Aug 032010

Usually in this blog I talk about issues relating to Strategic clients. Since we’re now running campaigns for brands like Microsoft, BT, Monster, EMC and Cisco there is usually something interesting I can share from a client campaign. But today I’m writing about a consumer campaign designed to raise the profile of credit unions in the greater DC metro area.

Why? I’m a big fan of my credit union, Northwest Federal Credit Union. So when I was driving on Saturday and heard a humorous radio spot advertising, I figured I had to check it out. I sure liked the domain — they get right to the point! Strategic only does b2b and b2g work, but on the surface it sounded similar to some of the social media campaigns we’ve been managing for some of the clients listed above.

Good strong messaging

On closer inspection, it actually wasn’t that similar. WIIFM is more an advertising play with an online destination, rather than a true social media campaign.

I reached out to the LMD Agency, creators of the campaign to ask them about the objectives of the campaign. They shared with me that local credit unions see a market opportunity right now in the economic recession. Sentiment against banks is strong, and credit unions would like to expand their memberships and increase representation in Hispanic and Generation Y demographics. And they want to educate people on how membership is far more open than commonly assumed, with affiliations based on geography, faith, workplace, school or family.

Amen I say, but then I’m already sold. So I hit the site with my PR hat on. The site looks very good, it communicates credibility right off the bat. The messaging is clear and strong — no punches are pulled describing why credit unions are better than banks. There is a “Find Your Credit Union” credit union finder based on zip code or affiliation, and there is a quiz visitors can take after registration that enter them in a raffle. (The usage of the finder and number of quiz registrations are success metrics for the campaign according to LMD, though of course they couldn’t share more info than that with me).

Unfortunately there is no blog on the site, no area where it looks like content will be refreshed and updated on a regular basis. Something might be planned and just not advertised as yet, but I don’t see anything that will keep visitors coming back.

There are links on the site to the WIIFM Facebook Fan page and the betterthanabank Twitter account. Here’s where I think the advertising nature of this campaign is revealed, because these channels look great but are under-developed. The Twitter account has five followers, with me being the fifth. That’s simply not credible for an account that looks to be active since June 20. It’s better to have no Twitter account at all than an inactive one.  The Facebook fan page is absolutely the right strategy but only has 101 fans,  which would be OK for a b2b campaign but I suspect is not a great number for a consumer effort.

The primary drivers of traffic are radio spots, transit ads and some online advertising with Facebook and Google. The radio spot uses humor and obviously it got me. My biggest concern is what happens when the advertising concludes? Where will the traffic be coming from to these attractive and well designed social media channels?

I’m afraid the answer is there won’t be traffic, and that’s why I say this is an advertising campaign dressed as social media. That’s not necessarily the fault of the agency. Perhaps the hard work of social media content creation wasn’t funded by the client. And the client (MD/DC Credit Union Assn.) needs to do some work themselves, like tweeting something interesting about the financial market a few times a day.

With social media, the hard work starts at launch, because quality content that builds readership must be constantly published — and promoted aggressively. It’s 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, as I like to tell my clients. And as long as Strategic is doing the 90%, they’re usually happy.

My hope is this campaign is successful, because I truly believe credit unions are a better financial partner for most people than banks. And like I said I’m no b2c expert. But I think that adding more social media content creation to this campaign would greatly increase the odds of long-term and sustainable success.

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  One Response to “Credit Unions Go on the Offensive with”

  1. Good post, Chris.

    We’re actually in discussions with a couple of prospective clients who are interested in adding a more defined social strategy to what has been a marketing-led initiative.

    As you know, it is always better to build the social media component in at the onset of a campaign. Yet, it is encouraging to see large, respected brands recognize the importance of social in all of their external communications activities.

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