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Credit Union Digital Branding Colloquium

Digital branding and social strategies are becoming the necessary norm for all businesses, including credit unions. But there is a danger that managers, while acknowledging this new norm, can get in trouble by not approaching it strategically.

    Executive Summary

    Today’s search engines can recall, within seconds, nearly anything a famous person has ever said publicly, making it easy to expose the differences between what we preach and what we do. But the search engine merely exposes the age- old and all-too-human disconnect between saying and doing. Politicians are susceptible to it, businesses are susceptible to it, people are susceptible to it. If “should be” were as easy as “is,” then we’d all be doing just fine.

    That disconnect is worth noting for two reasons: First, credit unions cannot just pay lip service to the digital revolution; they need to participate. Second, at the Filene Research Institute, we’re aware of the dangerous disconnect between saying and doing, so we are treating this report about digital branding differently from other Filene reports. Instead of the usual executive summary followed by a downloadable, text-based PDF report, in this summary you will find a link that leads to a web-based presentation combining video of the speakers with some of their most important slides. More importantly, you can share the presentation beyond your own screen in staff training or perhaps a board meeting; you can also do it in broader ways with your social and professional networks on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    What is the research about?

    In November 2011, Filene convened a panel of expert researchers and practitioners in San Francisco to discuss and show how credit unions should think about their own branding and digital presence as marketing moves to an increasingly electronic format. We wanted to know what tools are out there (and what’s coming down the pike) along with what digital messages and channels resonate with today’s consumers.

    The main takeaway: It is not enough to turn traditional collateral and messaging into digital collateral and messaging. Instead, credit unions need to capitalize on the deeper trend of social connections to make sure their marketing reaches the right audience in the first place and has its intended effect when it arrives. Mobile usage, more emphasis on design, and social marketing all came to the fore as trends that every credit union needs to consider, especially as it hunts for new members.

    What are the credit union implications?

    The colloquium included a cross-section of social media practitioners and researchers along with strategists from Google and Facebook. Each brought a different message, but the unspoken message—really, the needn’t-be-spoken message—was that digital marketing is becoming ever more important. Adopting it won’t be enough; embracing it is the only acceptable route.

    This report is sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services.