To succeed, you have to amplify the differences.

Five ways to be more differenter

Remember those Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercials a while back, where kids exclaimed “It’s more cheesier”? I cringed every time I heard this phrase, and so did thousands of other writers and English majors.

Painful grammar aside, the Kraft marketers have a point.

To succeed, you have to amplify the differences.

Crank up the cheese until it’s salty, tangy, and fluorescent orange — get as far away as you can from the bland, rubbery church basement casserole.

Millions of people are fed up with banks and ripe for something different, yet they simply can’t detect the slightest whiff of a difference at their local credit union. But you’ve got a very real difference — lots of them. Differentiation is the secret weapon of the credit union marketer.

Let’s turn that CU flavor up to “11”. The “more differenter” you are, the better your chances of finding and keeping a rabidly loyal audience. Here are five ideas to get you started:

1) Escape the Commodity Trap

The truth is, pretty much everyone has free checking and competitive loan rates. Yawn. What if you could do something for your members that no one else can or will? Suddenly, they’re not shopping on price and you gain a rabid fan in the process.

What could this be? I dunno. It depends completely on your credit union and your members.

If you have a lot of members who are high school teachers on a ten month pay schedule, perhaps you could launch a combination savings account/line of credit to help them get through the months where they’re not being paid (I’m pretty sure there are CUs already doing this). What else can you think of that would make life better in some new, unexpected way?

Maybe your members are sick of paying high rates for snowmobile or golf cart loans. Maybe no one else will finance ice fishing huts. Maybe you have a lot of snowbird members — could you partner with a CU in Florida or Arizona to make it super-easy to have two addresses?

2) Banish the Weasel Words

Everyone else uses fine print to weasel more money out of people. So be different — be the anti-weasel credit union. Understand the actual regulations and risks involved, and slash, rewrite and wipe out the fine print.

3) Get Weird

What’s strange, yet beloved about your community? Embrace it. Tap into it. Be part of it. We’re not talking about the boring chamber of commerce stuff. We’re talking about sponsoring a few restless corpses at the Annual Zombie Walk downtown (Dover, NH), or building a flying saucer for the Alien Festival (Roswell, NM).

Key West, Florida and Portland, Oregon are known for being perversely proud of their weirdos. Sure, you probably don’t have a transvestite parade all that often, but there’s bound to be some streak of strange fun nearby. Get out there and get into it.

4) Get Human

Check out the web sites of the nation’s three largest banks:

These are examples of “big bank” design and feel. I’m not saying they’re bad — they’re darn near perfect for huge bank corporations, in fact. But sterile stuff like this is simply not right for a credit union.

Whatever you do in your life as a credit union marketer, make sure it doesn’t look or feel at all like these sites or anything these banks do. (Please.)

Credit unions are about people at their best — people doing good things for people. Don’t water down that CU passion and humanity by aping the sanitized megabank look and feel. And use some color, for Pete’s sake.

5) Figure Out What You Ain’t

If she ever read this blog, my fifth grade English teacher would probably faint. But the point is that in order to define who and what your credit union is, you also have to define what you are not. (Or ain’t.) Like the Marines (The few, the proud…), credit unions aren’t for everyone. The reality is that we’re sort of a niche product.

Who is not in your target audience? What products will you never offer? What sort of potential members are probably better off going someplace else? What kind of person will simply never see the appeal of your credit union? What kind of people simply don’t care and never will?

These are tough, almost demoralizing questions to think about, but there’s simply no such thing as being “all things to everyone.” If you pare away enough “ain’t”, it’ll help you redefine the “are”. Sharpen your focus, Be More Differenter, and you’ll find lots more of those rabid fans.

Brian Wringer

Email this article to a friend or coworker.