The term “trending” rose to prominence with the advent of Twitter, where users could check out popular topics of the day or week. Soon, the general public and the press turned a noun that applied to keyword analytics in a social app company into an adjective to describe people, places, and events that were top of mind.
Luckily, today’s trending events offer a way for credit unions to identify critical business lessons in a changing world.
Run For The Border: When an altercation between an apparently drunken senior marketing manager for Taco Bell and his Uber driver was captured on the car’s dashboard camera, the video, along with the marketing manager’s name, hit the news cycle. Taco Bell immediately responded by terminating the offending employee and offering this public comment: “We have also offered and encouraged him to seek professional help.” (1)
Just Say No(thing): When Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to an infection-fighting drug and raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill, it made some headlines. CEO Martin Shkreli’s Twitter account showing sarcastic and unsympathetic retorts to photos of his lavish lifestyle made more. In response, a Turing competitor announced the release of a compatible drug at $1 per pill. Shkreli has since stepped down as CEO of Turing and is currently facing fraud charges related to his time at another company. (2)
Show And Tell: When Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher, another teacher thought it looked like a bomb and notified authorities. Students shared pictures of Ahmed in handcuffs (and a NASA T-shirt), and everyone weighed in with an opinion. Some supported the school system’s decision to investigate. Others issued angry claims about racism and profiling. Mohamed and his family subsequently moved to Qatar, but there is a lawsuit pending against the school district and the city, and the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the incident. (3)
The Credit Union Lesson: Almost every customer has a phone and almost every phone has a video camera. That means every encounter, exchange, conversation, or confrontation can be recorded and shared. Make sure the credit union has a social media policy that outlines consequences for improper personal behavior, and train employees to behave in a manner appropriate for the evening news. At the same time, provide employee and members with a way to easily view and share the positive things they see happening at your credit union because those actions and stories can go viral, too.
Proud Of Pork: Chipotle takes its “Food With Integrity” slogan seriously. In 2013, it began to disclose genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its ingredients, the first phase toward switching to food made only with non-GMO ingredients. In 2015, restaurant auditors discovered pork suppliers were violating Chipotle’s animal welfare standards and suspended the product at almost one-third of its stores while it found a new supplier. The move cost the company sales growth, but the decision resonated with its target audience of concerned millennials. (4)
A Code For Color: In response to changing consumer perspectives, General Mills is giving Trix cereal a substantial health overhaul. Gone are the neon yellows and vibrant greens provided by ingredients named Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. Now, annatto and turmeric extracts will provide the cereal with gold and orange colors while various fruit and vegetable juices yield red and purple bites. (5)
Clean Eating: In 2015, Panera Bread published a list of artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors, and flavors it pledged to remove from its food by the end of 2016. This is just one part of a larger “Clean Eating” effort that has included posting calorie information on all products, reducing antibiotics in meats, and donating unsold baked goods to hunger relief agencies. (6)
The Credit Union Lesson: There is no good way to offer a trans fat-free share account but these examples underscore how companies have gained market support by responding to evolving social values. Chipotle, General Mills, and Panera have positioned themselves as being in line with the values of a growing segment of the marketplace. The “ingredients label” of cooperatives includes a history of serving the underserved, living cooperative values, and operating for people, not profits. Credit unions that aren’t actively developing campaigns based on those differentiators are letting business slip by.
The “ingredients label” of cooperatives includes a history of serving the underserved, living cooperative values, and operating for people, not profits. Credit unions that aren’t actively developing campaigns based on those differentiators are letting business slip by.
Not Lovin’ It: On Sept. 2, 2015, McDonald’s gave customers something they’d been requesting for years – all-day breakfast. Although the news was met with substantial fanfare, the reality has not met expectations. That’s because all-day breakfast menus vary drastically by region and franchisee, so major products like McMuffins still might not be available outside breakfast hours. Franchise owners have also criticized the decision, citing everything from a decrease in product quality to an unnecessary increase in capital costs. (7)
It’s Not TV: After offering a free add-on service that allows cable subscribers to watch on-demand content on their computer or handheld devices, HBO leapt into the direct-to-consumer approach in March 2015 with a standalone streaming service that now has an estimated 1 to 2 million subscribers. In response, cable companies are reevaluating their offerings – and to some extent, their identities. Many companies now offer “skinny” packages of broadband and basic cable as a way to retain customers. Other companies are positioning themselves as primarily broadband providers, a switch in perception many of their customers made long ago. (8, 9)
Spice It Up: Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003 and other purveyors of hot liquids like McDonald’s, Peet’s, Tim Horton’s, and Dunkin Donuts followed with their own versions. But it doesn’t stop there. Sales of pumpkin-flavored yogurt are up 320% year-over-year. And seasonal craft beers — including pumpkin flavors — make up almost 25% of the craft beer market. On the whole, total sales of pumpkin-flavored food and household goods in American supermarkets and convenience stores have totaled $360 million in sales in 2015. (9)
The Credit Union Lesson: ”You can’t always get what you want” is a great song lyric, but it doesn’t reflect the American market’s sense of entitlement. Consumers, including members, are not shy about telling businesses what they want and backing it up with their wallets. As a result, many credit unions now test their important campaigns, products, and channels with members in the early stages of development to make sure they get things right from the get go.
(1) adweek.com, (2) techcrunch.com and bloomberg.com,
(3) washingtonpost.com, (4) fool.com, (5) businessinsider.com,
(6) panerabread.com, (7) today.com, (8) wsj.com, (9) forbes.com