Award Winning Marketer Urges Conference-Goers to Think Outside the Box

By Nicole Charshaf, Northwest Credit Union Association Communications Designer & Web Manager

Credit union marketing does not need to be boring: how to market a commodity.

Credit Unions are a commodity; one product among many products on a shelf. What credit union marketers do to differentiate their institution from others is critical for success as consumers get bombarded with promotional messages every day.

Going to a credit union or a bank is a chore; switching to a credit union is a chore; banking is a chore. So, how do you take something that is a chore, and make it interesting? Free checking, and great rates alone are not going to do it.

According to Kelly Parks, creative catalyst at the gira{ph} agency, Simon Sinek has a great TedTalk titled “How great leaders inspire action” where he says “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

With that in mind, instead of focusing on rates, services and products, etc., the focus should be shifted to sell the lifestyle, the emotions, and the ideals of credit unions; that is what differentiates us, according to parks. Simon goes on to say, “the goal is not to sell to people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

Parks says a great example of is this is the Apple’s commercial to launch the Macintosh computer. “You will notice that there is not a product or service to be found, what you will find though is a company who believes in something,” she says. “There is an emotion, a feeling, and a life to the commercial.”

Credit unions have a powerful advantage in this market if we were to take that advice and sell what we believe in, especially in a time like this when people want to believe in companies that share the same ideals as them.

Get out of the Box Without Breaking the Budget:

Every guerilla marketing campaign should:

  • Be Mysterious
  • Be Unexpected
  • Be Low cost
  • Be Very Targeted
  • Be Clever
  • Invoke emotions

Three creative ways to get out of the box:

It can be intimidating to devise the next great idea. Sure there are whiteboards and mind maps, but Parks says these are three great brainstorming techniques to start the creative process off in new ways.

1. Roll the Dice

Use the resource worksheet “Go Guerilla {Build a Marketing Campaign}”. Fill out each column with the following information:

  • Product/service/idea that you want to market;
  • Unique audience you want to target (be specific, not just “young people” for example, but college students ages 18-25 who are looking to open up their first independent account from their parents);
  • Random word.

Grab a dice and roll away: first roll for the first column and so on. These three words: a what, who, and how. Use these three words to get a brainstorm going. Get stuck? Roll again! This should be a fun exercise to help consider ideas you may not have originally put together.

2: Break the Rules

Parks says try brainstorming “rules” of a credit union and then ask yourselves “what would you do if this was not a “rule”.

Some rules included:

  • A credit union needs to have a physical location
  • A credit union’s hours should be between 9-5pm
  • A credit union needs to have “credit union” in the name

During the program, one team answered rule No.1 with a new solution: a mobile, cashless branch that traveled to members instead of having them come to the branch. These rules should be thought of as things perceived as mandatory, obvious, or the norm. When you are able to step out of those confines, according to Parks, you can start to build unique and innovative ideas.

3: Ask & Answer Questions

Another way to break out of the box is to ask what if?

Here are some suggested questions from Park to Ask:

  • What if it was packaged? Bundled? A kit?
  • What if you could make it 10 times easier? Faster?
  • What if there was a surprise or a wow attached?
  • What if you retired it completely and started from scratch?
  • What if there were no regulations? No rules? Industry norms?
  • What if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you try?

Additional Resources

Coast Capitol Savings: Vending Machine
Cadbury Chocolate: Gorilla Commercial
Unicef: Be a mom for a moment


Simon Sinek: Start with Why
BBMG: Age of Co-Creativity
Kevin Roberts: Lovemarks


Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor:

Posted in Around the NW, Events, NWCUA.