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It’s a recurring theme and was the focus of this year’s THINK Lab: Do credit unions need a national brand?

The question itself is confusing. Banks don’t have a national brand. Their focus is entirely on individual branding. Why would credit unions want to devote energy and resources to national branding, when individual marketing efforts are already a challenge?

The simple answer: People don’t know what a credit union is. This was clear in CO-OP’s Millennial research. And it was the underpinning of branding expert Debbie Millman’s comments during General Session. If the general public doesn’t know
what credit unions are, what they do and what makes them different, then individual branding lives on shaky ground. It’s like trying to sell someone a Prius without ever bothering to explain that it’s a car.

Wednesday’s THINK Lab brought credit unions together to work on formulating a common identity – the first step toward creating a national credit union brand. We’ll spend a few weeks on this blog covering what we came up with: our methodology, our brainstorm, our outcome and next steps. But first we wanted to explore the value of a common brand. What exactly is at stake?

There are many benefits, of course. The first and most important one is a starting point. We can’t ask consumers to choose a credit union if they don’t know what a credit union is. If the awareness gap isn’t reason enough, consider what Millman said: “You actually have a really noble movement. The more people research what a credit union is, the more they’ll find out how noble you are. Yet, there is very little communicated about it.”

Credit unions might be precisely what consumers want in a financial institution. But if that’s true, we need to spread the word. And in order to spread the word, we need first to define it.

This is a credit union. It’s what you’ve been looking for all along.