COVID-era marketing challenges credit unions
During the Great Depression, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, credit unions demonstrated the difference from the young movement by providing much-needed credit to members that were denied loans by commercial banks.
When the coronavirus crisis hit, causing the economy to collapse and the biggest job losses since the Great Depression, credit unions quickly sprang into action offering a variety of loan relief options. , fee waivers and other financial benefits to support members. These actions will go a long way in building member loyalty and generating positive word of mouth marketing in credit union communities.
Beyond that, credit unions are worried about how much marketing they should be doing, if any, because they don’t want to be seen as oblivious to the health and financial issues that many consumers face. However, life goes on and consumers still have a need for products and services. And in the era of COVID-19, marketing presents a rare and widely open opportunity to demonstrate how and why credit unions are different from banks.
Additionally, consumers said it was okay to continue marketing. Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers said it was appropriate for brands to advertise, according to a survey by Kantar Group, one of the world’s largest market research companies. Nineteen percent of consumers said it was inappropriate for certain brands to advertise and only 6% of U.S. consumers said it was inappropriate for brands to advertise during the coronavirus.
“Those who say it’s appropriate for brands to advertise say that life and the economy go on, and there is always a demand for products and services, so brands need to advertise.” , Kantor said. “And many say that in a constant coronavirus news cycle, advertising provides a sense of normalcy or even a distraction and an escape.”
Credit unions have put aside marketing campaigns they planned to launch this year before the coronavirus crisis hit. Only a few credit unions have decided to completely halt their marketing efforts, according to independent marketing professionals who serve the credit union industry.
Instead, it looks like many credit unions have chosen to change their marketing messages that offer empathetic help, support, and hope to members, employees, and their communities.
“Now more than ever, we believe it’s important to have resources you can really count on. We emphasize this in all of our marketing initiatives at First Florida Credit Union – that you can trust us with everything from day-to-day banking to securing the financing you need to move forward. When you’re ready, we’re here for you, ”said Michelle Troha, senior vice president of marketing for the billion dollar First Florida Credit Union in Jacksonville.
Since the start of the pandemic, First Florida has changed its marketing messages to reflect this new funding reality during the coronavirus crisis.
“Our spring HELOC campaign comes to mind in terms of designs that needed to be tweaked during this time. The initial marketing message focused on life’s “big moments” – like graduation and weddings – and how accessing equity in your home could help you fund those special events and projects. ”Troha said. “Our marketing team recognized the need for a quick change of direction to ensure the campaign reflects the realities people are facing right now. With that in mind, we’ve changed our message to ‘Give your home the credit it deserves’. This is focused on leveraging home equity for home improvement projects, as people spend significantly more time in their homes to protect themselves against the virus. “
Meredith Olmstead, CEO and founder of FI Grow Solutions in Stamford, Connecticut, admitted that some of her clients had suspended their social media ads.
“Usually their main concern is with potential negative comments or reviews if a customer is not happy with the options offered,” she said.
But this may be short-sighted, as marketing during a recession as competitors pull out gives credit unions a wide scope to differentiate themselves in their market, attracting consumers who need financial products and services. What’s more, social media ads are now less than half of what they’ve cost in recent months, as many companies have slashed their ad budgets, according to FI Grow Solutions.
Among Olmstead customers who have decided to continue marketing, they have changed their messages to be more sensitive to the health crisis and concerned about the uncertain financial future of each.
For example, a mid-sized credit union in Dallas posted an Instagram story to promote how it is helping its members during COVID-19. The ad linked to the credit union’s disaster relief page which highlighted a variety of helpful resources for members. In about a week, the Instagram ad reached 13,900 people and generated 105 landing page views at an average cost of $ 0.98 per view, Olmstead said.
To help members save money by refinancing auto loans, another midsize credit union posted an ad online saying it was drastically lowering its interest rate to lower monthly payments.
“In just seven days on a fairly tight budget, auto loan ads reached nearly 11,000 people and generated 322 landing page views at an average cost of $ 0.40 each!” said Olmstead. “These auto loans would typically cost over $ 1.50 per page view. “
Leveraging video communication can be an effective and transformative way for credit unions to bridge digital experiences with human experiences for members and non-members alike who want a rock to hang in the sea. chaos of the coronavirus crisis, James Robert Lay, CEO and founder of Digital Growth Institute in Houston, noted.
For example, using best practices in social distancing, credit unions may consider producing videos that promote local businesses hard hit by COVID-19. For example, they can feature a local gym owner demonstrating how to do different types of exercise at home, or show how a local restaurant chef prepares one of their most popular dishes.
Lay said that Strategy Core in Nashville, Tenn., Which provides retail verification solutions for credit unions and banks, launched a weekly “Happier Half Hour” video presentation that promotes local businesses and collects information. funds for them.
Last month, a local barber showed Strategy Corp partner Dave DeFazio how to cut his hair. Over $ 1,000 was raised for local barbers.
Using this type of video presentation to bring members and local businesses together can create messages that members and non-members alike will remember.
“It shows that we care about each other, bring help and hope, and build a sense of community even though this community is digital, because the message is that even though we are apart, we are are still together, ”Lay said.
He also recommended that CEOs and other executives take advantage of the video. He said Rhonda Hotard, president / CEO of the $ 314 million Louisiana Federal Credit Union in La Place, Louisiana, regularly uses video to communicate with members and employees who work remotely.
“She provides updates on everything that is happening to enlighten people and give them a sense of hope,” Lay said. “She was also able to answer questions from people in the community. His videos have been viewed 2,000 to 3,000 times now. Communications will be the biggest differentiator between these [credit unions] who will come out positively and those who will come out in difficulty. “