Standout With Innovative Marketing

Many credit unions are launching creative and successful campaigns this year.


In an increasingly competitive marketplace, credit unions are turning to more innovative marketing campaigns to make their messages standout.

Personalized websites, pop culture-infused commercials, and mom-targeted messages are among the many ways credit unions like Sooper Credit Union, Virginia Credit Union, and Verity Credit Union have ramped up their campaigns this year with what they say are successful results.

Credit unions have spent an increasing amount on marketing in recent quarters, according to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer data. In the first quarter, marketing expenses at credit unions grew 4% from the same quarter in 2010. After severe drop-offs in 2009, marketing expenses rose gradually in 2010 and through the first three months of 2011.

Personalized Websites (PURL): Sooper Credit Union

Sooper Credit Union ($240M, Denver, CO) wanted to promote its mortgage products, including an offer to take 50% off mortgage origination fees, to both its largest demographic member base, with an average age of 51, and its Gen Y members, younger families who may be buying their first home, in a targeted and interactive way, says Donna Ogorek, Sooper's vice president of marketing and business development.

“We’ve really struggled to capture Gen Y,” Ogorek said. “Capture a deeper product with current members and to test our particular members here to see if they’d be open to engaging with us.”

A PURL is a website that is personalized with a member’s name. Customers feel like businesses are talking to them one-on-one when they have personalized websites, according to, which develops PURL campaigns.

Click on graph to view larger size  |   Source: Sooper Credit Union

Standard direct mail response rate of between 2 – 3% increases to approximately 30% when using PURLs, as 42% of direct mail respondents prefer to respond online, according to, a direct marketing agency.

After the two-month campaign, which ran in March and April, Sooper secured 18 new mortgages

– both refinances and new loans – that it attributes to the PURL push.

Pop Culture-Flavored Commercials: Virginia Credit Union

Virginia Credit Union ($2.15B, Richmond, VA) recently turned out two Glee-like television commercials that play up their member-oriented business with short clips that automatically put you in a good mood. Couple lyrics: “I’ve had enough! Your fees and your service are a total disgrace.” and “Virginia Credit Union: If it was legal, I’d make it wife.”

Click on graph to view larger image  |   Source: YouTube

Virginia Credit Union even held American Idol-like auditions, with participation exceeding what executives expected, says Glen Birch, VCU’s public relations director. So many members responded that they had to close registration and then hold auditions for two days instead of the planned one.

Birch says the credit union indeed looked to American Idol and Glee, two television shows that reach a diverse and wide audience that appeals to a younger demographic, for inspiration.

The campaign, which began airing in March and will continue to run through the end of the year, has so far been successful at “generating enthusiasm and engagement,” Birch says.

For more examples of successful and unusual marketing campaigns and more details on Virginia CU's and Sooper's strategies, see Callahan & Associates' 2Q CUSP, available in September.

Mom-Friendly Messages: Verity Credit Union

Verity Credit Union ($367M, Seattle, WA) is marketing to that demographic by creating kid-friendly branches and using more female-focused language. It changed the name of its checking from “Velocity Checking” to “Cartwheel Checking” and hired part-time spokesmom to blog about her experiences with the credit unions, says marketing director Shari Storm.

Click on graph to view larger size  |   Source: VerityMom blog screenshot

“Mothers have a strong online presence,” Storm says. “Our goal is to have mom bring in the whole family. We do feel like it’s been a success.”

Verity ensured that its campaign language made the product standout to women, who on average, make 85 per

cent of the financial decisions in their families, according to a, a website that analyzes women-focused marketing.

Since it launched the mom-friendly marketing, Verity has seen the av

erage age of its member drop by two years, a statistic that Storm says is “really hard to get down.”