Marketing is all about understanding people different than yourself

What credit unions can do when the aliens land

Let’s face it – “disaster planning” is kind of, well, depressing. The last few decades have been a little too full of “once in a lifetime” events.

So how can a CU marketer stay flexible, stay loose, and plan for the unplanned?

Aliens, that’s how.

No, seriously. Aliens.


Bear with me — there are some serious reasons for pondering silly scenarios like flying saucers filled with gelatinous new potential CU members.

For example, the differences between vision and planning. Or the art of planning to change a plan.

Another is that yes, it’s possible for weird things to happen that are beneficial and not just harmful, or that have mixed effects. It’s good mental exercise to look for upsides and opportunities instead of constantly thinking only about threats.

Perspective is important, too — how would you explain credit unions to sentient polyps? They’re usually pretty communal organisms, so they would get it pretty quickly. What kinds of humans might be open to the same message?

And finally, thinking about alien issues can spark some productive problem-solving for the humanoids right here on earth. For example, figuring out how to make your ATMs tentacle-friendly could also make them a lot easier to use for humans with dexterity issues.

And oh yeah, it’s just plain fun…

Values are constant

OK, so now there’s a colony of friendly walking flowers looking to put down roots in your town. They need to buy a nice patch of land, some irrigation equipment and fertilizer for the next crop of kids, and hire some humans to help harvest and market delicious tame gourmet tubers. 

That’s when you go back to your core values, and that’s where credit unions can shine. You’re here for the good of your community and your members. And you make decisions locally; you can talk with the plants face-to-petals and work out what combination of services they’ll need, and how to make that happen.

Plus, credit unions share. Other CUs are working to serve their local plant populations, and together you can figure it all out a lot faster. Your members and their communities benefit from stable, hard-working, green neighbors.

Flexible access

Here’s another scenario: you wake up to learn there’s a flying saucer in the parking lot containing several very polite cybernetic rhinoceroses. They like the weather around here, and are looking to buy a nice bit of farmland with decent internet access and electrical power for their batteries. They’ve heard good things about credit unions from the plant guys, but they don’t really know how money works on Earth.

Again, go back to your core values; they live and work locally, so they’re within your field of membership, and they need Earth-based financial education and basic services. There’s nothing that says members can’t be made of metal and plastic. How do you get them what they need?

First, you’ll need to accommodate some differences. They don’t really fit in your branches, so can you send a van to them? And hey, wouldn’t that be handy for other rural communities too? Are they able to access your drive-up ATMs, or do you need to knock out a few barriers and reinforce the pavement?

And oh yeah, they see much better in ultraviolet than in visible light. How do your debit cards, website, and brochures need to be redesigned so our RoboRhino pals can use them?

One more thing — they don’t use sound to communicate. Are you ready and able to work with members who do not hear or speak, or who use electronic devices to communicate? And some of your human members would be more comfortable using electronic communication as well.

Aliens are good exercise

Marketing is all about understanding the needs and motivations of people different than yourself, and finding ways to communicate and serve them. Sure, plant people and robot rhinos are pretty silly, but thinking about what some very different creatures might need and want is a good way to stretch and tone those empathy muscles for the real live humans you serve today. 

For example, lots of humans in your community right now also don’t know much about how money works on planet Earth, and need help with the basics.

In addition, notice how products and accommodations for aliens could also benefit quite a few humans as well. From unconventional business lending, to nutrient packets in the branches, to service via texting, there’s a human need there as well.

Get silly, get strange. Mix aliens and credit unions, and see where you end up.

Brian Wringer

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