I’m obsessed with a new show on Food Network called Buddy vs. Duff. It’s a weekly showdown between Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman and Cake Boss star Buddy Velasco – two veterans in the baking world. Each week, they go head-to-head to see who will create the most innovative, creative and best tasting cakes.

Their creations are more than cakes. They are true works of art. But their styles are so completely different that it’s nearly impossible to choose a winner. Duff’s cakes are edgy and innovative. Buddy’s cakes are classical and traditional. Both of them admire what the other does, but they rarely agree on what a cake for a wedding or other special event should look like.

Sometimes marketing is the same way. We look at something another credit union or bank has done and automatically form an opinion. If we don’t love it, we come up with dozens of reasons why the concept is flawed, often forgetting that perhaps we are not the target audience.

Like Duff and Buddy, each financial institution caters to its own specific audiences according to its own brand guidelines. When we conduct marketing audits for financial institutions, we ask for information about target demographics, brand promises and other necessary details so we can make the appropriate recommendations.

On an audit we conducted last year, we asked what feeling the financial institution was going for in their series of ads depicting men in business suits with no smiles on their faces. They were going for “stuffy and bankish” because that is what their target demographic responded to. Mission accomplished. It isn’t something we would recommend for financial institutions, but it worked for that demographic.

Another financial institution was spending a lot of money and effort on paper credit card applications, printing them in multiple formats. We questioned this practice and learned that a segment of the credit union’s membership lives in underserved areas without adequate access to technology. Those members use those paper applications.

Sometimes we get so focused on creating something, cool, hip and edgy, forgetting that it doesn’t resonate with every demographic. We see something another financial institution is doing and think, “that’s a terrible idea.” It may be. Or it may be their way of reaching a target demographic other financial institutions don’t serve.

Reviewing how other credit unions and banks market to their members or customers is always a good idea. You want to know what your competition does. Copying those ideas is not always a good idea, because the demographic they are trying to reach may not match yours. Know your audience and market accordingly.