By David Adams
One of the most important and impactful initiatives that we coordinate at MCUL is the execution of the cooperative advertising CU Link campaign. This campaign plays an important part in spreading the credit union message, and because credit union support is critical for the campaign's success, I’d like to talk to you about the campaign direction for 2013, and the rationale behind it.
As some of you may know, we began our 2013 planning process with the intention of going in an entirely new creative direction. We presented a concept built around the idea of an “Owner’s Manual for Your Money” that included an animated character. While many were supportive of the new direction, there were also some who were not comfortable with the concept. The MCUL’s role in the development of the campaign is to ensure that we listen carefully to our credit union community. Based on the concerns expressed, it seemed prudent that we take a step back from the Owners Manual concept and work on the new 2014 creative more carefully this year, before implementing big changes.
Additionally, some questioned why we were moving away from the collateral material creative that was used in the 2012 campaign for the first time. There may still be some good shelf life for this customizable creative that is being used by credit unions in their branch offices. So, after much consideration, we decided that utilizing our existing 2012 creative for another year was the best option for the 2013 campaign, with the addition of some exciting new elements.
One of the main reasons we feel confident in staying with the 2012 creative is that our research shows the campaign has been a big success. In addition to a record-level of credit union participation by 62 percent of our credit unions, and lots of positive feedback, also, at the end of last year’s campaign, 64 percent of those we surveyed remembered seeing or hearing advertising about credit unions in the preceding 6 months. That’s an all-time high, and a huge increase over the previous year.
And that’s just the beginning. Research also shows that 79 percent of those surveyed would consider a credit union if they were looking for a new account today. We’ve now pulled ahead of Michigan banks in terms of consideration of credit unions vs. banks for core banking products.
And on membership eligibility, in 2004, only 29 percent of those we asked understood that everyone is eligible to join a credit union. Today, that number has more than doubled to 64 percent.
So clearly, we can see that our cooperative advertising campaign is contributing to a shift in these consumer perceptions regarding credit unions. The question now is, how can we make it work even better in 2013? We have a lot of ideas and plans on that front.
As part of last year’s campaign, we also launched CU Link, the online portal, which brings the power of the entire credit union network to one place at creditunionlink.org. We want to continue positioning CU Link as a unifying force to strengthen the perception of credit unions both individually and collectively. This takes time – it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, as long as we keep reinforcing it. So, scores of Michigan credit unions began melding the CU Link campaign with their own marketing in 2012 and we want to continue that momentum.
That brings me to another very important component of the website … the URL. When we researched options for the URL, we obviously tried to secure CU Link.com, .org and .net. Unfortunately those URLs were not available, so we chose to go with CreditUnionLink.org. Since our initial attempt to purchase the URLs, the owners have sold them to other sites that are creating a conflict with our branding. We also know it is best to have a URL that closely matches the brand, so we are going to change the URL destination from creditunionlink.org to CULinkMichigan.com. This URL directly matches the brand and also reinforces the strength of Michigan credit unions. So, although this is a subtle change, it is an important one.
We also know that in order to maximize our success, we’re going to have to adjust the media mix to really reach our target audiences and to have a segmented approach to reach the younger Gen Y demographic. That means that we need to surround our target audience with our messages. In addition to TV, radio and billboards, we will use social media, point-of-sale, digital displays, online advertising, streaming radio, search engine optimization and public relations activities. Research shows that the younger audiences we’re trying to reach use more media sources, and that’s why it’s so important that we take this all-encompassing approach.
So our 2013 campaign will hit all those fronts and the messages will be more product-focused than ever before, such as our TV ads (show ad here). All media elements will highlight loans and convenience, including our large shared branching and surcharge-free ATM network. The other exciting component we are adding this year is a sub-campaign for the under 25 market. We all know this is a critical segment for us to attract, so we are developing a website with supporting advertising that will directly speak to this market about the benefits of credit union membership.
And once again, a centerpiece of the campaign will be the ability for individual credit unions to truly make this message their own with customizable collateral materials. There will be a number of current and new elements available for credit unions to customize, everything from posters to web pages, and CUcorp will once again provide a $500,000 marketing incentive pool for credit unions that pay full fair share and integrate the campaign into their own marketing. All participating credit unions will receive marketing kits with CU Link-branded pieces for branches and websites.
So now let’s talk dollars and cents, since none of this can happen without your contributions. Our goal this year is to raise $1 million from our credit union community, with a 65% participation rate. While last year was our best ever, with $985,000 in contributions and a 62% participation rate, we want to do even more this year. To your contributions, MCUL and CUcorp will add $300,000 from an annual dues reduction, just as we did in 2012, and of course, $1 million in matching funds from CUcorp, along with the $500,000 marketing integration incentive. Cucorp will also provide an additional $1 million in supplemental advertising funds that will support other key messages such as Invest in America and member business lending.
As you can see, we’ve increased our investment in this campaign during the past several years, and we’re asking credit unions to do the same. Together, we can continue to advance the credit union difference message and help credit unions grow, serve and remain strong.
Michigan's credit unions should take great pride that we have the largest voluntary advertising campaign in the nation and we're moving the needle with regard to consumer perceptions, membership growth and product usage. The cooperative campaign is a great supplement to individual credit union advertising. It is also a critically important part of our grassroots advocacy strategy as we rely on lawmakers understanding the credit union difference as well.
So, thanks in advance for your support for the 2013 CU Link cooperative advertising campaign. Wouldn't it be great if every Michigan credit union voluntarily supported this initiative? We're headed in that direction and with your help, we're going to make a great impact.
View the “Michigan Priority Report” on CUBE TV for a video summary of MCUL & Affiliates CEO David Adams’ January Priority Report introduction.