Showdown, Texas-style

On Sunday night, I found out why Trey Reeme has been very quiet on the credit union/social media scene since the beginning of the year. It’s because he’s been working to bring Tim McAlpine and Currency Marketing’s Young & Free Alberta campaign to Trey’s new credit union, TDECU (fka Texas Dow Employees’ CU). This news was twittered very quickly Sunday night, with Bryan Sims being the first outsider to discover it the night before the official launch.

Yesterday, launch day of Young & Free Texas, it has been blogged by William Azaroff and Trey Reeme, Tim McAlpine, and Ben Rogers, and reported by CU Times, Reuters, and Forbes.

This exciting news, the Young & Free campaign’s launch and license for the first time in the United States, was tempered with the news that another credit union in Texas has copied (emulated?) the Young & Free concept (reported by The Financial Brand), in most, if not all, details.

This brings up the issue of financial institution branding in the internet age.

In the old days, it was easy. There was no way someone in Alberta, Canada would ever encounter something from Houston, Texas. And only traveling professionals would have regular visits between Houston (HQ area of TDECU) and Dallas (HQ of Resource 1 CU). But the internet has changed all that. With three clicks of a mouse, someone can view Young & Free Alberta, Young & Free Texas, and Resource 1 CU’s MyLifeMyMoney . And in fact, googling “Young Free” today yields the Alberta campaign as the first two results, and William Azaroff’s blog post about the Texas launch near the bottom of the page.

MyLifeMyMoney could suffer the same fate as the stellar BBC sitcom “Coupling” when it was translated from British to American TV. Coupling has six main characters, three men and three women, and the series explores the humor of their personal lives, and male/female dating and stereotypes. The BBC original is delightful, unexpected, and original. When Friends ended its 11-year hit run, NBC needed something to replace it, and purchased an American version of Coupling. But rather than re-interpret the British version in an American style, it simply copied the BBC original, line for line. The only difference was the American actors, and a few changed words such as ‘lorry’ to ‘truck’. Whether or not you had seen the British original, the American version stunk. It was flat. It had no sparkle, no charm, no pizzazz, all the things which made the British version wonderful. Even though 99% of American audiences had no idea that it was a copy of a show across the pond, no one watched it, and it was promptly cancelled.

This is what Resource 1 CU’s MyLifeMyMoney is. Nearly identical in most regards (spokesperson contest, online voting, etc), just changing the words and switching the graphics. Copying the surface, without understanding the depth. The first difference I see in MyLifeMyMoney is the declaration that the campaign is aimed at 18-35 year olds. What an 18 year-old and a 35-year old have in common is that they eat and breathe. And not much else. (A smart credit union marketing professional recently updated her Facebook status saying 30 is too old to come up with effective marketing strategies for the 18 to 21 age group. When will financial institutions understand that a.) it’s not about age and b.) even if it is about age, you don’t need to say it in your ads — Hey you! If you are between the ages of 26 and 34, pay attention because this ad is aimed at your wallet! Otherwise, never mind and go away!) MyLifeMyMoney also uses generic, cheesy, typical stock photography showing happy white people who could be anywhere. There is nothing that says “Texas” or local about these generic images, which is in stark contrast to Young & Free. Another social media misstep is that blog posts on the site are unsigned. Nothing says “corporate” more than faceless blog postings.

The final area where MyLifeMyMoney seems to fall short is that the actual value that a young person gets is unclear. On the surface it seems like a bunch of fancy names for services the credit union offers anyway. Free online banking? Who doesn’t offer that? Free live call center? Free ATM deposits? Free drive thru? Free direct deposit? Does ANY FI charge for these things? Free 8 locations? What, if you are older, you are charged for walking into a branch? Thud.

Resource 1 CU appears to have copied the surface appearance of Young & Free, while making mistakes on critical social media aspects.

In contrast to the hit BBC show “Coupling”, the BBC hit sitcom “The Office” made the leap across the Atlantic very differently than Coupling’s straight-out copy. The Office retained the name and core concept in translation, but was completely re-interpreted in an American style. And the results have been a runaway success on both sides of the pond. This is my hope for Young & Free’s translation south of the 49th parallel.

However, even Young & Free Texas has the potential to be less successful than Young & Free Alberta. As I mentioned, googling Young Free results in the Young Free Alberta site showing for the first two results. How will this be resolved? What is the best that Young Free Texas can hope for? Five Alberta results and five Texas results? What kind of confusion is that going to create in young potential members? What are young people going to think when they see Alberta videos mixed in with Texas videos on YouTube? Never mind the potential confusion that will occur once other states join the fray. Are Texans going to take kindly to the fact that they are second-class citizens, copying the magic that is occurring in Alberta? Texans have built their brand on being the biggest and best. Texans don’t take kindly to being second-fiddle at ANYTHING. You can’t hide things on the internet. Texans WILL find Young Free Alberta. The questions are how much, how often, and will they care? Because I like both Tim and Trey so much, and I love the Young & Free campaign and everything Larissa has done as Spokester, I would like to see them and Young & Free be successful in Texas as well. I even thought about NOT writing about Resource 1’s version of Young and Free. But that would be not accomplish anything. It’s on teh INTER-NETS. It’s out there for EVERYONE to see. Everyone can see the strategy of Resource 1. It’s not like if I don’t write about it that it will go away. It’s already out there. (A video from Larissa/Young & Free Alberta shows up as the third ‘related video’ result on YouTube when viewing the MyLifeMyMoney spokester search explanation video.

Young & Free Alberta’s success is definitely not solely due to Larissa Walkiw’s talent and charm. Young & Free Alberta has three primary success factors going for it: 1.) It’s completely new and innovative; no financial institution has ever done anything like this. 2.) The CU has a unique product (free checking) which no other F.I. has in Alberta. 3.) The campaign gives young people a true voice, not only through spokesperson Larissa, but through the unique Albertan events that Larissa covers in person and shoots videos and blogs about.

Young and Free Texas will have number three on the above list, but will not have number one, and number two is questionable. I’m not sure how the Go2Account stacks up against not only what TDECU offers, but against other FIs in Texas. I’m not sure what Dual Checking and Savings accounts mean, but checking accounts are already free at TDECU.

Will Young & Free Texas equal the success of Young & Free Alberta without a clearly compelling and differentiating product? Will Resource 1 CU learn enough on the fly about social media to make MyLifeMyMoney successful and be able to overcome the lack of a differentiating product?

Update: Now that I have listened to Trey’s phone conversation with Mark McSpadden, I have learned that Trey acknowledges 1.) The hope that Young & Free Texans commune with Young & Free Albertans and any other future Young & Free’ers and 2.) that he and TDECU decided to proceed with launching Young & Free Texas despite not being able to launch the corresponding youth product in the way that they had wanted. However neither of these points is apparent (or matters) to outsiders or the target audience.

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23 Responses to “Showdown, Texas-style”

  1. Jeffry Pilcher Says:

    Truth.

  2. Andy LaFlamm Says:

    Great post Morriss. It will definitely be interesting to see how each of these ventures into social media fare, especially when compared.

    That said, I think Y&F has a much more “cool” feel than mylifemymoney. It just feels more genuine.

    Also, just an idea, what if Currency created a main Y&F hub site that allowed visitors to link out to the Y&F site for their area? That would, in my opinion, take care of the whole second class citizen feeling as well as give every Y&F site an equal playing field if people found the site using a search engine, as long as the hub got indexed ahead of a specific Y&F sub-site.

  3. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Andy -Thanks! I had some similar thoughts while mulling these ideas over. While Common Wealth CU can serve everyone in Alberta, TDECU can not serve everyone in Texas. I’m not familiar with what metro regions TDECU’s 14 branches are in, but Texas is a BIG state. It looks like people in the deep south of Texas, El Paso, Austin, the panhandle part of Texas, and maybe even Dallas are left out. In this regard, I can see why Resource 1 CU would want to launch a campaign devoted to their Dallas market, and not brand it for all of Texas. Here are Resource 1 CU’s 8 branches, most in the Dallas metroplex, with one in Houston. Having said that, there is nothing in MyLifeMyMoney that says “Dallas” about it, another missed opportunity for them.

    aside: it’s fascinating to me that this blog post is now the number two result on google for Resource 1 CU. (a search on Resource 1 Credit Union yields what you would expect it would.)

  4. Ross Graham Says:

    Thanks for the post, Morriss. I’d seen the mylifemymoney mentioned when they were working on developing the logo for the project. Interesting way they did that I believe.

    But copying of Young&Free aside, wouldn’t another financial institution have to come up with something similar rather than licensing the Y&F campaign. If Trey’s CU had already had the campaign in the works (dunno what the order of events here is) then the mylifemymoney CU would be forced by Currency Marketing’s licensing rules to come up with something of their own.

    From Currency Marketing’s website: “One exclusive license will be granted in each region. Regions are defined geographically by provincial and state borders. The first qualifying credit union in each region to complete the sign-up process will secure regional rights to the program.”

    That pretty much says any other CU in Texas needs to come up with their own similar product … majority of which will probably be viewed as blatant rip-offs of the Y&F campaign in the state. Could that negatively impact the Y&F campaign? Maybe. If consumers see a proliferation of similar campaigns aimed at them, or aimed near them, would they decide that the Y&F campaign when they come across it is just one of those other poorly implemented ones? Maybe.

    An interesting way to license the campaign would be for Currency Marketing to pull CUs together under the campaign. Let CUs in a state by into the campaign. Let there be a contest amongst CUs for a STATE SPOKESTER to represent the age-group … it’s all the same product essentially. And odds are a member in one part of the state couldn’t even think of joining a CU in another part of the state, so cannibalization of membership by other CUs probably wouldn’t be a concern.

    To me it all comes down to do CUs want to work together or not? Do we want to keep sitting on the pot, or still keep on competing with each other. There’s been a significant amount of cooperative work going on in Indiana recently. I’ve heard rumblings of a couple CUs looking at the Y&F campaign. I understand the thought process behind limiting the license to one financial institution per state/province, but this campaign would be a great opportunity for Currency Marketing to help the growing cooperativeness amongst credit unions and aid the thought that we can work together for the common good of the membership … and we can all still make a buck at it.

  5. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Ross Great ideas! My post was initially pretty long, so I deleted my thoughts on the geographic aspect of this. When I read the one state/province part of the licensing, my first instinct was “well, that works in the western half of North America where states and provinces are HUGE, and less well in the eastern half where we have some really little states AND provinces.” Over here on the east coast, Rhode Island is so tiny that it’s really a sub-state of Massachusetts. Connecticut divides on a diagonal between being a part of New York/Yankee Country, and allegiance to Massachusetts and Red Sox Nation (discussion, NY Times article, map). Pennsylvania is (somewhat jokingly) like three states: Pittsburgh (west), Philadelphia (east), and Alabama (middle). Northern Florida is like Georgia-South, and the list goes on and on. And New England as a whole is relatively so small, that it can be lumped together for some purposes (i.e. The New England Patriots football team which plays its home games in a town south of Boston, close to Rhode Island.)

    This all proves how difficult geography is in our new World 2.0.

  6. Ross Graham Says:

    @Morris I think the licensing currently at play actually works BETTER in the eastern US with the smaller states when there is a better chance that a CU’s membership could encompass a state.

    Having one CU lay claim to the campaign for a state the size of Texas just seems like a huge missed opportunity for the campaign on the whole. And a huge missed opportunity for the CUs involved in it.

    Our CU isn’t currently investigating this campaign. However, if we were, I’d attempt to link up with other CUs in Indiana and push the limit of the licensing to allow for a better representation of the targeted demographic into the mix. Competition be damned. It’s all still publicity for the CUs that would be involved in the campaign.

  7. Morriss Partee Says:

    I know that merger mania has swept Canada much more so than the U.S. I don’t know the statistics of number of CUs there and size, but I know there are many huge ones, and a far greater percentage of all CUs in Canada are over $1b in assets than in the U.S. But you are right, no matter how you slice it, in the U.S. a one-CU per state strategy yields at most 50 happy credit unions and 8250 CUs that are shut out.

  8. Jonathan Gowins Says:

    Great post! I totally agree and it will be interesting to see what happens (I hope TDECU’s program succeeds). I was thinking about this…and although they are not “unique” since YF already exists in Alberta, this could be the campaign that turns into wildfire and brings unity to Credit Unions across all of North America. Who knows? Banks most certainly don’t have anything this unifying. YF lets your CU remain unique and at the same time brings a strong value to youth everywhere. It could turn into a universal “brand” (we care about youth) for CUs. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Maybe. Maybe not.

  9. Ben Rogers Says:

    I was a little late to the Resource One connection when I posted “my thoughts yesterday” but I think the ideas here are spot on.

    Most notably, I think that while the marketing dopplegangers will duke it out, the success of either program depends on the actual account features being offered. So far MyLifeMyMoney (at Resource 1) and GO2 (at TDECU) are good but really just reheated basic account offerings. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes.

    What about a head-to-head online shootout to see who who can open the most accounts?

  10. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Ben Thanks for chiming in! It will indeed be fascinating to see if community/voice trumps big differentiating product, or if the future youth products/services that Trey mentions in his phone interview come online soon enough to make/enhance impact. (And I did add a link to your blog post in the main post here.)

  11. Julie Brock Says:

    So, what would stop a state league from jumping on the bandwagon and swiping up the Y&F rights for their entire state? For me, in terms of trying to get out the CU message to as many people in the state as possible, I’d think that a state league would be missing out on not grabbing it up. What a great way for the CUs under the league’s umbrella to take advantage of the program. Each CU in the state could be promoted, so that when a YF UTube viewer decides to try the CU thing out, they’re not turned away because they fall outside the FoM. Heaven forbid we give them the tools to easily find us…ALL of us, and then empower them to make the informed decision. Because otherwise, all we’ve given them is another road block and reason to just go to the bank down the street, even though there’s a CU they can join around the corner.

  12. Ross Graham Says:

    @Julie Yep, yep, yep. Would take a forward thinking state league, though.

  13. Tim McAlpine Says:

    You guys have had some amazing discussion going on here. It is humbling to see how passionate all you are about the Young & Free brand. I am going to collect my thoughts and write my own blog post. By the way, state-wide licenses are available to single credit unions and leagues. Young & Free is licensed on a first-come first-served basis. We have a lot of interest from both types.

  14. Carlton Says:

    Brilliant post!

    I am saddened that some credit unions with the intention or guise of “people helping people” are in fact just stealing ideas from hardworking people and claiming it as their own.

    Whatever happened to honesty? I visited the site and you all are right. It just LOOKS cheesy and cheap. It seems like it’s all smoke and mirrors, flash in the pan without any substance. What’s more interesting, if you look at the various press releases online, you can search for the names listed as contacts, and they pull up other marketing websites.

    Who is this Andrew Szabo? I don’t think he’s with Resource One. There are sites with his name like marketingchef or marketingstrategy or something. Looks fishy. In their youtube videos he claims he’s the director of marketing for Resource One (youtube.com/mylifemymoneyr1)

    If he’s the director, he might need to utilize the Internet a little more frequently before he claims “mylifemymoney” is a unique, fresh, idea. Or maybe he’s been utilizing the web a little TOO much…if you get my drift.

    Why did Resource One decide to go do this?

  15. VSelfridge Says:

    I think it will be interesting to watch these two competing versions of a very similar “spokesperson” program in action in the same state!

    I think Y&F Texas will have an edge – because they come with Currency’s experience behind them in launching and supporting this type of program… Resource One (and their supporting agency?) may have a bit more of a learning curve ahead of them.

    But – I’ll watch and see!

  16. Tim McAlpine Says:

    Nala has written a post on the Currency blog that answers many of the single and multiple credit union questions you guys have been talking about here: http://www.currencymarketing.ca/blog/My-job-these-days-I-get-to-talk-about-young-and-free-all-day

  17. Ross Graham Says:

    @Tim Thanks for the clarification. :) … I saw her article come through my Google Reader today from my subscription to your Currency Marketing blog. Always good conversation over there.

  18. Winter Prosapio Says:

    Okay, I’m going to be an odd ball here, but I hope everyone copies the Young and Free approach. Not because I begrudge Tim his inalieanable right to billables (been there, done that), but because in my silly, idealized world of cooperatives we would all share best practices and adopt them in as many places as possible.

    The goal should be, in the cooperative spirit, to make the Y&F knock offs as effective as possible. I know another CU that wanted to do Y&F but were toldthey couldn’t because one CU had bought rights to the state. Even though TDECU (of which I’m a HUGE fan and am getting my tattoo done next week) doesn’t operate in Dallas or San Antonio, Y&F won’t run there. Problematic.

    So should major CUs in Major Markets in the state just hang out and try to do something different? Give up on a program that has clearly worked?

    I agree, Morriss, one has to be careful in the adoption route to make sure you are grabbing the bits that really matter. But at the end of the day, I hope 50 CUs in the state find talented individuals to help them jump into mktg to a younger market. I hope they glean what they can from the campaign and build their own. Because I’d like to see CUs kick some bank @#$ and be set for the next phase of the financial marketplace.

    Shoot. I’d be happy if we could just convince people that they can join a credit union. Most of the know it’s a good deal (according to polls) but people perceive they can’t join.

    Okay, off the soap box. I’m getting a nose bleed.

  19. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Winter – Thanks for the comment! I certainly agree that every CU needs to have an effective online and social media strategy. And if you are shut out of Y&F because another CU in the state is doing it, that is indeed problematic. But each CU should devise its own social media strategy, and not copy something which already exists. Social media outreach doesn’t necessarily equal spokesperson contest, online voting, making videos, etc. That’s just one approach, there are many others. I have ideas for other ways this can be done successfully. In fact, I’d argue that being original with your social media strategy (and tying it directly to your CU’s own unique business strategy) will be more successful than copying this existing campaign, no matter how great Y&F may be. Jeffry Pilcher has some inspirational quotes regarding innovation vs. imitation on his blog today.

  20. DeAndre Says:

    Thanks for the comment on my video blog!

    If you guys haven’t been watching, I’m one of the contestants for the Young and Free Texas competition!

    Feel free to mosey on over to http://www.youngfreetexas.com and leave a comment on my video, or one of the other competing videos!

    Right on,
    DeAndre’

  21. Young & Free targets Gen Y in Texas, but they’re not alone « market insights insider Says:

    […] there are a couple great discussions discussing both of these accounts/initiatives in depth, one on Everything CU and another on The Financial Brand. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Deadline […]

  22. DeAndre' Says:

    Hey everybody!

    I know all of the awesome discourse has quieted down a little bit, but I would like to fan the flans a bit! W am one of the Young & Free Texas spokesperson finalists!

    Jump on over to http://www.youngfreetexas.com and see all of the candidate’s campaign videos, podcasts, and blogs, and vote for whoever you think represents the TDECU Go2 Account!

    Make it happen, yall! Voting is open until the 24th!

  23. Gen-Y twins, membership soars, ‘Rewards’ return, bees : The Financial Brand: Marketing Insights for Banks & Credit Unions Says:

    […] Texas Twins: Similar Gen-Y programs raise tough questions […]

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