Why would anyone be confused as to what a credit union actually is - or what it does - when comparing it to a bank? I mean, it's perfectly clear, right? Or maybe not so much.

How do we learn to differentiate ourselves without confusing the average, younger consumer who isn't clear on what a credit union really is? Certainly being more public and clear with our basic message makes sense - telling people who we are and aren't. Explaining to them that we aren't part of that telephone company, university, or technology giant doesn't alway work. Oh yes, you can join us. Using language like "we're a community chartered not-for-profit cooperative financial institution" is a bit complicated. You know, like a bank, but not really like a bank. Wow. Do we ever stop and listen to ourselves? Is more marketing really the answer? Or is a more defined strategy and approach to who we want to be before we continue our marketing the real answer?

You may have noticed that sometimes when a credit union changes its logo or name, the words "credit union" seem to have all but disappeared off their signage. Has "credit union" been replaced with "financial" because everyone knows what "financial" means? Are the words "credit union" disappearing altogether? Is the removal of "federal" or "credit union" helping to solve the confusion or making it worse?

And how can we ever think about doing a national brand campaign when we can't figure out what to call ourselves and the message we should all be using to increase awareness and profitability? Don't even get me started on that one.

If you're looking for the right answers to all these questions here - you might as well stop reading at the end of this sentence. If you're still reading, great! I'd never pretend to know all the answers to your unique situation. But I can certainly ask you the right questions based on your situation that will help you define the challenges in your market, who you want to be to your members, to potential members, and the communities of which you are a vital part. In other words, don't follow other strategies, build your own. As someone who wants to keep this movement (or industry) part of the solution to today's economic problems, you owe it to yourself to try to discover as many answers to these questions as possible before continuing down the path you're on. And if you've figured out the answers - share them, will ya?!

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