst for Callahan & Associates, Inc. published an article last week that showed the sharp decline in educational and promotional expenses among credit unions. The average decrease 11.4% from 4Q 2008 to 4Q 2009, with the largest credit unions cutting back the most.

Every credit union in the US started with a marketing budget of zero. Zilch. Nada. And for years they thrived by focusing those resources on building member loyalty. They built loyalty by listening to members’ needs, responding with relevant products, and recommending solutions. The members in turn bought more from the credit union and told their co-workers and family members about the co-op.

Several years ago, Diana Dykstra decided to return to those old school methods. She is the CEO of San Francisco Fire Credit Union. When she first became CEO the credit union had changed their name to SFFCU and expanded to a community based charter. This angered the loyal firefighters and their families. They felt somewhat betrayed. So, she decided to switch it back to San Francisco Fire and really crank up loyalty among them.

Her boldest, bravest decision was to refund all ATM surcharges. You see, they only own a couple of ATMs and even though they participate in the Co-Op and Shared Branch networks they knew that members hated being charged to get their money. So when it happened –  poof – charges reimbursed.

Did this cost them money? Absolutely. But guess what? It’s the number one reason cited on Yelp! that people feel love and loyalty towards the credit union.

She also does some “old school” things like giving little Snickers bars to members when they come in and she pays for their parking. I guess you could classify this as marketing dollars. And probably the most expensive thing she does – she personally responds to emails from her members. If you go to her website you’ll see the Ask Diana link on the main page. Several members on Yelp! reviews credited this unselfish act as the reason for their loyalty.

Diana won’t use her loyal members’ money to woo in complete strangers with membership bribes that promise free iPods. She doesn’t have to.

Instead, 64 members have voluntarily taken the time to review her credit union on Yelp!. She has earned the highest rating – 5 stars. The next closest credit union in her area is Patelco Credit Union with 24 reviews and 3.5 stars.

You simply can’t buy this kind of love.

I just woke up. Last night I partied like it was the 20th anniversary of 1999. Oh wait, it was. Welcome to the year 2020.

Time to make my new year’s resolutions. I’ll be 58 this year. That weird age when you’re not quite “old” but certainly showing many signs of knocking on that door. Let’s see what’s going on in the world. Grab my iPhone off the night stand and because of my blurry old vision I point it at the ceiling to reveal my 3-D iKnow panel. The menu displays the categories I’ve set up.


My Financial – Mark signed us up for this one. It not only shows us the broad view of the US economy – national debt, strength of the dollar, etc. But it also shows – and I hate this – our own personal worth on that given day based on previous years’ expenditures, my spending habits, seasonal changes in utility usage, etc. Yuk. It’s a subtle reminder that I need to turn off lights when I leave the room. Sure, he put in those motion detector halogen lights, but you can’t dim them without clapping your hands – so they had to go.

My Hood– This channel shows me everything that you can do, see, eat, attempt in the Columbia River Gorge this week-end. Festivals, wine events, hiking conditions. My favorite channel. It’s good to have goals.

So enough about me.

Now I need to see how my people are doing. So I click on….

My Community – When I first signed up for this, it was like Google Alert on steroids. But like Pandora, this program logged my preferences and started to refine the searches – I’m clearly only interested in things that pertain to loyalty economics and overall reputation of the credit union industry. I’ve created my own funny little symbol for the overall health of the movement. It’s a wine glass – red of course – and today it’s half full!

My Diversion – I’ve heard that there are still a handful of people living in the country that have giant satellite dishes that bring them classic old television from countries like Germany and Canada. That Coca Cola and GM still pay agencies to develop commercials that interrupt the shows. These are the same people that still had rotary dial phones in the 90s.  American network television completely shut down last year.

Everything now is literally “pay per view.” I am in control. In fact, I’m going to submit my script for Modern Family tonight and see if I can get on the iPhone voting for next week. There’s a group of writers that formed on InYourFace-Book recently that has stayed on top for a month! That’s okay – cuz the show is still fantastic. The best thing yet on my iWatch pad.

This is why I love the blog-o-sphere. It gets my heart pumping in the morning so I don’t have to drink as much coffee. Thank you Jeffry Pilcher and Sarah Cooke. Seems they both followed Ron Shevlin’s advice on How to Generate Blog Comments – PPO (piss people off!)

The discussion is around whether or not the moniker “credit union” hurts us or helps us. It’s a great discussion to be sure.

So, what’s in a name? According to Alyce Cornyn Selby, author of the book that asks that question, pretty damn much everything. When you name a child – it’s probably one of the most important moments of your life. Luckily you have 9 months to think about it. So, let’s say the child disappoints you – change their name! To Buster. That’ll show him.

I’ve been pretty outspoken around the subject of name changes. Especially when a credit union takes a venerable class of professionals like teachers or healthcare and turns them into Generico CU.

But now it’s gone too far. The debate that is currently raging on attacks the “credit union” brand. I’ll admit it – I’ve never liked those two words. Credit. Union. But hey, it wasn’t my baby to name and now that he’s turned 100 years old, I say we show him some respect.

Our category. Our legal entity. Our history, heritage, reputation, and dare I say DIFFERENTIATOR is the fact that we are a member owned financial cooperative that is called a credit union.

If anyone should be clamoring to change their category name it should be banks. Banks are synonymous with failure, greed, taxpayer bailouts, corruption – pretty much bringing our economy to its knees!

I just think we need to nip this conversation in the bud, as it were.

Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Financial Resources Federal Credit Union. Their original sponsor (and still primary SEG) is Johnson & Johnson. They were never allowed to use the J&J brand, so they chose a rather benign name. In fact, very few members even used the name in conversation. Instead they referred to it as “their credit union” or, and this was my favorite “J&J’s credit union.”  There was great love for their club. And so these members marketed FOR the credit union. They would tell their family members they had to join their credit union.

Two key words in there – “join” and “their.” You don’t join a bank.

The argument on the CU Times and Financial Brand blogs is centered around public confusion. My favorite comment (and I mean this felt like a mainlined double espresso when I read it): “I agree with banishing the term “join a credit union” – it is misleading to the public.” Yikes. Just typing that made my hands shake again.

In his groundbreaking new book “Flip the Funnel” Joseph Jaffe asks this question: “What if we got it all wrong? On average 80%-90% of most marketing budgets are aimed at attracting a complete stranger. Offering iPods, cash, and better rates than they will give their loyal existing members

If you think about it, shouldn’t we be spending more money against qualified prospective buyers versus shots in the dark at bagging a random stranger? Of course we should. It’s a complete no-brainer.”

Fight the real enemy people. Give your field of membership a reason to care. And if you want to be a bank – go covert.

Today I made my last trip to Pop’s for my lemon curd scone and coffee. I decided to buy one of their sweatshirts as a memento of this trip. The Oregon Coast is filled with stores shlepping souvenirs – but I chose Pop’s. It cost $45.00 for a hoody. But I gladly paid it.

Rather than just taking my order and my money, on the first day they asked me where I was from – and I shared my trip with them. By my second visit, I was a regular. I got introduced to “Bob” their favorite customer and his dog.  I took pictures of their restaurant and placed them on Trip Advisor until they get their own website. I blogged about them. Their lemon curd scones will literally change your life.

As I was crossing the street to my cottage it hit me. I just did what my first book predicted. When you are truly branded, you create an experience so intimate that people will tattoo your logo to their body – or in this case, plunk down 45 clams to advertise for you.

The ladies at Pop’s are truly tattoo-worthy.  Is your company?

That’s how many I’ve written this week. Combined with what I already have – ladies and gentleman – we have a draft.

Now the painful editing process begins. I have my ideal readers on standby. I trust they will be honest. It’s what I need at this stage.

But I do wish my Nana was still alive. She loved everything I did. I would go stay with her at the beach and she’d have canvas and oil paints waiting for me. I painted her this large pictures of a big orange cat.  She hung it in the living room! I even remember thinking it didn’t really match her decor. I was 12 – so it was not that great.  Years later I would buy a t-shirt that summed up the way my Nana felt about art – it simply said – “Good Art Won’t Match Your Sofa.”

I dedicated my first book to Nana. She gave me the confidence as a child to try things. She saw beauty in everything – and sadly died of a brain tumor that robbed her of her vision in her final year. But even to the end, she made me laugh and smile and could kick my ass at cribbage with her Braille playing cards.

I dedicate this second book to the credit union movement. This year I celebrate my 30th year as an evangelist. On June 16, 1980, I stepped into the lobby of Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in a light blue, white pin striped cotton skirt that buttoned down the side with giant buttons, and a white blouse. I remember that outfit because when I took a break to go to the bathroom, I had to unbutton it and promptly dropped the back of it in the toilet.

It was that kind of pure cotton that absorbed like a sponge and light blue turned to navy on contact. I contemplated quitting and running out the back door. But then I decided to face my fears, and make a joke about it. Everyone laughed with me – no one laughed at me. I was home.

Credit Unions have been my family. A big loud dysfunctional family with inbreeding and scandals and love and forgiveness. But I couldn’t ask for a better one.

I picked the Oregon coast for my writer’s retreat because, in March, especially during Spring Break, you can pretty much count on lousy weather. My grandparents lived on the coast and I never once saw the sun on vacation. There’s a joke in Oregon, What do you call a sunny Monday? The first day back to school after Spring Break.

I woke up this morning to the sound and smell of rain. Ahhhhh…finally. It’s going to be a good writing day.

Yesterday was impossibly gorgeous. I got cabin fever, went for a long walk and then tried to work at McMenamin’s Sand Trap. Bad idea. I sat next to the loud table, and ended up posting “There’s a Special Place in Hell….” on my blog. It’s funny the things that get the most comments. I love them all. When I pulled up my blog this morning my comment field was all lit up with little presents for me to open.

I haven’t had the urge to fill my pockets with rocks and walk into the surf yet so I’d say it’s shaping up to be a good writer’s retreat.


I’m up, I’ve been to Pop’s for my giant coffee and lemon curd scone – I’m serious, you have to have one of these if you ever come to the Oregon Coast – and ready to write another day.

I wrote for 7 hours straight yesterday, penning almost 3,000 words. And of those I’ll bet I keep 2800 of them. That’s progress. I’m excited. I ended the day with a walk on the beach, and a trip to the Warrenton fish monger where I discovered sea candy. Smoked scallops. Wow.

Writing can give you a kind of endorphin like running does. I experienced that yesterday – when I stopped thinking about it and just let it flow onto the page. I’ve felt that playing the piano when you can actually close your eyes and feel the music and stop thinking about your fingers connecting with the right keys. Thank you Sr. Annette for making me learn to type by touch.

That was the moment when I had complete clarity and could see what marketing will really look like in the year 2020. I know I’ve been steadily and regularly poo pooing traditional marketing like direct mail, newspaper ads and of course TV commercials. I also feel that social media is not a campaign and that having a Facebook page is akin to having a newsletter. Not that exciting – yet. And I’m amazed that no one has called me on it and said “So, Miss Smarty Pants, if all that is dying a grizzly death what will work?”

Spoiler alert.

My goal with this second book is to push CEOs and marketing professionals to systematically forget everything they know, before it destroys them. It’s not as simple as saying – you replace your direct mail campaigns with X and you’ll calculate the best ROI ever.  The 2020 vision of marketing is this: The CEO is the Pilot. The CMO has to be the co-pilot. There, I said it.

That means the CMO of 2020 needs to have the business savvy, strategic thinking and working knowledge of financials so they can take over if necessary. When in the history of credit unions has the CMO been anointed acting CEO? Never.

Before the CFOs get their panties in a wad, let me explain. You are air traffic control in this metaphor. You are monitoring changing conditions, to help guide the plane in. You are not on the plane. We need you on the ground.

Compliance, IT, audit, you are the mechanics. Constantly tinkering, checking, that we are stable enough to fly.

Operations would be the crew aboard the flight. They are responsible for the inflight experience. And they need to SEE the pilot every now and again so we know we’re good to go. I know after 9/11 we bolted down the door, but after each flight, let’s come out and say “Buh Bye” to our customers, okay?  Thank them for their business.

Before we fly we need a flight plan. This includes our target (audience) and our unique destination (differentiator). Both pilot and co-pilot have this knowledge at all times. They work together to complete it. This is a big chunk of the book.

So stay with me on this metaphoric journey. Using those visuals, where would you say marketing is today? Take a moment to really think about it.

They are certainly not in the cockpit. They’re in an office somewhere printing brochures about flying, highlighting the features and benefits of air travel.

We have but 10 years to get from there to the front of the plane. I am laying the groundwork with this book. Stay tuned……

Great Tweet this morning from Jeffry Pilcher:

Everyone wants a blog. No one wants to write one.

The tweet linked to his blog post and one of the most wonderful visuals ever for why people don’t blog:

Reality Check: You don’t walk into your garage, pick up a hammer and then roam through your house looking for something to fix.

I find it super easy to blog because I’m very interested in the art and science of marketing.  I have this thing that I want to fix. I’m not trying to sell stuff, or be clever, or fake being excited about something I’m not (like the features and benefits of a free checking account). And I think that’s why a lot of people say they want a blog – but never do it. They don’t know what to write about. They haven’t figured out what makes them tick and gets them out of bed in the morning… they say……..I don’t have time.

We are all granted 24 hours each day to do with as we please. No one can buy more time, no one is punished with less. It’s God’s little equalizing gift to us all. What you choose to do with those 24 hours speaks volumes of your priorities and your passion.

Most of my posts I write in one take. I know my grammar and sentence structure would sometimes prompt Sister Rose Dolores to pull out her ruler but I don’t care. It’s my little corner of the world, and I write like I speak.

I am both honored and humbled that I even have readers. It actually changed the way I feel when I sit down and write. Like now. I realize someone might be reading this – besides me. Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I hope I don’t disappoint you.

If you want a blog, and you don’t write one, because you don’t have time, what you’re really saying is you won’t make the time and you don’t care enough to give up something.  If you’re spending hours each week sitting in mind numbing meetings, then racing back to your desk to wade through stacks of mundane emails, feeling no progress whatsoever, well……you have a choice. I know that pisses some people off, but it’s basic time management.

I’m really close to finishing my second book. I should be writing it now. But I choose to blog instead. See how that works?

And now I’m going to pour me a second cup of coffee and assemble my new printer stand. I may even shower. Then I’ll get back to that book.

Today I’m hosting the weekly Liquid Lunch radio show for CU Watercooler.

I will be interviewing live the marketing experts from previous blog posts:

Olivier the Race Car Driver Raoust

James Robert What does the “W” stand for Lay

Jeff Sexy Photo Stephens and

Kent the Cool Dog Lover Dicken

You won’t want to miss it.

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June 2023