Verity Credit Union ($378M, Seattle, WA) knows its marketing can’t cater to every target demographic, so it has honed its outreach to attract one person that has a significant influence on others: mothers. According to she-conomy.com, a website that analyzes women-focused marketing, women make roughly 89% of the financial decisions in their families. And Verity wants to capture that market. The credit union’s marketing efforts include hiring a “spokesmom” to blog, creating kid-friendly branches, and softening its product language. For Verity, that female-focused marketing pays off.
Like most credit unions, Verity is eager to lower the average age of its member to strengthen its long-term outlook. After the credit union’s executives read Blue Ocean Strategy, a book about creating a market space in which there is no competition, they were inspired to identify a market niche that had similar business potential. Although it targets women, Verity is careful not to alienate its male member base. The changes made as part of its new outreach were either changes that both genders appreciate or that women appreciate and men don’t notice.
“We wanted to capture the hearts and minds of the next generation,” says Verity chief marketing officer Shari Storm. “The best way to do that is by pleasing their moms."
To speak to matriarchs, the credit union reviewed its products and altered names to promote mom-friendly messages. For example, it changed the name of its checking from “Velocity Checking” to “Cartwheel Checking,” language that makes the product standout to women.
To appease kids and make mom’s visit to the credit union more enjoyable, Verity added kidfriendly branches that include a children’s corner, changing tables, stickers, and candy. It sponsors coloring contests and hosts visits from Santa and the Easter Bunny. But the crux of the credit union’s outreach plan was hiring a “spokesmom” to blog about her experiences with the credit unions, says marketing director Shari Storm.
Two years ago, Verity sponsored an online contest in which the public got to choose who would become the credit union’s part-time spokesmom. The public chose Rosemary Garner. Garner is a Seattle resident with one daughter, and she blogs about her life, the credit union, and how the two are connected. Her blogs include posts about family outings, such as a parasailing trip, and behind-the-scenes pictures of Verity commercials. On veritymom.com, readers learn that Rosemary’s hometown is San Antonio, TX, she likes sushi and tacos, enjoys tinkering on the guitar, and gets peeved at aggressive drivers. They also learn, thanks to advertising on the site, that Verity offers 100% financing with its 80/20 mortgage program and wants to put $1 million toward loans for homeowners.
“If you’re going to target a niche market, you have to really target it,” Storm says. “We unapologetically say we’re going after moms.”
The credit union initially hired Garner for a one-year stint, but she proved so popular that Verity extended its relationship with her. She’s also posting on Twitter, snagging more than 260 followers under the name @veritymom. A new Verity Mom, Danielle Gahl, took over the part-time, $20,000 position in November.
Since Verity launched its mom-friendly marketing, the average age of its member has indeed dropped by two years, to 37. That statistic, Storm says, is “really hard to get down.” The campaign has also generated more interaction with members, especially young mothers who connect with Rosemary and Danielle.
The spokesmom blog draws ongoing comments on Facebook and Twitter as Cartwheel Checking draws more new members, boosting total membership to 25,754 as of second quarter 2011, Storm says. The credit union noted 2.18% 12-month share growth, according to Callahan & Associates data.
“Our goal is to have mom bring in the whole family,” Storm says. “We feel like it’s been a success.”