Branding is more than just a logo and a motto. Communicating the credit union difference to members and non-members alike while providing consistent products and services across the branch network is a challenge that one Midwest credit union has tackled with what it calls the Plan-o-Gram.
The Plan-o-Gram is a living document that ensures the retail experience at Heritage Federal Credit Union ($470.6M, Newburgh, IN) reinforces its brand.
“It’s all about consistency,” says Steven Bugg, the chief marketing and member service officer who brought the concept with him when he joined the southern Indiana credit union six years ago after working in retail.
The Plan-o-Gram, which lives on the credit union’s intranet, specifically prescribes how all marketing and informational signage and other collateral should be displayed in the seven branches spread across two counties.
“We are essentially retailers in our branches, and we’re using the same approach as you would in a store in a lot of ways,” Bugg says. “What goes on the end cap? How do you want products lined up on your shelves?
CU QUICK FACTS
Heritage Federal Credit Union
data as of 06.30.14
HQ: Newburgh, IN
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.80%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.52%
“Sending stuff by courier to our branches and having them create it themselves doesn’t produce a look and feel that fits our brand identity,” he adds. “We want each branch to live the brand.”
But the Plan-o-Gram dives deeper than surface-level presentation, and two other ideas help drive the approach.
“Everybody is a marketer,” Bugg says, “And nothing’s worse than a member asking about something and the person they ask doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”
That’s why the Plan-o-Gram strategy also includes a monthly calendar that lists advertising and marketing plans as well as activities staff might participate in (such as denim day or community festivals).
Plan-O-Gram Specifics And Pop-Up People
The Plan-o-Gram document outlines time frames and specifics such as where to place the 22-by-28 inch poster touting a current promotion, where display banners go in the drive-thru lanes, which “take one” announcements should be placed on check islands, and which brochures should be at teller windows.
The same goes for partner programs, such as brochures from the payment/loan protection provider displayed at the lobby entrance, in brochure stands, and at account opening desks.
There are even provisions for the pop-up figures of a mortgage lending officer, a standup that’s displayed at each Heritage location.
Compliance All Around
“The plan-o-gram gives our retail associates the ability to understand what’s going on in the world of retail and the world of the credit union,” Bugg says. “Not only does it highlight campaigns and other things, it connects how this relates to them in the branch environment and how each item supports the plan.”
Bugg says his marketing director and her staff of three execute the plan and regional and branch managers ensure compliance with the Plan-o-Gram. Accountability is expected, but it’s not intended to be onerous. The idea is to streamline and inform, which help with compliance.
“Government regulations weigh us down each and every day in our branches,” Bugg says. “It’s nice to be able to give each of them everything they need to comply with NCUA regulations.”
For example, the Plan-o-Gram includes a quarterly compliance checklist for branch signage that includes such details as requiring each employee to use a table tent declaring that Heritage’s brokerage services are not insured by the NCUA.
And on the front page, this question: “Does the credit union visibly display the most current fair housing poster to all consumers entering the credit union to make loan applications?” Next to it is an example of the NCUA notice itself, just to make things clear.
It also spells out ATM fee notice regulations, which helped Heritage stay head of possible lawsuit trolls when that was an issue.
Diversity And Digital
Although consistency is a virtue, it is not absolute. Each branch has its own market, Bugg notes, and the people behind the Plan-o-Gram work with member data and branch staff to create targeted promotions.
The more rural branches, for instance, tend to have “seasoned employees and members,” Bugg says, the latter with tenure that often pre-dates the credit union’s ability to offer checking accounts or mortgages. “We promote those products more in those branches, aiming to become the primary financial institution for those members,” he says. “In our branch next to the mall, we tend to do more check cashing and less loans, so we try to market lending products more there.”
The Plan-o-Gram outlines presentation standards in either case. It’s also evolving to accommodate digital standards for large screen TVs inside the branches and video advertising monitors in the drive-thru lanes.
“We’re going digital with most of our marketing at the branch because we can target it quickly and easily,” Bugg says.
Such tactics have helped Heritage remain a solid performer in its peer group, the 344 credit unions with assets of $250 million to $500 million as of June 30. According to Callahan & Associates, Heritage ranked No. 170 in net income per employee, with $22,832 versus the peer average of $23,223. Meanwhile, its 2.58 loan and share accounts per member placed the credit union at No. 86 within a peer group that averaged 2.36.
Bugg, meanwhile, says the Plan-o-Gram concept also helps with his own budgeting and planning, providing an easy-to-reference way of looking at past programs — including spend and results — while considering future campaigns.