CUNA Mutual Group’s Sachatello on How to Build a Great Brand

“When you look at a Victoria’s Secret bra and a Walmart bra side by side, what do you see?” asked Susan Sachatello, senior vice president of TruStage at CUNA Mutual Group, at the Northwest Credit Union Association’s annual Amplify Convention. “Two cups and three hooks.”

Sachatello, who worked with Victoria’s Secret earlier in her career, said that “insurance is exactly like Victoria’s Secret.”

“There are three elements you can use to win at retail,” she said, “product, price, and brand.” She noted that each one of these can be extremely successful, and each has its challenges.

To win on product you have to continually innovate and deliver excellent products. Most products, though, are easily knocked off in the marketplace. And in a highly-regulated industry like financial services it is hard to win on products alone.

To win at price, you have to build your whole business — from real estate to staffing to operations — to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. The Walmart bra sells for $8, while the Victoria’s Secret bra sells for $48. “Who is the Walmart in your industry, and what would it take to beat them?” she asked.

Winning on Brand and Cutstomer Experience

“Brand is a story well told,” she said. Product and price are part of that story, and so are messaging, customer service, public relations and more. In fact, she said, “your brand should be the filter for everything you do.”

“Be very, very clear about the set of attributes that makes your customer experience different,” said Sachatello. “No one can compete with that.”

She gave examples of two recent challenges faced by successful companies — she called them “brand moments” — and highlighted how their responses built or hurt their brands. In the first, Lululemon’s CEO responded to customers’ concerns that their yoga pants were too transparent by blaming women’s bodies, saying their thighs were rubbing together too much. Sachatello showed how this hurt the brand, and the company’s sales.

She then highlighted Lands’ End, another company for which Sachatello formerly worked, which responded to a customer’s concern that there were no empowering science-themed shirts for girls like there were for boys. Land’s End put out a science-themed girls’ line two weeks later, backing it with their famous guarantee. “That line sold out,” said Sachatello.

“Choosing to deliver on brand moments in ways that build or degrade your brand — because those are the only two choices you have — determines how serious you are about winning at brand,” she said. “Make your brand the filter for everything you do.”

Get to Know Your Customers

Sachatello pointed out that, in order to give your customers the sort of experience they want, you have to know what sort of experience they want. “Choose the right ways to get to know your customers,” she said. In order to get to know your customers you have to go to where they shop, listen in when they call for services, even visit their homes and talk to them.

One of the most important places to meet your customers these days, she said, is online and on their mobile devices. Sachatello noted the rise of mobile, the fact that very young children can use an iPad even if they can’t turn the pages of a magazine, and the trend of the younger generation already leaving email and Facebook for newer online services. She also said that, more and more, the people in the drive-thru at Starbucks are handing their phones out their car windows to make payments.

“Understand your brand,” she said, “what’s unique and compelling about you, and understand your customer.”

She closed by recognizing Red Canoe Credit Union, one of their partners in the region, for helping TruStage reach the important goal of protecting 15 million members.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

Posted in Marketing & Communications, MAXX Annual Convention, NWCUA.