Creating Credit Union Awareness


When the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) first convened industry thought leaders to be part of the Creating Awareness Advisory Group, “awareness” was the problem they thought they were trying to solve. After an extensive national research project involving thousands of nonmember consumers, the Advisory Group learned otherwise.

“It turns out a good number of consumers actually know who we are, and what we stand for, but sadly, they don’t think of us as go-to,” said Teresa Freeborn, President and Chief Executive of Xceed Financial Credit Union. Freeborn is chair of the Advisory Group. Northwest members include Denise Gabel, Chief Operating Officer, Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), and Tom Berquist, SVP, Marketing and CO-OP Affairs, BECU.

The research found that two myths are preventing consumers from joining credit unions: the belief they are ineligible to join, and the misconception that because credit unions are local, they can’t meet people’s financial services needs or provide the technology they want.

Busting the Myths

To debunk those myths, the Advisory Group worked with the nationally recognized Grover Park Group and BrandCap to develop and test consumer messaging. The initial package was unveiled from the main stage at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference Tuesday.

“Your Fantastic Future, Faster,” and “Open your Eyes to a Credit Union” are initial test messages. A password-protected website will provide America’s credit unions with samples of the test messaging, and a messaging guide. Login information will be shared with NWCUA member credit unions in an upcoming “Fast Five” update from NWCUA President and CEO Troy Stang. A public-facing website,, is under development.

When the content was tested in consumer focus groups, two thirds said the messaging sparked their interest and disrupted their perceptions.

“So, take that interest and turn it into a new member, revenue, and market share. Build a greater movement,” advised Grover Park Group Managing Director Graeme Trayner, who guided the research from its inception.

“This content is designed to complement every credit union’s own brand and marketing, not supplant it,” Gabel said. “This research-backed data should make your messaging more effective, and provide you with the tools and resources you need to combat the myths many consumers have about credit unions, so that more consumers consider credit unions as their best financial services partners.”

The initiative will be sustained for several years, according to CUNA, and content will be fine-tuned based on the results of ongoing, real-time research. Actual creative content for credit union use is under development.

The Northwest Adds Value

“The NWCUA currently is conducting parallel research involving 900 non-member consumers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington,” Gabel said. “We know that market share here, at over 50 percent, is higher than the national average. But how do we help non-members understand how easy and smart it is to join a credit union, to own their piece of the pie?”

Gabel said the NWCUA Strategic Market Share Task Force will examine the Northwest findings this spring and help guide development of additional tools for credit unions. The Marketing, Business Development, and Community Outreach Council will examine the research during its 2018 meetings as well.

Editor’s note: Questions about the CUNA Awareness Initiative? Contact Lynn Heider, NWCUA Vice President, Public Relations, at or (503) 329-7208. 

Posted in Marketing & Communications.