I need to understand what brand attributes credit unions are using to market to middle-income accounts
Middle income customers seek community engagement and personalized service from their credit unions. With solid financial footing, middle class clients are established. They are looking for evidence, beyond a good value, that indicates a credit union is deeply committed to its local community and will serve both the individual and the community well.
Overview of Brand Attributes
Branding attributes matter for credit unions. When consumers are asked about community banks and credit union, they more frequently refer to words related to value -‘rates, interest, fees, great, and better.' Themes of customer service and community identity – ‘personal, service, local, community, and friendly,' are secondary. Given the client’s preference to focus on characteristics outside of rates, this analysis will focus on the second group of attributes - those related to the quality of service, relationships, and community.
An institution’s core values and a brand’s personality influence customers' decisions. In the financial service sector, the most common attributes clients desire include: personal relationships and good communication, investment in the local community (affiliate marketing), customer advocacy, smart money and financial education, convenience, price leader, an antidote to the competition, a trusted advisor, integrity, choices, flexibility, easy/simple to save people time, and online self-service. New members to credit unions often report choosing their credit union because these top brand attributes. Comprising 15% of overall credit union membership, the preferences of these new members are important. Their primary reasons for joining a credit union are: recommendations from family/friends, finding a trustworthy institution, and having the better customer service compared to traditional bank. In particular, these new credit union members are younger and more ethnically diverse, and gravitate towards relationship and convenience attributes – qualities/services such as family, excellent customer service, speed, and an online banking option.
Middle-class customers, in particular, respond to brand attributes that speak to service. They seek personalized customer service in a financial institution. Appealing to community-based promotions and diversified offerings are two additional qualities middle-income customers appreciate.
Case Studies of Two Credit Unions
Redwood Credit Union and San Diego Credit Union had distinct branding approaches outside of financial value. Redwood focused on emotion (love) and San Diego emphasized their community engagement. Both branding initiatives successfully increased membership.
Redwood Credit Union was already successful and did not struggle in attracting new customers. However, they felt their brand needed to be re articulated in a manner that was more authentic to their organization. They identified their target audience as ‘Enhancement Seekers.’ While these individuals have higher incomes, similar to middle-income clientele, they too responded well to better customer service. Research revealed that Redwood's customers find their experience banking with the credit union so enjoyable, they would refer to it with strong emotional attachment. This led to ‘love’ being the cornerstone of the brand’s new identity, which was embodied in their new tagline: ‘for all you love.’ The brand updating was a success - since the refresh, Redwood Credit Union’s new membership has increased 6%.
San Diego Community Credit Union, in comparison, focused on community engagement when branding themselves. This credit union creates their brand through supporting more than 75 non-profits and participating in hundreds of community events. Millenials, in particular, responded well to the union's commitment to community engagement, with “80% of millennial business buyers say that the environmental, social and philanthropic efforts of potential vendors are important factors in their consideration” of different businesses. Branding themselves to appeal to middle-income Millenials paid off. The focus on community engagement was an essential factor in supporting the credit union to growing to a size of 354,000 members in 2017.
Given middle-income customers’ preference for personalized customer service, a diversity of options, and a connection to the community, appealing to all three in a novel manner is likely to have the greatest impact. Since these three attributes are already popular in the financial sector by themselves, it would be harder to compete if only one were adopted. Provided a credit union does offer outstanding, personalized customer service and maintains strong connections with the community, then possible branding slogans could include: ‘Serving us all well.’ ‘Committed to all of us.’ 'Personalized experiences for us all.'
While middle income customers are primarily concerned about their finances, they greatly value the community and the quality of their banking experience. They prefer a diversity of options, and respond well to good, relationship-based customer service. A successful campaign to attract new middle-class customers to a credit union will incorporate, preferably in a unique way, attributes of community engagement, diverse options, and personalized customer service.