The Charlotte Metro Story

 

 

Charlotte Metro Credit Union was founded in 1962 as an exclusive financial services provider for employees of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina and by 2005 it had enjoyed several decades of steady and stable growth. But Bob Bruns, the Credit Union’s president, had secured a community charter allowing it to serve local residents who were not employees of the City, and he was eager to show those residents the value Charlotte Metro Credit Union could bring to them.

 

Research and Planning

 

When I joined Charlotte Metro as head of the marketing department, I commissioned a series of focus groups comprised of both members of the Credit Union and local residents who were not members. I also reviewed legacy data from member surveys the Credit Union had conducted with its members over the previous few years. The primary purpose of the research was to validate a number of assumptions we had made about what members of the community thought of credit unions and their services. And, since Charlotte Metro had already been doing some directed marketing campaigns, it was an opportunity to test the efficacy of those campaigns and the degree to which they had affected the target audience.

 

Having spent many years developing marketing campaigns for banks, and often having successfully competed against credit unions in other markets, I had suspected that the average consumer would not see credit unions as a viable alternative to banks. The results of the focus groups seemed to support that hypothesis as we heard several participants indicate that they would be surprised if credit unions offered such desirable banking services as checking accounts and online banking. As credit unions (including Charlotte Metro) had been offering these competitive banking services for many years, we readily saw that we had a perception issue to overcome.

 

The focus groups also helped us to understand better how consumers in our market viewed financial institutions in general. Participants shared with us their opinions about the channels in which they expected quality financial institutions to be advertised. And they were very specific about what they thought the various messaging styles said about financial institution brands.

 

Ultimately we came away with three important findings from the research:

 

  • Consumers in the Charlotte market (home to several of the Nation’s largest banks) understood banks and their service levels very well but knew little about credit unions
  • The average consumer was not aware that credit unions were viable financial services alternatives to banks and did not expect them to have competitive offerings
  • Those consumers expected viable financial services providers to advertise on television

 

Though the lack of awareness wasn’t unexpected, we knew that aligning the Credit Union’s brand and services to appear more “bank like” would be an uphill battle both externally and internally. Non-profit credit unions had traditionally taken a great deal of pride in distinguishing themselves from the for-profit banks. So much so that many refused to include the words “bank” or “banking” in any of their literature or descriptions of services. Therefore, to avoid using those terms, Charlotte Metro’s own online system had been confusingly described as “Online Account and Transaction Management”, virtually ensuring that no one would suspect that the Credit Union had online banking. So transitioning to "bank" style marketing would not be easy.

 

But Bob Bruns was not an orthodox credit Union president and his mind was open to innovation and change, as long as it was backed by solid research. And he fully appreciated my analysis of the research we had conducted. As he said many times over the next few years when speaking to credit union professionals, “Consumers know how to do banking; they don’t know how to do credit unioning."

 

With Bob on board, the Credit Union’s board of directors readily gave approval to begin repositioning our brand and products to be more competitive in the Charlotte market.

 

 

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Site Design and Content © 2018 Nathan Tothrow

The Charlotte Metro Story

 

 

Charlotte Metro Credit Union was founded in 1962 as an exclusive financial services provider for employees of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina and by 2005 it had enjoyed several decades of steady and stable growth. But Bob Bruns, the Credit Union’s president, had secured a community charter allowing it to serve local residents who were not employees of the City, and he was eager to show those residents the value Charlotte Metro Credit Union could bring to them.

 

Research and Planning

 

When I joined Charlotte Metro as head of the marketing department, I commissioned a series of focus groups comprised of both members of the Credit Union and local residents who were not members. I also reviewed legacy data from member surveys the Credit Union had conducted with its members over the previous few years. The primary purpose of the research was to validate a number of assumptions we had made about what members of the community thought of credit unions and their services. And, since Charlotte Metro had already been doing some directed marketing campaigns, it was an opportunity to test the efficacy of those campaigns and the degree to which they had affected the target audience.

 

Having spent many years developing marketing campaigns for banks, and often having successfully competed against credit unions in other markets, I had suspected that the average consumer would not see credit unions as a viable alternative to banks. The results of the focus groups seemed to support that hypothesis as we heard several participants indicate that they would be surprised if credit unions offered such desirable banking services as checking accounts and online banking. As credit unions (including Charlotte Metro) had been offering these competitive banking services for many years, we readily saw that we had a perception issue to overcome.

 

The focus groups also helped us to understand better how consumers in our market viewed financial institutions in general. Participants shared with us their opinions about the channels in which they expected quality financial institutions to be advertised. And they were very specific about what they thought the various messaging styles said about financial institution brands.

 

Ultimately we came away with three important findings from the research:

 

  • Consumers in the Charlotte market (home to several of the Nation’s largest banks) understood banks and their service levels very well but knew little about credit unions
  • The average consumer was not aware that credit unions were viable financial services alternatives to banks and did not expect them to have competitive offerings
  • Those consumers expected viable financial services providers to advertise on television

 

Though the lack of awareness wasn’t unexpected, we knew that aligning the Credit Union’s brand and services to appear more “bank like” would be an uphill battle both externally and internally. Non-profit credit unions had traditionally taken a great deal of pride in distinguishing themselves from the for-profit banks. So much so that many refused to include the words “bank” or “banking” in any of their literature or descriptions of services. Therefore, to avoid using those terms, Charlotte Metro’s own online system had been confusingly described as “Online Account and Transaction Management”, virtually ensuring that no one would suspect that the Credit Union had online banking. So transitioning to "bank" style marketing would not be easy.

 

But Bob Bruns was not an orthodox credit Union president and his mind was open to innovation and change, as long as it was backed by solid research. And he fully appreciated my analysis of the research we had conducted. As he said many times over the next few years when speaking to credit union professionals, “Consumers know how to do banking; they don’t know how to do credit unioning."

 

With Bob on board, the Credit Union’s board of directors readily gave approval to begin repositioning our brand and products to be more competitive in the Charlotte market.

 

 

1 2 3 4