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Mom's the Word

December 2012 – Vol: 35 No. 12
by Tim McAlpine

How one CU changed its marketing focus to appeal to the people who make most financial decisions.

Bulletin board with photos of moms and childrenCredit union marketers have typically divided their marketing efforts and budget to cover a wide variety of members and potential members across age segments. Throw a portion of the budget to youngsters, another chunk for young adults, a bit more for 30-somethings and spend the rest on baby boomers.

This is what savvy marketers do; it’s called market segmentation and it is taught at the marketing 101 level. By dividing a broad target market into subsets of consumers, marketers can begin to see common needs and desires as well as common applications for relevant products and services.

On the surface, this approach makes total sense. However, it also makes the other marketing 101 concept—branding—extremely hard to do effectively. How do you create a compelling brand that must work in tandem with a marketing strategy that must target multiple segments spanning ages 12 to 70? And, do this against the backdrop of every other bank and credit union attempting to do the same thing?

The answer for most credit unions is to construct a conservative brand and generalized marketing strategy that won’t alienate any one group. By aiming somewhere in the middle, credit union marketers hope to project a unified voice. But, as the saying goes, if you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.

What if there was a different way to build a credit union marketing strategy and brand position?

This is exactly what one savvy credit union has done. $380 million/25,000-member Verity Credit Union in Seattle has zigged in a world of zagging financial institutions that try to appeal to everyone. Verity CU does everything to appeal to just one person: Mom.

CUES member Shari Storm, SVP/chief marketing officer at Verity CU and author of Motherhood is the New MBA, says, “Credit unions don’t like to exclude anyone and because of this, our target markets have become so broad.”

In Washington State, where every credit union has a community charter that extends to every corner of the state, it is increasingly important to stand out in this very competitive marketplace. In 2008, the executive team at Verity CU read the book, Blue Ocean Strategy. The book’s authors advise organizations to find the most attractive segment for what they’re selling, focus on that group, and ignore everyone else in an attempt to make the competition irrelevant.

After taking this advice to heart, the team considered focusing on “family,” but decided that family was not narrow enough. The executive team dug deeper and asked themselves, “Who in the family is making the decisions and helping their kids open their first bank account?”

The answer was obvious: Mom.

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