Branding is universal. Whether in Midland, Texas, or Milan, Italy, brands are everywhere. They’re competing for consumer attention, which means some brands win and some brands lose—even if both stay in the game.

I say this because my roommates and I recently returned from a trip to Europe (classic Millennial move, I know) where we were daily surrounded by new brands and new cultures. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

As it turns out, branding in Europe—even for credit unions and banks—was no different than in the U.S.

What was different, however, was our overall attitude toward these brands. Everything was new, everything was an adventure.

So let me remind you: as a credit union or bank, you have a unique opportunity to meet consumers in the middle of their life adventures.

Baby Boomers are retiring. Gen Xers are becoming grandparents. Millennials are buying houses. Gen Z is graduating high school.

And you get to be there for all of it.

How you answer these four questions will determine if they see you as a guide along these adventures or a roadblock hindering their way.


1. What sets you apart?


A group of five American women traveling the streets of Europe is naturally going to turn a few heads. There was no hiding who we were. But the more we owned just how much we stood out (a lot), the better things went.

Your credit union or bank should be the same.

Practical Tip: Own who you are and own it proudly. Boring marketing does not stand out in the marketplace. It’s good to be different.

***A note to all of you who think “service” is what sets you apart: so does every other credit union or bank. UniWyo FCU used to think so too, until they learned what service really meant to them through a customized member experience program. Here’s what Tara Springsteen, their VP of Operations, says now: 

“Before we started working with On The Mark Strategies, providing good service meant we were really nice. But now, we actually uncover the needs that they have. We look for solutions that are going to make their lives better.”

2. Do you give free water?


Europeans don’t drink water. At least, they don’t drink free water.

Therefore, not only does free water stand out in Europe (see Question #1), it directly solves a consumer pain point. It creates what many call “surprise and delight.”

It’s no wonder, then, that a recent study from Kantar found that financial institutions who lead in Consumer Experience achieve 1.9X the level of recommendation, 1.9X greater share of wallet 2.1X greater willingness to take up new products.

Practical Tip: Determine what your free water is.


3. What adventure are you creating?


The best part of any good adventure is the adventure itself. Starting at point A, identifying point B, and needing to figure out how to get there will forever carry an element of intrigue.

Do your members or customers know where they want to go? If not, help them figure it out.

As Zig Ziglar famously said, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

Practical Tip: Include financial wellness coaching in your product offerings, and make sure staff are trained on cross-selling.


4. Are you a tourist attraction or a local staple?


There are two types of travelers: the tourist travelers and the local travelers. Tourist travelers only visit the top tourist attractions and restaurants, while local travelers hang where the locals hang.

Similarly, there are two types of consumers: ones who come in for the flashy low-rate deal, and ones who remain loyal to you for life.

Did you know it costs five times as much to acquire a new member or customer as it does to retain an existing one? That’s why Alex Goldfayn in his book “Selling Boldly” says, “Customer service is reactive. Customer experience is proactive.”

Practical Tip: Maximize the community ties your credit union or bank has—that’s a homefield advantage. Proactively invest in your current base rather than blindly chasing new consumers who may or may not stick around.


Your credit union or bank plays a large role in consumers’ lives. Make the most of that role through a unique consumer experience (that actually stands out in the marketplace) and you’ll have members and customers for life.