Why is there so much love for some companies that, for instance, bikers will tattoo the Harley-Davidson logo on their biceps and gadget geeks will style their hair to resemble the Apple logo? What can credit union marketers learn from these passionate fans? How did companies that sell motorcycles, electronics, sport equipment (Nike) and cars (BMW) build such a devoted following?

Cult brands, such as Harley-Davidson, Nike and BMW, are less about marketing and selling. They feel more like a family that just happens to sell products and services, and their customers are part of that family. What can credit union marketers learn from these iconic brand names?

We present: Eight proven strategies to transform your credit union into a cult brand –

  1. Your best members are also your best ambassadors and marketers. Build your cult brand around them instead of just focusing on growth. Over time, your return on marketing investment will become more effective and efficient.
  2. Listen to what your best members are telling you. Don’t just focus on transactions. Be a real person and focus your business on serving real people. Don’t be a corporate machine of press releases and glossy advertising. Be true to yourself and act as a person: That is the key to cultivate customer loyalty.
  3. Focus on what your credit union does best. If you try to be all things to all people, you’ll end up being nothing to everyone. If your credit union is known to be the caring neighbor, make sure every interaction tells that story. Be bold. Be unique and stand out. Double-up on your strengths and differentiate around them.
  4. Understand what moves your members. Understand how they think, feel and behave towards your credit union. This is not done through surveys or focus groups. Talk to your members directly. Engage them. Ask direct questions when they have a moment. Truly listen and learn. Make it a companywide initiative to listen to your members. If you can de-code what makes them tick, you’ll be better positioned to create long-term, loyal advocates.
  5. Identify your members’ key drivers. Why are they a credit union member and not a bank customer? Do they use both? Why? What’s the reason they choose you over other institutions? A deep knowledge of these key drivers will determine the future of your credit union.
  6. Serve your best members always better than anyone else. Relentlessly add plenty of reasons to stay with you and never give them a reason to look for other options. Encourage all your employees to find new ways for customers to make members lives easier and better.
  7. Every day find new ways to wow and surprise your members. Do something extraordinary and unexpected for them. Dedicate a few moments per day to delight them. Focus on better serving your members and word-of-mouth will happen organically.
  8. Step back and decide what your credit union stands for. What is the real mission of your financial institution? Is it simple and unique? Once you’ve determined the real mission of your credit union, relentlessly deliver on that brand promise. Each and every day.

As a cult brand, credit unions don’t need to compete with banks. They can leapfrog them entirely. They can be better than them.