May 2013 – Vol: 36 No. 5
“Report Directly to The Credit Union”
This was just one of the taglines used by $396 million/41,000-member America’s Credit Union, Lewis McChord, Wash., in its highly successful 2011 campaign, “Now Enlisting.” Driven by fresh imagery and nostalgia, the campaign targeted the military community and their families, as well as Department of Defense civilian employees, surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash.
Creating brand awareness and distinction from the competition were the campaign’s objectives. “Leveraging our on-base presence and brand, which includes three branches right on base, was huge,” says CUES member Heidi West, VP/marketing and business development. The campaign targeted active duty military personnel, who tend to skew younger, as well as the higher-earning civilian workforce and retired military community.
Familiar to the American childhood since 1938, green, two-inch plastic army men dominated the scene during America’s CU’s six-month campaign. “The toy solider concept epitomizes the ideals of heroism of our military,” explains West.
“The primary goal was to speak directly to the military community and distinguish our brand from intensifying local and non-local competition,” she continues. America’s CU wanted potential members to view the CU as the progressive banking alternative in tune with their needs.
The copy incorporated military jargon such as “Now enlisting,” “Alpha Charlie Uniform,” and “Report directly to the credit union.” The verbiage fit perfectly with the use of toy army men and camouflage in the creative.
The CU performed a competitive analysis that included reviewing websites and advertising from both local and non-local competitors. “We looked at their selling points and delivery channels. It was critical for us to know what competitors were doing—and how they were treating our potential members,” says West.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, niche marketing offers the potential to be more successful than mass marketing. West elaborates, “It’s extremely cost-effective in regard to media buys. It also encourages the credit union to focus on products that meet the needs of its members.”
The CU was careful in matching available advertising channels to its targeted demographic—the greater military community—with strategies that included print, billboard and radio.
The CU focused much of its efforts at its three on-base branches. Billboards were prevalent, strategically placed around the base’s perimeter. Huge banners and perforated window wraps decorated all three on-base branches. Full-size army men were created and, with camouflage coverings on tents, used at two large base events.
Print advertising was especially effective during the six-month campaign and utilized two onbase publications, The Guardian and The Ranger/Airlifter, as well as the base’s monthly Focus Magazine.
In addition, radio ads ran on a local country station with a large military following. The ads coincided with sponsorship of a Veterans Day Wall, using clever scripting and the voice of a toy soldier:
“A soldier bemoans the fact that he has to be in the same pose, and his entire body is green, and reflects on the fact he has one great thing going, and that’s the extreme benefit of America’s CU.”
The promotion ran six months (May – November 2011), with 2,288 new members joining the CU during that time. “I was thrilled with the response,” says West. “Not only did we exceed our goals, we saw a 30 percent increase in new members (for the same time period) from the previous year.” The CU also won first place in the Segmented Marketing category of the 2012 CUES Golden Mirror Awards™.
As with any segmented campaign, it’s essential to know the profile of your segment. “This is your chance to speak directly to a unique group of members,” says Daniel Thorpe, CEO of Boom Creative, Spokane, Wash., which worked with the CU on the campaign. “It’s your opportunity to use thoughtfulness in how you present your message, keeping the personality and commonality of your audience top of mind.”
Ultimately, you want to recapture the feel that made the CU unique when it was first chartered. Thorpe elaborates: “What are those amazing traits? The best target marketing in the world will capitalize on those traits.”
Finding Your Niche
Start by examining your core groups. Is there a niche that already exists that would make sense for a targeted campaign? Pick one market (for example, by age or employment) and speak their language. As you study your goals, develop your strategy. Be prepared. Have an appropriate budget set aside to market to the group you’ve chosen. “And while segmented marketing is cost-effective, don’t underestimate your costs either,” adds West.
Questions to Ask:
- What are your competitors doing?
- What are they doing well?
- What are your own strengths as a CU?
- How can you emphasize those strengths to gain a competitive advantage?
- Is the niche market you’re considering large (or viable) enough to support your goals?
- Have you done a sufficient amount of test marketing? This could include using focus groups, a smaller subset of the intended demographic or membership, or even your own staff.
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