The 1 Credit Union Marketing Mistake You’re Making

I can rattle off a half dozen marketing mistakes credit unions make, but I want to focus on the one major mistake that I see time and time again. It’s the mistake that stems from our good nature and desire to be the good guys but often ends up doing more harm than good to your brand: Lying.

“Not me. We would never do that.” Not intentionally, and that’s why I bring this to your attention.

Some companies have done this in the past and ended up in legal trouble. Take Airborne for example: “Airborne cures colds.” A bold statement that could not be backed up with research or facts, landing them in a $23 million lawsuit. Or Skechers, which ended up paying a $40 million settlement after using celebrities like Kim Kardashian to peddle its Shape-Up sneakers, claiming that you only had to tie on your shoes to lose weight.

Most likely the lies in your marketing aren’t as harmful to consumers as the examples listed above, but they could be doing extensive damage to your brand. Think back to your last 24 months of marketing. What messages are you putting out there?

Here are three common lies I see often, innocently told in credit union marketing but don’t always match up to reality:

  1. We have great service! Perhaps this isn’t on your billboard or in your last campaign, but “great service” is one of the differentiators we often use when trying to explain our credit union to someone. First, good service is the entry price to play the game. Treating people decently and flashing a pearly white smile when someone walks into the branch is not what makes you different. In fact, I’ve seen some credit unions use this as their unique value proposition, and upon a member’s first interaction with the brand, they find that statement to be a lie. That one shot to convert someone to a new member is lost forever.
  2. We have great rates! Often that is used in the same statement as “great service.” Do you have great rates, or are they competitive? Perhaps you even quote your rate “as low as,” which may not be lying but is somewhat deceptive. Knowing that anyone with a credit score under 800 (which is 80% of the U.S. population) won’t qualify for that rate, you’re setting up your brand to disappoint members and potential members. “But your ad said…” Sure you can point them to the fine print, but you might as well point them to the next closest financial institution.
  3. We’re community-minded! Tell me more. How so? I’ve often encountered credit union brands that say this but do nothing more than write some checks to organizations with zero presence or involvement in their communities. It’s certainly not a bad thing to financially support community initiatives, but you need to walk the walk too.

Even if you believe in your heart that any or all those statements to be true about your credit union, ask yourself how true it is, or whether there is a more meaningful message you could be sharing.

Being authentic with your brand will pay dividends in the long run. Did you know 86% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support? Here are a few places you can focus your attention to shore up your credit union brand authenticity:

  • 81% of surveyed consumers said they must be able to trust the brand to buy from them. How are your online reviews? If you’re touting “great service” but only have a 2.9 score on Google reviews, are you truly being authentic?
  • It takes about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for people to form an opinion about your credit union website. When is the last time you refreshed your website and audited it to ensure a great online user experience?
  • Consistent presentation of a brand increases revenue by 33%. Is your brand visually consistent in its presentation?

Your credit union brand is your chance to tell your story. And branding goes beyond the logo you design, the font you use, or the products and services you sell. It’s all these things and much more. It’s the experience you provide. It’s the philosophy you embrace and the culture you adhere to. A brand is the feeling that your credit union evokes in members—it’s what makes you unique. 

Stay away from rates, service, and generic messages. Be specific and be unique. Need some help? Let’s talk! Problem-solving and pushing past the obstacles that are keeping your credit union from growing is my passion.

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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