Don’t You Dare Utter ‘Not on Brand’

When you find yourself saying, “it’s not on brand,” do you understand why you are saying it? Uttering these words should prompt us to question whether we truly grasp the essence of our brand identity and what it represents. It’s not merely a matter of adhering to a color palette or logo; it encompasses the entire attitude and personality of our brand. If you are getting hung up on visual identity alone, something is wrong. Let me explain: Too many credit unions view their brand guides as law. Despite the term “guide” in the name, most follow strict, rigid, and literal interpretations, which harms their brand. And honestly, most of these guides involve design standards, not actual brand standards. I remember one credit union that came to Your Marketing Co. after undergoing a rebrand elsewhere. It was like trying to give therapy to cult survivors. What they had been taught actually discouraged critical thinking. They would point to words in their guide such as “mold,” “make,” and “execute,” which they were told must be included in their messaging. Here’s the deal: Yes, you need guide rails. Absolutely, they are important. But if those standards hinder your creative messaging and tone with your target audience, it’s time to reevaluate your overarching brand strategy. Take, for example, Heinz, the market leader in ketchup in the United States. I want you to watch these four spots from 1979, 2013, 2018, and 2024. 1979 – “Anticipation” 2013 – “Last Drop” 2018 – “At Last” 2024 – “The Wait” What are your first impressions? You might think it shows a “sign of the times,” and you’d be correct. Indeed, a lot has changed in 45 years. Yet, there is consistency among all four messages. Each one positions Heinz’s ketchup as a “must-have.” You may have noticed that the “At Last” spot from 2018 seems a bit different from the rest. But is it “off-brand”? No! Just because it doesn’t include people dining doesn’t mean it is off-brand compared to the other three. It adheres to the same central theme as the rest, and the singer holding a note for nearly 10 seconds certainly commands our attention. What’s great about Heinz’s latest campaign, “The Wait,” is that it taps more into our human emotions. Without any words, we’ve all been there, waving down a waitress for some ketchup for our naked fries – unless you are one of those unusual people who use mayonnaise. Eww. This brings me back to what should be in your brand standards: real audience insights. Understanding your target audience is the cornerstone of effective branding. Prioritize consumers’ needs, preferences, and behavior, and don’t be overly rigid about your guidelines. Remember: they are guidelines, not rules. What are the consumers’ attitudes toward borrowing? How do they make financial decisions? Why do they hesitate before applying for a loan or opening an account? What pain points are they facing? Of course, I realize you can’t ignore sales completely, and I’m not advocating for that either! This is where we often see credit unions focusing only on immediate sales promotions, resulting in the use of overused and unoriginal stock photos, such as piggy banks, women strangely dangling keys, or diverse groups of people with creepy smiles. Ugh. The bottom line is this: if your brand standards – or your fallible interpretation of those standards – are holding your credit union back from effectively targeting, change them today. As Vice President of Brand Experience for Your Marketing Co., Frank Allgood works with credit unions to develop strong leaders, create effective training programs, and build powerful brands. Want to connect? Call 864.326.8740 or email frank@yourmarketingco.com.

Hustle and Bustle = Performance that is lackluster

I’ve seen two extremes in my fifteen plus years in the credit union movement. I’ve seen credit union leaders so paralyzed by fear of change that their credit union dies on the vine. It’s like walking into granny’s house, a house that has not changed in years. (That yellow corded rotary phone is still on the wall and the 1988 phone book is still in the cabinet underneath.) I talk a lot about fear of change in this blog because it’s a common occurrence. I’ve also seen credit union so afraid of failing that they hustle and bustle and grasp on to every new idea, half-heartedly implement it just to go live, and then move on to the next big thing, often forgetting that this “thing” they just implemented still exists in six weeks. One project down, three more added to the list. It’s mass chaos and the team doesn’t know which end is up. The KPI is whatever is urgent this week and the focus is whatever fire is burning currently. The strategy sounds more like an ad for shoes: “Just Do It.” The ancient philosopher Seneca said “For love of bustle is not industry, it is only the restlessness of a hunted mind.” But he also said this: “True repose does not consist in condemning all motion as merely vexation. That kind of repose is slackness and inertia.” So, which is it? Both. A heathy mix of where you land right on the middle. Matthew McConaughey was a guest on a podcast and talked about this very issue. “I had five proverbial campfires on my desk,” he said. He had a production company, a music label, a foundation, his acting career, and his family. He realized he was doing too much. Way too much. He called his lawyer and shut down the production company and the music label. “I was left with the three things that were most important to me. And those three campfires turned into bonfires. I majored in my majors. I got rid of two minors that I was trying to major in. I had been making C’s in everything, but when I got rid of five classes and concentrated on the three I really wanted, I started making A’s.” There is a lesson for each one of us in McConaughey’s decision. Sometimes we don’t need more time in our day, we need more focus on the things that really matter. As we add “things” to our list (products, services, strategies, tasks, etc) we need to remove things from that list as well. In conducting hundreds of credit union strategic planning sessions over the last 15 plus years I see so much excitement for the new, yet so much fear for killing off the things that no longer serve us (or our teams, or more importantly our members well.) If you constantly find yourself saying “I just don’t have enough time in my day” it may be time to focus. If you find yourself stuck with no membership growth at your credit union you may be trying to offer too many things to too many people with no focus on serving your ideal member well. Maybe it’s time for a strategic reset to get unstuck. We can help. “The more things you try to do, the less adequately you do all of them, and the more vulnerable you make yourself to the consequences of mediocrity, inadequacy, and failure.” – Ryan Holliday

Ethics in Credit Union Marketing

Always be learning. The moment we think we know it all is the minute we know nothing. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an event in Atlanta for the marketing agency industry and got grounded back into our “why” at YMC with some timely reminders. I furiously jotted notes to share with my team, but the more I reviewed my notes, the more I wanted to share some of these with you. If you have a credit union marketing firm you work with, or are contemplating working with a credit union marketing firm, these will serve as some good reminders on getting the most out of the relationship you are investing in. A marketing industry expert (and host of the conference I attended) summed up the role of a strategic marketing firm this way: “What I most admire about you, as an advisor, is that you have nothing tactile to hand over to the client—it’s just you, standing naked in front of the room, carefully assessing, solving, and then speaking into that confusion. At its core, creativity is simplifying things; first, seeing the patterns, and then making the simple but courageous recommendation. And then applying the principles of change management to bring it to life with as little disruption as possible.” He also shared some of the governing ethical principles marketing firms should adhere to in serving their clients well. While this was nothing new for me (but still good reminders), I feel these are principles any client of a marketing firm should also be aware of. Your credit union deserves an ethical approach to credit union marketing. Your marketing firm should be more than an advertising firm, it should be a trusted advisor that speaks the truth and pushes you out of your comfort zone. That’s why we are hired, and that’s what our clients need. Otherwise, you could just do it yourself. If you’re struggling to meet the goals of your credit union, why not give us a shot? For over 15 years, we have been using a successful, time-tested approach to helping credit unions get unstuck and achieve amazing results. Just reach out, and we’ll pencil in a fact finding meeting to see if we can help you too.

Abandon Ship? Why Frequency is Your Brand’s Lifeboat

When a credit union leader says they want to do a short run on a campaign, my initial response is, “Are we swimming or treading water?” Unfortunately, too many credit unions are only looking to dip their toe in the water. Let me explain. As someone who lives in the Carolinas, I’m very aware that FanDuel and DraftKings have arrived in North Carolina. With the legalization of online sports betting in the Tar Heel State on March 11, these two powerhouse brands blitzed almost every streaming and media service provider imaginable over the past 60 days leading up to the deadline, including pre-registration bonuses and influencer marketing. Of course, the key to their short run campaign was frequency. And, oh boy, have both FanDuel and DraftKings poured a ton of money into acquiring new customers during the initial launch phase. By contrast, we know of a credit union in the Rocky Mountains region of the United States that identified a new market two hours away from their homebase in another state. They boasted that if a FinTech can enter a new market without a physical branch, so could they. They talked a good game with an “all in” attitude. Unfortunately, their strategy and budget said otherwise. Their campaign burned hot and fast, and they were out within 45 days with little to show for their efforts. Short run campaigns that are most successful for credit unions tend to be experiential marketing, where there are pop-up events or interactive experiences that generates excitement or media buzz. A promoted flash loan or limited time deposit special can also drive engagement, but only when it is supported by a high level of frequency. In a short timeframe, you need to build familiarity, create a sense of urgency, overcome competition, and ensure your audience can absorb your messaging. There’s the old “Marketing Rule of 7,” which suggest someone must see or hear a message at least seven times before they’ll commit to act. With modern attention spans, I would suggest we are well beyond seven touch points. We must take a more strategic approach and dig deeper into the platforms our target audience frequents and consider campaign pacing and clear messaging. By contrast, long-term campaigns help build brand awareness, foster trust and creditability, and can change perceptions about your credit union. Here’s the kicker: Your true adversary isn’t your competitors, it’s obscurity. To increase market share, you need to increase your presence and credibility, and that only comes with a long-term strategy where you are not just selling what people want, but rather you are positioning what matters most to your target audience. If I were to ask you, “What brand is associated with happiness,” the answer is Coca-Cola. Go ahead. Google it! Only, Coca-Cola ended their “Open Happiness” campaign in 2016. So, why does is still resonate with us? That campaign ran for seven years. It’s successor, “Taste the Feeling,” which is going on eight years, emphasizes the experience of the product itself, but compliments the idea that Coke brings happiness. When it comes to your credit union’s brand story, let’s not just tell it for 60 days but for a lifetime. As Vice President of Brand Experience for Your Marketing Co., Frank Allgood works with credit unions to develop strong leaders, create effective training programs, and build powerful brands. Want to connect? Call 864.326.8740 or email frank@yourmarketingco.com

Ditch Your SWOT and Replace it With This

Tradition says that strategy starts with your SWOT analysis. What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to your credit union strategy? The longer you have used the SWOT analysis as the basis for your credit union strategic plan, the less helpful it will be to building your strategy as most SWOT analyses don’t change much from year to year. A little history before I share my recommendation. SWOT dates back to the late 1960’s and was developed by Albert Humphrey of the Stanford Research Institute. It usually consists of a long list of items without a hierarchy of import, and, worse, without validation from external data. Some observations and opinions may very well be valid, but it is usually driven by the loudest voice in the room. So, what should you replace SWOT with at your next credit union strategic planning session? Some credit union strategic planning facilitators live and die by SWOT. They are neither wrong nor right. I simply believe that, to have a healthy conversation and build a strong strategy for your credit union, you need to remove emotion and cognitive bias from the equation and focus on facts and vision. If your traditional SWOT analysis isn’t working for your credit union strategic planning anymore, I have a time-tested strategic planning formula that has worked for many credit unions over the last 15 years, and can help yours too.

Let's Get Started!

Reh Harvey

Vice President of Digital Strategy

Reh Harvey, our Vice President of Digital Strategy, leads with diligence and fervor. Having previously been a member of Team YMC, he is excited to return to such an amazing culture and even more amazing people (his words)! Through his experience in the marketing world, he’s found the key to success is to stay on the cutting edge and to always keep evolving.
 
Although originally drawn to marketing for its lack of math, Reh now finds himself doing more math than he would’ve bargained for. But his self discipline and positive attitude make it easy for him to laugh and take it in stride. Hoping to one day visit Japan and enjoy some premium Sushi, Reh lives life by his creed: Be a good human. Do good work. And above all, just keep going.

Hailey Madej

Graphic Designer

As YMC’s in-house Graphic Designer, Hailey possesses an eye for detail and a drive to innovate. It’s no surprise though since being creative runs in the family! Inspired from an early age by her mom’s work as a Graphic Designer, Hailey is a seasoned expert whose talents bring vitality and accessibility to every project. As a UX/UI designer, she expertly blends the intuitive and the creative for all to enjoy.
 
In addition to the occasional freelance project, Hailey also lends her abilities to supporting art initiatives within her community, such as the Belleville Mural Project. Her favorite aspect of joining the YMC team is the friendly, uplifting culture and breadth of design tasks. When it comes to marketing, she believes in pushing boundaries and maybe breaking some rules to capture her audience’s attention. Her advice to those just starting out? “Always seek quality over quantity.”

Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Living life by his motto to “Do good even if the world is unfair,” Dexter would also advise his younger self, “It’s hard, but you’re doing good!” Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche

Copywriter

Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!
Download Teal Paper!