Stop Chasing Your Ideal Member

Credit unions have been conditioned to identify their captive audience and market to their ideal member. You’ve probably gone through some sort of exercise to build a consumer profile that classifies your member’s basic demographics to what influences her buying decisions.

Perhaps you’ve given your ideal member a name, such as “Carol.” The belief is if we market to Carol, we’ll attract more people who share her age, gender, marital status and income bracket.

But then it fails.

Then we react. Maybe our reach was too narrow, so we broaden our audience. Perhaps our marketing wasn’t clear enough, so we add more words. Maybe we weren’t clever enough, so we use photos of piggy banks, stacked coins and dangling keys.

If our ideal member is right, something else must be wrong.

And you’d be right. But too often marketers head down the wrong path.

What your credit union needs is to recognize your ideal member’s ideal self. We all have a cognitive bias called the Halo Effect where we look for positive traits.

Not to dig into gender stereotypes or the objectification of the female body in advertising, but we are all predisposed to be more generous to those we are attracted to, admire or respect. Truly, we can’t deny that model Charlize Theron draws us closer to Dior J’Adore or that George Clooney makes us wonder if our kitchen countertop needs a Nespresso in addition to our Keurig.

Meanwhile, there is a Horn Effect, where a negative trait can lead us to believe other negative traits must exist. Procter & Gamble’s Head and Shoulders shampoo had it right when in the 1980s the brand exclaimed, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Am I advocating your credit union needs to land a celebrity endorsement? Well, it wouldn’t hurt, but no. What I am suggesting is use familiar language, get to the point fast, give someone a reason to go to your website, and add attraction (aka: market to your ideal member’s ideal self).

Let’s take a look at Chick-fil-a’s current campaign, “The Little Things.” It took a lot of guts to move on from their whimsical cows. The power of testimonials cannot be denied, and the fast service restaurant is using them brilliantly.

If you have seen any of the Chick-fil-a’s spots, chances are you are nodding your head in agreement. While we are inspired and connect with these stories, Chick-fil-a didn’t just turn a camera on and say, “go.” That would be very raw and uninteresting.

Instead, these real customers are on a comfy red coach, well mic’d up and extremely well lit, and made up to look their very best. Their stories are well written, there’s a bouncy, fun tune playing in the background, and if you pay attention to the fine print, the customer and employee are paid for their testimonial.

How different would we feel if there was a crackling mic, jumpy video, or a bunch of “ums” and “uhs?” It pays to do advertising well, and as Dave Chappelle points out, sometimes, “keeping it real goes wrong. “

If you are a small to mid-sized credit union, do you need big budget production? No. You just need to be mindful of your ideal members wants and desires. In fact, you can go too far in the wrong direction, where your brand is seen as highly adept but out of reach for your ideal member.

Here’s one last tidbit for how to speak to your ideal member’s ideal self. Let’s say you are marketing investment and retirement services. It’s easy to envision a nurturing woman who is slowing down helping to raise grandchildren. Although your ideal member may be truly content with this lifestyle, it’s probably not her ideal self. She may actually identify more with being active, sexy and living healthy. The glasses and crow’s feet may be here to stay, but age doesn’t define her.

Go beyond identifying the ideal member. Help members see the best version of themselves, and how your credit union can help them live up to their potential.

Frank Allgood has more than 20 years of experience in every facet of public information and marketing communications. As Vice President of Relationship Development for Your Marketing Co., he is responsible for strategic brand experiences and marketing initiatives for credit unions across the country. For branding or rebranding projects, call 864.326.8740 or email

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