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Despite globalization and despite online, place still matters. Whether driven by a sense of pride, authenticity, convenience and/or eco-concerns, consumers will continue to embrace “local” products, services and knowledge. Not to mention initiatives that look after their locale.

This “Local Love” was found to be one of four socio-economic “megatrends” identified in a study by Trend Watching, a leading research firm that monitors consumer behaviors and attitudes all over the world. The study was commissioned by CO-OP Financial Services and the results were presented during the opening session of the THINK 15 Conference last month in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Trend Watching found megatrends to include “Betterment” (everybody wants to get better in one way or another, don’t they?), Ubitech (we’re surrounded by technology, have you noticed?), “Helpfull” (two “L”’s for emphasis – the concept that we now have zero tolerance for waiting; please, I’ll get to my point in a second); and, yes, Local Love.

In a world that is growing in complexity by the hour, it’s reassuring to hear that Local Love is a megatrend. And, it is especially good to hear because credit unions truly are at the heart of this trend – a preference for brands that make real, lasting contributions to the communities they serve.

“That old phrase ‘think global, act local,’ is now more relevant than ever,” said Samantha Paxson, Chief Marketing Officer for CO-OP, who unveiled the study results at THINK 15. “Despite living in an increasingly globalized world, people still feel there’s no place like home. Local Love proves it. So maintaining and strengthening connections to what’s local is very much in the interests of credit unions. But it also just so happens to be what comes naturally to us. It’s in our DNA.”

Supporting Trend Watching’s conclusions, a 2013 research conducted by global communications group Havas indicates that 61 percent of consumers would like companies to play a bigger role in their local community. And, a 2014 study by top public relations firm Edelman reveals that 87 percent of consumers want more meaningful relationships with brands.

Trend Watching recommended three key practices to take advantage of this trend:

  • Understand the lives and concerns in your locality, and serve their needs.
  • Seek out hard evidence on what a community really needs.
  • Build your space around the needs – or wildest dreams – of a specific niche group.

Credit unions can be identified with cities and states. But credit unions were also founded on bonds of association – like-minded people coming together to create a community.

“So when you hear the word ‘local,’ think ‘community,’” said Paxson. “And when you hear the word ‘community,’ think big. Thanks to the tech-driven connections we can make around the world, the idea of community can be defined way beyond the confines of geography. A community can exist in a virtual space.”

Given the market environment of 2015, it’s clear that things are not what they used to be. While it’s important to stay rooted on the local level, credit unions can truly now think more about taking root locally and growing globally.

Credit unions that serve individuals and their communities well, provide members with both an exceptional consumer experience and the knowledge they are doing business with a socially responsible organization. This has been the hallmark of the credit union movement for more than a century in the United States. And with key societal megatrends turning in our direction, there has never been a better time to “Seize the Now!”