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This year I have the honor of teaching Strategic Marketing at not just one, but TWO Credit Union Management Schools. CUNA Management School at the University of Wisconsin and Southeast Regional Credit Union Schools at the University of Georgia.


This picture says we try harder to be all things to all people. Blech!

In preparing for each class I like to get the student roster well in advance and take a look at their websites and social media efforts. Then, I like to weave in some of the best and worst examples in my teaching. A couple of years ago I had an attendee at a conference get a bit upset because I put their awful happy shiny people website on the screen. And this person wasn’t even in the marketing department. I told her that I was sorry she felt embarrassed by that but someone in her credit union put it on the WORLD WIDE WEB so it really is fair game.

I am still shocked at how many bad credit union websites are still out there. And with the average age of a credit union member holding steady at 47 it’s safe to say that the older members likely don’t care. But to attract the ever elusive Millennial? You better step up your game. They don’t know a world without smart phones and the internet. Facebook is how they get their news.  For a long time I didn’t think credit unions should be on Facebook. But as my friend Matt Davis explained to me – Facebook has become the “yellow pages” so you really should have a presence.  But here are my credit union social media pet peeves:

  1. Blatantly shlepping your “me too” products. Last week I saw a Facebook page that actually talked about “free checking” and had a picture of….wait for it…..a person writing a check. I had to check the calendar to see if it was 1995. Whenever I see a CU boasting about free checking today it’s like driving by a grocery store and seeing a banner that says “We have food.”
  2. My incredibly talented and creative friend Brent Dixon once said in a social media teaching session “If you talked to your friends the way your credit union talks in social media, they would punch you in the face.” Why must we use brochure jargon? Just talk to me. Twitter to me is like a cocktail party. Don’t be the jerk crashing it to sell your products.
  3. Shiny happy people. I looked at 45 credit union websites yesterday. Only THREE of them did not have shiny happy stock art people on them. This is shameful. Some of them even used the same stock art. This is a sure sign of zero differentiation. We are better than this people
  4. And finally, the “About Us” page. Tsk Tsk Tsk if I cannot read your history here. The majority of credit unions today have some kind of community charter or SEG based field of membership, and I get that. But what is wrong with continuing to give a nod to the pioneers of your credit union? Those disruptors to the banking industry in the 1930’s that dared to take their money out of the bank and give it to a co-worker who kept a ledger and most likely put the money in a cigar box or coffee can. That’s good stuff.

Okay – so what is a good example of credit union websites and social media done right? Well, I only have two  I’m afraid. So here we go……. drum roll please.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Excellence in Website Development goes to: ORNLFCU. Even though they dropped in a few “shiny happy people” their navigation is superb. Their history page is amazing, and the boldness of the large photos is sexy. I especially love the home page for the acknowledgement that most people just want to get to home banking – big and proud and in your face. Nicely done.

The first Annual Flying Pig for Social Media Excellence goes to……drum roll again please…….Community Choice Credit Union. I came upon this Facebook page and clicked on their newest ad and laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. I also happen to love kittens, I mean, who doesn’t?

This credit union’s brand is fun, and a bit campy and I love it.

If you would like to nominate your credit union’s website or social media efforts for the Second Annual Flying Pig Excellence awards, please do here. I just made that up and I think I might just really do it. Now, where can I get a Flying Pig Trophy?

Now that I’m back in marketing as a full-time employee, there’s pressure on me to come up with a snappy tagline for the credit union. It’s a fact that there have been taglines so clever they have boosted sales, enhanced reputations, and found their way into popular culture.

According to that fount of knolwedge Wikipedia “A tagline is a variant of a branding slogan typically used in marketing materials and advertising. The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable phrase that will sum up the tone and promise of a brand.”

 So a tagline is a promise or a rallying cry of sorts.

You remember these gems:

Got Milk?

Just do it.

It’s the Real Thing.

Or how about these classics?

Delta: We’re ready when YOU are.

United Airlines: Fly the Friendly Skies….(insert sound of needle sliding across a record album). What? Wait a minute.

A  clever tagline cannot help a bad company? A clever tagline could actually piss people off and be used against you? Hell yes. And that’s why I eschew taglines for credit unions.

This year I had to admit I was pretty impressed with the new Best Buy ads. In fact, if I saw one zipping by as I was TiVoing past these intrusions, I’d stop and back up.

It showed a mom shopping at Best Buy and being so impressed with their seleciton and prices – the clerk made the remark “Santa Claus better watch out.”

Cut to Christmas Eve, Santa’s come down the chimney with his paltry little presents and the smug mom nodding at the Best Buy bounty under the tree would say “Game on Santa.” That’s right – cuz Best Buy is better than you old fat man in your red sweatty suit.

Best Buy ruined Christmas and what little reputation they had left when they advertised free shipping on Black Friday and later said “Oops, we can’t fill most of those orders because the response was so overwhelming, so you’re screwed. Merry Christmas.” 

Game Over Best Buy.

Time to review your credit union’s promise. Here are just a few I found:

“Invested in Your Financial Health”
“We’re here for you!” (found at least six examples with one Google search)
“Everything we do, we do for you.” 

Are you fulfilling the promise? Or could it be used as a weapon?

I will end with my personal favorite credit union tagline. And yes, they paid an agency to come up with this.

Wait for it.

“Serves you right.”


“Here’s a giant block of whatever is most difficult for you to carry, and trust me on this, you’ll carry it more times than you can count, until you decide that’s exactly what you want to do most, and then it won’t weigh a thing anymore.”

– Brian Andreas

Mark bought me a collection of Brian Andreas’ Storypeople years ago. And I read this one every day for months trying to figure out what it meant. I even emailed Brian – the artist – and told him this was my favorite and I wasn’t really sure why – but it spoke to me.

Brian emailed me back (I was thrilled) and told me that after reading my blog and checking out my website that he thought I was a cheerleader for passion and commitment, and that’s harder than being ordinary. Sometimes it feels like a curse.

Next month I celebrate 31 years in the credit union movement. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the wacky name changes, unnecessary mergers, political b.s.,  I just wanted to bail and work for Starbucks. Credit unions have become my family, albeit a big dysfunctional family. And like family, they continue to support me and love me, and accept my foibles, and let’s face it, like the Mafia, it’s hard to leave.   

So, I decided to embrace my gift and to go back  where I started – working for a credit union.

I am excited to announce that I am the new VP Marketing for Del Norte Credit Union in Santa Fe, New Mexico!!! For those of you who’ve known me forever, you can appreciate the magic of those two things. To live in the Land of Enchantment full time and to have the opportunity to work for an amazing credit union – developing their brand and fine tuning their target audience…well, it doesn’t weigh a thing anymore.

My Nana told me that God gives every child a gift and it is our duty (and here she pointed her finger at me) to figure out what that is and to give it back to the world.

I hope my Nana is watching.

If you haven’t see this video take 4 minutes and 26 seconds out of your day. 1,065,308 people already have:

I just bought the revised and updated book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman the creator of the video.

In it the author says:

People referring products and services via social media tolls are the new king. It is the world’s largest referral program in history.

Last week I blogged about OhioHealthcare FCU’s Next Top CU Member initiative.

They are $43 million in assets with a little over 8000 members. Today the CEO informed me that over 30,000 people have voted online.

The members (candidates) are spreading the world-of-mouth. One member emailed the CU:

I have Facebook, Twitter, Craig’s List, My Space, Super Poke Friends, and Frogs. No doubt thousands of friends who have now heard of a credit union.

How’s that direct mail campaign working out for you?

I bought some tampons last week. I know. TMI, right? But wait. I have a point. Instead of buying my usual brand, I picked up this black box of U by Kotex tampons. Each item was wrapped in a different color paper. They were, dare I say, cute. Someone at Kotex has a sense of humor. Someone decided to have some fun. I just googled this brand and the top hit took me to this ad on YouTube. A mere 437,912 people have viewed it so far.

This is a super old brand appealing to the next generation. My poor mother had to wear the belt. Yes, a belt that held a pillow sized pad in place. Yikes. Then my generation thankfully added the adhesive tape – and the “wings.” The tampon hasn’t changed much since the Toxic Shock Syndrome scare. But the packaging can. Nice job Kotex.

Coke is a crazy old brand that is “new” again. Coke zero was added to eliminate the word “diet.” There is a slight change in the flavor because it contains half the aspartame of Diet Coke and more acesulfame potassium.  Oh, it’s true, and the youngsters love it! It’s THEIR brand. Not yours.

How about the Cube? That’s Gen Y’s Pacer. Ugly is hip – again.

Now the challenge is how to take the old tired brand of Credit Union and make it new again – one that will appeal to the next generation member. I think Young & Free has done just that. The brilliance of taking an old product – a checking account – wrapped in a package of social media tools and new ownership is unparalleled. But beyond that – what else is working?

Where’s our colored tampon wrapper? Our new recipe for sugar free soda? Our ugly car?

Tiger Woods could still beat you with a piece of bacon.”

I didn’t just say that – Brent Dixon did last week at our Annual Meeting. And you can imagine how many golfers we had in the audience – lots. There were some chuckles of recognition, some raised eyebrows and of course a few stoic reactions.

The point he was making? Just because your credit union is on Twitter or you have a Facebook page does not mean you are going to be successful in the social media space. To be good at social media, you must first be good at being social. Man that makes sense, doesn’t it?

It also explains why so many people fear social media. They don’t know what to say or area afraid to join in the conversation. You know what? That’s okay. You probably shouldn’t be the one spearheading your credit union’s efforts. So who should?

Marketing seems to be a natural because, well, we better be good at promoting, right?

Not necessarily. I’ve met a ton of marketers that are good at producing static material (think direct mail pieces, brochures, newspaper ads) that aren’t social at all. They are the advertising equivalent of a wall flower.  A pretty one, but not one that wants to dance or make eye contact. Awkward.

Here are the tests a social media candidate would have to pass, in my opinion:

1. Put them in the elevator with a stranger. They must try to bond with this person – over the weather, the Muzac, something before arriving at their floor.

2. Look at their cell phone. If they have not customized the picture on the front – gong. Next please.

3. Must have one or more of the following:

a. tattoo.

b. piercing (not necessarily still in use, but they did it)

c. facial hair (for men – LOL) or colored hair (man or woman)

4. Tried out for dance team, student government, cheerleading, sports, etc. in school. Preferably didn’t make it.

5. Make them go to a nice restaurant for dinner – alone. Will they sit at the bar and engage, or bring a book and get a table for one?

What am I missing?

I’m in New Mexico this week getting some much needed sunshine. Yesterday I decided to Yelp restaurants in Albuquerque. Yep, Yelp is now a verb like Google.

Currently ranked number four in the city of Albuquerque by locals and tourists alike is Pho #1. A vietnamese restaurant. I love Pho (which is pronounced Fuh as in WTF this is the best soup in the world!)

If you’ve never had Pho, you have not lived. It’s medicinal and aromatic and gorgeous healthy goodness.  Since moving back to Portland, I’ve been on the quest for the best. My buddy Paul and my sister Daedre and I discovered a blog the Pho King. We too intend to invade this gastronimical world with fervor.

The Pho at Pho #1 is truly the best I’ve had so far. The reviews were spot on.

My point of this post, this could never have happened with traditional marketing. Not in Albuquerque, New Mexico where people travel for hundreds of miles to eat Hatch green chile and see the hot air balloons. Pho #1 couldn’t buy enough TV, radio or  billboards to drive traffic to their place. But now that the people have spoken, on a Friday night, prepare to wait.

If you’re still campaigning (begging) for business by screaming on the radio about how good you are, or buying bus wraps and full page ads in the local rag, why not take a page from Pho #1. Be the best and let your customers market for you.

The first time I heard the phrase “product propensity” was when a vendor was trying to sell me a matrix mailing system. That’s when you send new members a series of letters informing them of the next product they should have – based on their product propensity study.

On the surface it sounds like a great idea.  I guess where I have a problem with it is this. At some time in everyone’s life, you need what we sell.  Our products are commodities. It would be like my dry cleaner sending me a nice letter saying: “We noticed you brought in a jacket to have it cleaned, did you know that we clean pants too? Bring us your pants. We’ll clean them.” knows what propensity means – an inclination to behave in a particular way. Amazon doesn’t sell things we need. They sell things we want. And they make money when they help consumers make purchase decisions.

Case in point. I went to Amazon this morning to pre-order Awkward Family Photos. According to their data base, people like me also buy Sh*t My Dad Says and Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong.

Do I need any of these books? No. Do I want them? Maybe. Did they help me buy more – cross sell – absolutely. They are on to my propensities. They also don’t stalk me (call me or send me unwanted mail). They simply place it out there for me to find – I have to opt in.

“Marketing is not a campaign, it’s a commitment.”

Joseph Jaffe

We don’t sell funny books. We move people’s money. That’s a lot more serious. It’s a real commitment. And like any relationship, it requires time and trust before I’m going to give over everything.  So stop sending me your letters adorned with shiny happy people pushing me-too-products and start paying attention to my needs.

You may need to sell more credit cards, but seriously, I don’t need or want another one. I have a propensity to buy too many books. You should know that by now.

I got a great piece of direct mail yesterday. I know! Can you believe I said that – as much as I detest this tired old marketing method?

It was a 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 folded post card with a special cut, glossy card stock with four color printing. This piece was not cheap.

On the front was this tantalizing statement: “Coming your way: an easier and more rewarding upgrade experience” from United Airlines.

Okay, I’ll bite. I opened it up to a simple chart comparing United to American, Delta, Continental, US Airways and Southwest. It was showing how generous United has become with their first class upgrades for elite passengers. Of course Southwest scored a big fat zero on their chart because, um, and maybe United doesn’t know this – but Southwest Airlines doesn’t play the First Class game. As they like to put it “Everyone’s in first class with Southwest.”

United has changed a policy and they’re using a slick marketing campaign to look like they are doing something really cool. I used to have to sign-up for a first class upgrade and have enough coupons or miles in my account, in the event my name was called, to “buy” my way up. When you’re an elite traveler (100k miles a year) you get these coupons all the time. I never ran out.

So what they’re really doing is saving themselves time and money by discontinuing the charade of the coupon and automatically putting all elite travelers on the upgrade list. Sounds lovely, right?

Here’s what’s really going on. United has cut back their number of flights significantly to ensure a packed house. They are usually calling for volunteers to take a later flight because flights are overbooked. Very few people buy first class these days so to accommodate an overbooking, they move elites to the front of the bus. They are in effect, already doing this.

This reminds me of some member reward programs that offer free money orders to elite members. Those with over $50K aggregate balances – you know, the money order users.  We’ll have to do nothing, but look like we’re doing something.

United must have some marketing budget to burn up cuz this direct mail piece is gorgeous. I gotta give them credit – but I don’t expect to be upgraded anytime soon. I dropped down to the dreaded Premier (elite) status in February. 2009 was a slow travel year for me. I am now barely above the rung with the goats and chickens.

I think I’ll enjoy my open seating, all you can eat peanut buffet and cheerful flight attendants on Southwest thank you very much.

My friend Kent Dicken at Shared IDiz had a great blog post last week that involved the coolness of bananas. That’s right. Imagine if you were the marketer for Chiquita. You need to somehow differentiate your banana. Go.

Any ideas? Think about it. I’ll wait.

They did something very simple. Very random, and it changed the way I buy bananas. Success.

Yesterday I was listening to the local news and a reporter, Stephanie Strickland struck her own version of Olympic gold when she was able to get the attention of Snowboarder Shaun White. How? With a banana.

As she tells the story, she knew there was no way she could get an interview with this icon, and there were literally thousands of photographers and reporters that would be waiting for him outside the venue. So…..she got some poster board, a  few Canadian stickers and a banana. She wrote “Sign this Banana” and waited. It worked.

Shaun walked over and said “You want me to sign a banana?”

“Yes, please.”

And so he did.

Then he posted a picture of it on his Facebook page that simply said “I had to sign this banana.” 4,582 Facebook fans agreed.

Lessons learned. Shiny happy people on your marketing stuff does not differentiate you. So stop doing it! Think like a banana. Be the banana. Find your inner banana.

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June 2023