Don’t pimp out your credit union branding

“No one knows about our credit union, but if they did, they would love it!”

Cool. What are you doing about that?

“Well, we’ve…. (fill in the blank with your answer here), but none of it has worked!”

Cool, let’s talk about your credit union branding then. Not a surface-level discussion but a deep discussion on what branding is and what that looks like for your credit union.

The goal of branding is to build a relationship with future members, not haul them in right now. Remember, only a tiny percentage of people who hear or see your message needs your offer at the time they receive it. Branding builds long-term relationships, which are built on trust. When a relationship has finally been established, you become the financial option people think of first and like the best when they, or their family and friends, need the products or services your credit union offers.

Think about your personal relationships. Your true friends are the ones who spend time with you, who make you smile, laugh, feel good and really don’t ask for anything from you unless they’re in a pinch. Consider your credit union brand like a friend.

Your creative and messaging is either written to be transactional or relational. A long series of transactional ads (that loan special with a low rate) does not build your credit union branding. It builds name awareness, but not a brand for your credit union. There’s no trust involved, only solving an immediate problem. When I teach credit union branding at conferences, I put it this way: loan promos as a strategy are marketing prostitution. It’s transactional, there’s no love, only fulfilling a need and walking away.

Branding, on the other hand, is like courting the love of your life. You take time to get to know them, build trust, and you’re in it for the long haul for the right reasons.

Just grabbing people’s attention is easy. Any fool can do it.

There’s nothing wrong with transactional ads as part of a larger marketing strategy. The most successful marketing success stories are those built upon relationships first. Then offer specific products and promotions to ideal members, while maintaining and nourishing the bond members feel with your credit union’s brand.

Reaching or targeting the right people is not the secret to building a brand. The secret to credit union branding is to say and do the right things. If you’re just starting out, use one-third of transactional or promotional ads and two-thirds brand building (relational.) Understand at a very deep level the hopes, dreams and fears of your ideal member and speak to that.

Ready To Share Your Message?

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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