It’s always interesting to see how people from various positions within the financial services industry talk about the differences between banks and credit unions. And while there have been countless attempts to outline the differences in great detail, many consumers still have a difficult time recognizing or understanding these differences.
In what appears to be an attempt to simplify the message, two credit union groups have developed websites emphasizing their belief that credit unions are better than a bank. And I’m not convinced that this message is the strongest message for either campaign.
Credit Unions of BC has launched a campaign and corresponding website called Be Remarkable. The campaign is described as:
Be Remarkable is the new communications campaign from the Credit Unions of BC. This campaign, launched Fall 2010, is focused on educating young adults about credit unions and demonstrating that credit unions can help them achieve their dreams, big or small.
There are some really great aspects of this campaign, including the innovative use of Facebook, which encourages people to “like” the Be Remarkable campaign and tag themselves in the region where they live; the campaign then donates money to a local charity based on the responses. In total, the campaign will donate $100,000 to local charities. Be Remarkable also has a Twitter account.
The campaign also includes television spots, like this one, emphasizing the be remarkable message:
While the television ads, the Facebook efforts, and the information available on the Credit Unions of BC website strongly support the be remarkable campaign theme, the campaign website focuses less on the be remarkable message and more on the argument that credit unions are better than a bank. The playful homepage videos are well-made, fun, and easy to understand, but offer limited direct support of the specific campaign.
In my opinion, the site could more direct connection between the be remarkable message and the visitor if the Help Us Give Back page was used as the homepage instead. I’d also like to see the TV commercials (like the one embedded above) featured on the site; these commercials offer a more relevant message that helps to support the overall campaign than the animated farm videos used on the current homepage. The campaign is all about being remarkable – the emphasis should be on the group’s remarkable charity efforts.
What’s In It For Me?
Another effort that emphasizes the better than a bank message is the What’s In It For Me? campaign developed by the Maryland & DC Credit Union Association and the Virginia Credit Union League. Like the Be Remarkable site, the What’s In It For Me? site includes quite a bit of information about what a credit union is, and why credit unions are better. The campaign’s Twitter handle: betterthanabank really speaks to the campaign’s overall focus.
Perhaps the most helpful feature of the What’s In It For Me? website is the find a credit union feature, which allows visitors to find a credit union based on their address, their affiliation, or by credit union name.
But again, I think the emphasis on the better than a bank message is a missed opportunity for this campaign. The name and website suggest that that a consumer might find answers as to why a credit union might be the best choice and what (specific) value a credit union offers over a bank to a specific individual (i.e. me). The most obvious specific point of value offered on the site is that credit unions save members “about $150 per household for credit union members.” But like the other points, the website includes general differences between banks and credit unions and relies heavily on emphasizing the overall message that credit unions are simply better.
Insights & Takeaways
It’s obvious that both of these campaigns were thoughtfully developed. But like many institutions, they’re missing an opportunity to go deeper than the broad message of “better.” At the same time, it’s obvious that they’re dealing with an issue that stems from the institutions they represent: today’s financial institutions are in dire need of differentiation. Instead of finding unique ways to talk about individual institutions or unique efforts, too many people and institutions are relying on the familiar; they continue to emphasize better rather than different. It’s a concept that Jeff Stephens often talks about: these groups seem to be focused on betterentiation as opposed to differentiation.
At the end of the day, consumers can’t simply be told that credit unions are better than banks. They need help seeing the differences between each of their individual choices (not just the structural, organizational, or philosophical differences between banks and credit unions) in ways that are relevant, meaningful and compelling. “Better” simply doesn’t do that.