Posts Tagged ‘Currency Marketing’

Showdown, Texas-style

August 12, 2008

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.

36 Credit union social media do’s

July 15, 2008

This morning I saw that social media sage Chris Brogan had put together a list of 50 social media strategies. Without peeking at his list (honestly!), I decided I should put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for social media as it pertains to credit unions. I’m sure that I left out plenty, so feel free to add your additional ones here! And here’s a nice buttoned-up, three-page PDF version of the 63 CU social media do’s and don’ts.

Oh, and by the way, I’m delivering a webinar on Building Relationships with Social Media on EverythingCU on Thursday. I’ll be discussing 7 case studies, among other things. I’m really looking forward to it, and am very excited we have 36 credit unions signed up so far.

Because this list is long, I’ve split up the Do’s and the Don’ts into two entries:

Do’s:

  1. Do become well-versed with all of the available social media tools before diving in. (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting are great starting points.)
  2. Do start your social media marketing strategy planning by thinking about what your TARGET AUDIENCE is interested in.
  3. Do make sure that your social media strategy reinforces your CU’s overall business or branding strategy, and is designed to, at the least, create awareness of what your CU is great at.
  4. Do feature your online initiatives in a computer kiosk in your lobby. That way your members will not only learn about what they can do remotely, they’ll also associate what they see online with a tangible presence.
  5. Do learn the basics of how RSS and blogs work.
  6. Do give guidelines to anyone who will be contributing to your CUs blog.
  7. Do put your rates into RSS format.
  8. Do comment on your members’ blogs. They LOVE that, and will share the love in return. That’s the best way to increase readership of YOUR blog.
  9. Do put valuable information that is currently in your print letter ALSO onto your blog so that your members can comment. Feel free to inform that online commenting is available at the end of the print newsletter articles that are also featured on your blog.
  10. Do feel free to blog your newsletter articles before they appear in the print version. Many people aren’t paying attention to your blog, and will be reminded to go there when receiving the print version in the mail.
  11. Do write down your social media strategy so that the rest of the management team can see the cause and effect chain from your marketing efforts to how its helping the CU generate awareness, leads, new referrals, new members, and new sales, or in general reinforcing the CU’s brand.
  12. Do start with the overall campaign concept, then figure out what social media tools are the best fit.
  13. Do reinforce your traditional marketing campaigns with your online efforts and vice versa. These are not separate silos.
  14. Do build up a network of friends among your members BEFORE you start trying to “market” to them.
  15. Do use social media to start conversations among your members about your CU and ask for honest feedback.
  16. Do monitor discussion about your CU on third-party sites using Google Alerts.
  17. Do create a business fan page for your CU on Facebook.
  18. Do be a real person and use real language in all social media venues. Be as polite and professional as you would face-to-face.
  19. Do always make sure your blog posts are attributed to the author, and not to the faceless credit union.
  20. Do only write a blog post when you have something important to say to your members.
  21. Do put your fun and interesting CU events onto Facebook.
  22. Do write your blog posts in a way that invites your members to comment on it. We’ve been so used to one-way communication with our members, that we have to retrain our brains to write in a way that invites dialogue.
  23. Do realize that for the most part, your members are more interested in other members’ comments on your blog, than on the article you originally wrote. Feature comments front and center.
  24. Do optimize your web site and online banking to work on mobile phones, Blackberries, Treos, and iPhones.
  25. Do call your core processor’s rep every day until she gives you a mobile banking offering for your members.
  26. Do attend the nearest PodCamp to you to learn more about what this social media thing is all about.
  27. Do understand that your members expect you to be present in the online conversation about you. They’ll interpret a lack of presence as a lack of caring about their concerns.
  28. Do understand that you’ll have to hold many of your members hands if you want them to participate in your online efforts. But each time that you do, you will be earning their gratitude, and perhaps loyalty. Everyone likes to learn how to do cool new things, without being made to feel like they are stupid.
  29. Do read web sites and books about it: The Cluetrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble, and The New Influencers by Paul Gillin
  30. Do read blogs about it: this one right here, OpenSource CU by Trabian, Marketing Whims by Ron Shevlin, NetBanker by Jim Bruene, Currency Marketing by Tim McAlpine, CU Hype by Tony Mannor, and scores more.
  31. Do realize that your members know better your CUs strengths and weaknesses than you realize.
  32. Do realize that your front line staff are your best and most important allies in social media marketing. They are far more familiar with it, and trusted by their own friends than you are.
  33. Do involve your front line staff with your social media efforts every step of the way.
  34. Do involve your members at every step of the way with your social media efforts.
  35. Do realize that the relationship your members have with each other is often as important, and sometimes more important, than the relationship they have with you or your credit union.
  36. Do involve your members in competitions and let them see how they stand. Members love that, and will check back often if you do!

Here are the 27 Don’ts.

Time to retire the penny

April 4, 2008

This morning I read a blog entry from Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing explaining that there is a proposal to eliminate the Canadian penny on its centennial. This reminded me that my first experience with a penniless currency was the year that I lived in the Netherlands. I don’t know what the current conversion rate is with U.S. dollars, but at the time, their guilder was worth about 40¢. This meant their penny would have been worth much less than a U.S. penny, and in fact, they had eliminated it from their currency. In cash transactions, everything was rounded to the nearest nickel, which was worth about as much as a U.S. penny.

About the only thing that U.S. pennies are good for are for reconciliation purposes in check and debit transactions, and we can keep their theoretical existence there, but eliminate their physical manifestation. This would save the U.S. govenment a large amount of money in continuing to mint these nearly worthless coins. It now costs a little more than a penny to mint a penny. I’m sure the only reason we’re hanging on to this appendix is fear of inflation. I don’t think the Dutch economy experienced any inflation when they abandoned their penny, so I think it’s time we abandon ours. Just think of how excited all the numistmatists will be! That will make their penny collections much more valuable. What do you think?

Prosper turns two; P2P Lending accelerating

March 17, 2008

I’m a little bit late in blogging a happy second birthday to Prosper, but hey, better late than never. It’s interesting to me that there are many (perhaps even a majority of) people in the financial world who talk about Prosper as an interesting “experiment” that may or may not work. Let me attempt to blog yet again, that Prosper IS working, and growing at a rather stunning rate, right at this very moment. (Sadly, many financial professionals are probably still not familiar with P2P Lending, two years after its U.S. launch, and three years after its British launch.)

There are many who are skeptical, and rightly so, about making unsecured loans to strangers via Prosper. But let’s look at the facts. At Prosper’s current growth rate, they will probably surpass 1,000,000 members before the end of the year, which, if it were a credit union, would make it the third largest in the United States. When Prosper celebrated its second birthday on Feb 13, this year, it had 580,000 registered members, and has done $117 million in loans. (At that membership, Prosper would already chart in at sixth on the list of largest credit unions, behind Navy FCU at 3 million members, SECU of NC at 1.4 million members, Pentagon FCU at 770,000 members, and The Golden One CU at 680,000 members, and Security Service FCU at 630,000 members, and ahead of Boeing Employees CU with 530,000 members).

Clearly, there ARE people who are embracing online P2P lending, whether it’s Prosper, Zopa, or Virgin Money.

Last month, Jim Bruene of NetBanker blogged a new development at Prosper, which aims to cut default rates through social capital, namely personal recommendations. This looks to have proven successful so far, and is a clear example of direct monetary value associated with social capital.

The idea that national credit unions could exist with a defined target market is one that Jesse Robbins indirectly voiced with his Building the Black Rock Credit Union blog, and later Tim McAlpine at Currency Marketing articulated, and Ron Shevlin and the CUSkeptic satirized. Well, in a certain sense, Propser has already brought this concept to life via its borrowing groups. Just a cursory glance at the community reveals groups for entrepreneurs, Harvard alumni, Vietnamese Americans, musicians, military veterans, artists, teachers, restaurateurs, personal financial advisors, health care professionals, and even Apple fans. (Here’s one for folks who are LGBT). In other words, just about every type of group that credit unions were created to serve, but with a much deeper and richer variety, and with a national horizon.

As a side note, in researching this post, I discovered that Javelin Research says that online P2P lending may reach $159 billion by 2012.

Props to Doug True for working with Zopa to offer NCUA-backed P2P Lending.

Congratulations Credit Unions, on a Century of Service

March 12, 2008

I have the great honor and pleasure of talking to credit union professionals all over the nation. The subject of the proud history of CUs, holds special meaning to me because I had worked with the movement for about ten years before I learned ANYTHING about its incredible history. I certainly had no idea that the movement started in my backyard, a hop skip and jump across the border, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

I gave a talk on social media and World 2.0 this morning to a group of about forty credit union marketing professionals from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire at the CU League’s headquarters in Marlborough, Mass. I asked about the movement’s founding, and it was wonderful to get a detailed answer. In our presence was a representative of that very first CU, Andrea Pruna of St. Mary’s Bank. Not only did she know the date by heart (November 24, 1908), but she let us know about a wonderful section of their web site devoted to this, the Centennial Year of Credit Union service. I encourage everyone to check out Celebrating 100 Years for a terrific look at the amazing road we’ve traveled so far.

This is one of the reasons I’m especially excited that BarCampBank NewEngland will be held in America’s Credit Union Museum on April 5. The museum is the actual house where St. Mary’s Bank first began operations 100 years ago, out of the home of Attorney Joseph Boivin, who served as the CU’s President. If you listen very carefully, you may hear the whispers of the generations that have preceeded you when you stand in the parlor of the building.

Shout-outs to so many of the fabulous credit union marketers who came today. Thanks to Jon Reske and Anne Pinkerton from UMassFive College FCU, Mark Vautour from Telephone Workers CU, Deena Bernier from NMTW Community CU, and Debra Perrin from Southern Mass CU. I’m not good with names, so I haven’t remembered those who I met for the first time, but thank you also. It was fun that we had four one-billion-dollar CUs represented as well, Greylock FCU in the Berkshires, HarborOne CU in the South Boston area, DCU of the Worcester area, and Navigant CU in RI. Thank you to Rob Kimmett for organizing a great event and inviting me, and it was wonderful to catch up with CU whirlwind Bonnie Doolin.

My presentation today included demonstrating and explaining Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and showed examples from Shari Storm and the Verity CU team, William Azaroff of Vancity CU and Change Everything, Ginny Brady, board member of UFirst FCU with the Boardcast, and Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing with Larissa Walkiw, spokesperson for Young and Free Alberta, and her infamous Credit Union Difference video part one, currently at 16,228 views. On the topic of Facebook, I have started writing a paper on the Facebook as Marketing Engine and plan on publishing excerpts to this blog. For those interested in checking out twitter, here’s the one-page PDF of Twitter Tips.

I also touched on Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2P Lending), Prosper’s amazing growth rate, and how CUs can participate by getting in touch with Doug True, SVP of Lending, at Forum CU. Doug has been instrumental in having P2P Lending company Zopa partner with CUs to offer NCUA-insured loans and investments.


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