Marketing by committee invariably turns bold, focused, and clear into tepid and murky.

Too many cooks spoil the campaign

Credit unions are cooperatives, right? The more the merrier. One for all and all for one. People helping people. These are all wonderful philosophies, and they’re the drivers behind the success of credit unions. Everyone contributes, everyone has a voice.

But this communal spirit also makes credit union marketing particularly vulnerable to watery, scattered messages, plain vanilla creative (Great rates and friendly service!), and strangulation by fine print. Marketing by committee invariably turns bold, focused, and clear into tepid and murky. Worst of all, it reduces effectiveness and simply wastes time and money.

So how does a credit union marketer resist the call of, well, everyone else?

Live the brand — If you’re in marketing, it’s your job to live your brand. Develop a deep, instinctive, everyday understanding of what makes the CU different and special, and how that applies in real life to every audience. Live and understand the voice and personality of the credit union. Understand what you are, and more importantly, what you are not.

Strategy over here, creative over there — When you’re talking with your CEO, CFO, or anyone else, talk strategy and results. Instead of just asking for feedback or approval on a marketing piece, first explain how and why you’re targeting a specific audience, the potential and projected ROI. Then show the creative and explain why it will be effective. In other words, connect the dots between strategy and creative execution.

Use your special marketeer powers — You’re not marketing to people just like you or the other folks at the credit union. Sure, marketers understand this distinction and know how to tailor communication to different target audiences — it’s our secret super power. But try to remember that making this leap into someone else’s head is really tough for non-marketers. And that’s how you end up with boring ads featuring a gigantic rate at the top. Before you discuss the creative, explain how the target audience is different and how this is the perfect way to reach them.

Be polished — Showing incomplete or draft creative invites people to focus on irrelevant details and proofing rather than strategy. Make sure everything that leaves your hands is fully proofed, will pass compliance, and is as close to a finished product as possible.

Seek specific input — When you ask for blanket feedback (“Um, is this OK?”), you invite nitpicking on details. Ask specific questions based on areas of expertise. For example, “In the second sentence, do we need to spell out Annual Percentage Rate?”

Finagle fine print — Make sure you develop your own working understanding of the regulations governing advertising — if you rely completely on a compliance officer or legal department, every message will end up buried in clouds of fine print. Look at it this way — money wasted on weak marketing stuffed with fine print is another kind of risk, and it’s usually far more real than the risks most fine print is intended to guard against.

Brian Wringer

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