A credit union’s brand is not built on great rates or buzzwords like “service,” “cooperative,” or “millennial.” Brand is built on member experience; and in the end, brand is everything.
This is something Tracy Fors, vice president of marketing and business development at Wright-Patt Credit Union, knows well. Wright-Patt ($2.9B, Beavercreek, OH) has spent the past seven years focused on brand building, and since 2007, it has increased its name awareness in its market from 55% to 73%.
“Something we do really well is tell our story in a way that people understand,” Fors says.
Here, Fors talks about WPCU’s branding initiatives and offers five insights that will benefit any credit union.
A Race Where Everyone Wins
Every year, Wright-Patt Credit Union sponsors a savings contest in which five teams composed of credit union members go head-to-head to see who can increase their household net worth the most during an eight-month period. Teams work with coaches from the credit union or partnering organizations, and winning teams take home a $10,000 grand prize in addition to right-siding their finances. For spectators, a weekly Savings Race segment that runs throughout the contest on a local news channel highlights strategies anyone can use to reduce debt and increase savings.
WPCU launched its brand-pumping Savings Race in 2007, and according to an August 2014 Creditunions.com article, team members have received nearly 10,000 hours of in-person financial education, with the average participating family increasing household net worth $28,000.
WPCU Insight:“People don’t want to talk about their finances because they’re embarrassed they don’t know enough. The Savings Race takes the embarrassment out of it.”
Brand From The Top
A successful brand is one that reaches across the entire institution and requires the commitment of every department, including the C-Suite. WPCU’s CEO Doug Fecher is the credit union’s ultimate brand champion. He has appeared in television ads, cut his hair for charity, and shared his own experiences with the credit union’s products and services. To increase awareness of WPCU’s mobile banking application, Fecher hopped on his Harley Davidson motorcycle to star in a series of ads showing how members can bank on the go.
WPCU Insight:“We use testimony from the top. People say they love that the CEO is part of our marketing campaigns. This is the stuff that captures people’s attention.”
Show The Money
The cooperative model means nothing if members don’t know what the credit union has done for them lately. Wright-Patt Credit Union addressed this in a straightforward manner in 2012 when it partnered with marketing informationcompany Marquis to create a savings report card that shows individual members how much money WPCU has saved them in loans, dividend rates, fees, and other areas.
According to Fors, the program’s price tag precludes WPCU from offering report cards every year, but they were effective at catching members’ attention.
Something the credit union does do every year is pay a bonus dividend. In January 2014, WPCU paid $7 million in dividends to approximately 282,000 members, disbursed according to each member’s involvement with the credit union. The credit union does not budget for the dividend; instead, it relies on its staff and members to contribute to the cooperative in a way that results in a year-end bonus. And because it markets the bonus dividend to distinguish itself from competitors, members understand exactly how they contribute to the credit union’s performance and how they benefit from its success.
WPCU Insight:“We quantify everything we do. If we say we’re going to save you money, we want to show you how we’re doing that.”
A Partner In Brand Building
WPCU adheres to the philosophy that if it treats employees well, they will treat members well. In turn, members will treat the credit union well. That’s why it calls employees “partners” and sends the chief operating officer, Darrick Weeks, to branches — or “member centers” — every month to speak with employees about the organization. Weeks shares questions and answers from these conversations with all branch employees to ensure leadership is offering consistent guidance to employees, who many times have the same questions regardless of location. Transparency is key to building trust and culture at Wright-Patt.
WPCU Insight:“We have a commodity product. What members get here that they’re not going to get anywhere else is me [‘me’ being the employee]. We care about the members and make sure their needs are met.”
Members want to know why a product or service is valuable. The most powerful way to do that is to show how it affects their lives. When WPCU wanted to showcase the convenience its mobile banking and remote deposit offered users, it sponsored a selfie contest wherein members posted pictures showing off how they used mobile banking to the Wright-Patt Credit Union Facebook page. The credit union marketed the contest through postcards and newspaper ads and garnered an all-time high 288,000 Facebook page views during the three-week contest. More than 600 people uploaded pictures to the site. In addition to engaging members, the contest provided a wealth of stories of how Wright-Patt’s products impact members’ lives.
WPCU Insight:“[The selfie contest] was an opportunity to get testimonials and create excitement. Why use actors when we can use our own members?”