Comerica Bank, citing better growth and expansion opportunities outside Michigan, announced it would relocate its headquarters from Detroit to Dallas, Texas. It was tough to swallow for Michiganians, already facing what some have deemed a “one-state recession” in which high unemployment and budget shortfalls are the norm. In the media and around office water coolers, the ensuing discussion focused largely on an uncertain future for a once thriving state, made muddier by the departure of companies that had, for so long, called Michigan their home.
The MCUL, however, saw an opportunity to reinforce that loyalty, personal service and a sense of community are not obsolete — and can be found right down the street at the nearest credit union.
MCUL President/CEO David Adams, Executive Vice President Patrick La Pine, Public Affairs Director Mary Davis and Cooperative Advertising Forum Executive Director Lee Ann Mares quickly set to work on a cooperative advertising strategy to leverage the Comerica announcement as a concrete example of the credit union difference — particularly at a time when credit union benefits are more important than ever to Michigan’s working families.
With the Comerica decision still fresh in people’s minds, the cooperative advertising team worked quickly. “We worked with BERLINE, our advertising agency, and within a week, we had radio spots done,” Mares said.
A radio campaign was developed as a supplement to the overall credit union brand campaign scheduled to launch in September. The supplemental campaign included two new radio ads that would run throughout April — spots that point out the advantages of working with a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution embedded in the community.
While Mares stressed that the intent of the ad campaign “was not to bash Comerica,” the prominent news story surrounding Comerica’s decision to move its headquarters was “completely relevant to the objectives of the Michigan Credit Union Brand Campaign.”
“Comerica’s announcement high-lighted the credit union difference,” Mares said. “It fit well with the goals we’ve set for cooperative advertising and, more importantly, it allowed us to highlight how credit unions stand behind their members.”
Mares, whose background includes both marketing and financial services, has brought a blend of expertise that has given the MCUL’s brand campaign enhanced energy and focus. Michigan credit unions have already contributed nearly $700,000 to support cooperative brand radio and television ads for their local media markets. Along with matching dollars from the MCUL, the total potential media spend is approximately $1.9 million.
The committed focus on cooperative advertising in recent years has paid off. Research conducted prior to the start of the Brand Campaign in 2004 and afterwards in 2006 revealed two significant achievements: First, unaided awareness of credit union advertising has increased from 18 to 26 percent; second, 39 percent of consumers understand that credit union membership is open to everyone, up from 29 percent.
“The Cooperative Advertising Forum has truly been able to raise awareness of the credit union difference and the broad availability of membership,” Mares said. “We’ve spread the word that credit unions are for people who like the ‘community feel’ and personal service that they get at a credit union.”
Given its success, cooperative advertising will continue to be a strategic priority for the MCUL and Michigan credit unions in the coming years.
“We have to have a consistent media plan to keep the message alive,” Mares said. “We’ll continue to look for opportunities that help reinforce the credit union message.”
Mares also stressed the importance of cooperative advertising in helping keep lawmakers informed of credit unions’ role in their communities and the services they provide Michigan consumers.
“Effective cooperative advertising helps keep credit unions and their message front and center with lawmakers, the media and consumers,” she said. “And that message is the how credit unions differ from other financial institutions, and how important credit unions are to Michigan consumers and the Michigan economy.”
Upcoming radio and TV spots for the fall can be accessed on the MCUL Web site at www.mcul.org.
In early March, Michigan’s battered economy was dealt yet another blow.