Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bank bashing, customer-owned ... credit union commercials? Nope!

Credit union advertising has often focused on the fundamentals of credit unions: not-for-profit, cooperative, member-owned, volunteer board of directors, and on and on. ... 

While these are all true characteristics of the credit union, it is the same for ALL credit unions. Is that the best way to market and brand your credit union? And, is it even unique? Interestingly, an insurance company has started an advertising campaign based on similar principles, check it out!

Another, more recent trend has been for credit unions to bash banks in their marketing. The banks are the bad guys and credit unions are the good guys. Negative advertising. When we get to election time, people complain about all the negative advertising. Why would consumers like bank bashing ads? In my opinion, some of these ads work, while others don't; there is a fine line between the two. If there is a bit of humor in the ad, you can sometimes get away with it. Or, if you don't simply discredit the bank, but draw comparisons between your credit union and the bank - making it clear why you are a better choice.

Credit unions aren't the only ones using negative bank advertisements, check out this one from my local community. West Suburban Bank differentiates itself from the big bad banks.

I wanted to share these examples, because if you replaced "West Suburban Bank" in their ads with a credit union name, it would work. Or, if you replaced "Nationwide Insurance" with your credit union, the ad would work as well (How exciting would it be to have Dale Earnhardt as your CU spokesman?). When you advertise, are you showing what makes your credit union uniquely different from other credit unions, community banks, and mutuals?


  1. Credit union advertising should reflect your brand.

    In the public arena, I submit that perception of a bank’s brand is far more dominant than that of a credit union, even though it has declined over the past few years due to the collapse of Wall Street. So when we see a credit union brand (largely unknown) targeting a bank brand (quite familiar) with a negative ad, it would be analogous to some small locally-run hamburger shop going after the global icon, McDonalds. Viewers have to wonder what’s the purpose? Is it due to “sour grapes” because McDonalds is getting all the business? So what kind of message does such advertising convey? Why shine any amount of light on a bank brand?

    I see such advertising as a waste of energy and a misuse of your member’s dollars.

    Instead, promote your brand in a positive way by highlighting your credit union’s value proposition as rooted in the cooperative principles. No bank will ever come close to matching such integrity and value.

  2. Thank you very much for this article. CU-sponsored bank bashing does nothing to move our industry forward. It's far easier to tear someone else down than it is to build up our own value. I hope more and more credit unions follow your advice, and start taking the high road instead of the easy one.

  3. You may find these two articles on "anti-bank" advertising relevant and/or interesting: