Are You Marketing for the Digital Age?

June 24, 2015 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

It’s never good when a blog post puts you to sleep and even worse when it’s one you have written, so as important as NCUA’s proposed MBL changes are, an article in today’s American Banker (subscription required) convinced me to return to that subject tomorrow. The article reports that some of the nation’s biggest regional banks (roughly defined as banks that have grown too large as to be described as “community banks” with a straight face) are moving to enhance their image by producing online video content. According to AB, “Regions Financial hired an Academy Award-winning filmmaker to direct a video series about financial planning, while U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis is sponsoring a video about affordable housing that’s being produced by a prominent Los Angeles creative firm.”

Some in the credit union industry have also embraced this trend. Last year, Coop released a slick documentary style advertisement featuring the millennial singer/songwriter Daria Musk. We need to see more efforts like this.

Full disclosure: few things get me as fired up as what I consider the stale, unimaginative way in which the industry has branded itself. In the debate between those who think that credit unions emphasize their credit union roots too much and those who think they advertise them too little, I’m solidly in the too much camp. Your average consumer might be intrigued by the idea of a not-for-profit cooperative, but they are going to join only if it is in their financial interest to do so.

Let me put on my director of marketing wanna-be hat and explain why I think that digital production should be in the short term plans of larger CUs and the medium term ones of smaller CUs.

First, it takes advantage of the paradigm shift that has upended traditional media. Today the challenge is no longer finding a platform to get your message out, but getting people to view your message.  Anyone can upload a video to YouTube. The trick is getting people to watch it. It’s not as expensive as you might think to pay for a quality video. As one contributor to the article pointed out, the idea is to spend money on production instead of advertising space.

Second, without the constraints of a thirty second or a minute spot you can really get creative in associating your brand not just with a product but with an ethos. For example, the Coop commercial uses aspiring star Musk to identify credit unions with an independent, determined and cooperative spirit. This is a heck of a lot more appealing than repeating over and over again that credit unions are comprised of “people helping people;” at least to anyone under the age of eighty.

Third, you have to move your advertising to where the consumers are and more and more people, particularly younger ones, are streaming their content on demand and watching on their tablets. Even cable companies like HBO and ESPN are cutting the cable cord. Traditional TV watching is so eighties. According to a survey released by Nielson this past December, about 2.6 million households are now “broadband only.” That only represents about 2.8% of total U.S. households, but it is more than double the 1.1% of households that were broadband only last year. Now, don’t get me wrong — Americans aren’t turning off the tube to read Moby Dick – in fact, they are watching more video than ever, but unless you can pony up the money to broadcast during a live sporting event, the days when they can be force fed traditional advertisements are fast coming to an end.

You know that famous phrase by Marshall McLuhan that “the media is the message?” Increasingly, businesses are being judged not just by what they say but where they say it. Time to start planning those online videos if you haven’t already.

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association.

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