What Parenthood Teaches Us About Marketing

Austin Lohnes

Marketing lessons are everywhere. Take parenting, for example.

My wife’s sister, LeeAnn, and her daughter were in town for a brief visit last week. They stayed with us for a couple of nights. My wife and I have no children of our own, so the time I’ve spent with my 2½-year-old niece, Charlie, is the closest I’ve come to parenthood.

In my bid to establish reign as ‘favorite uncle’ to my niece, I began noticing similarities and tiebacks to my 12 years spent in the credit union industry. Here are the marketing lessons I learned.

Find a Common Language


Charlie is in the early stages of talking. Some of the things she says are clear, but most of it is typical toddler chatter. Having a conversation with her requires active listening, often stringing together context clues.

“My sleepy,” she’ll say, as she rubs her eyes and substitutes “my” for “I”. Or, “my busy” as she presses on in her coloring book instead of stopping to FaceTime with her dad, who’s back home.

But my favorite is when I ask her to share her ice cream with me. “It’s hot,” she says, as she emphatically waves me away. Because she’s learned we don’t eat things that are too hot. And in her mind, telling me her ice cream is hot is a way to prevent me from eating any of it. So, “it’s hot” means “You’re not getting any of my ice cream!” Point taken.

I’m reminded of the many different banking terms and how they’re often lost in translation to consumers. Terms like ‘remote deposit capture’ and ‘ACH’ that are understood industry wide…but only inside the industry.

Your consumers aren’t toddlers, but you each speak a different language. Those same terms, while understandable to you, don’t resonate with members or customers. They don’t speak banking. This is one of the most important marketing lessons for you to know.

Establishing a brand language and voice to use with consumers is critical in communicating with them. Translating those industry-wide terms into things like mobile deposit and direct deposit is key when bridging the gap.

Find Power in Moments


During the visit, LeeAnn shared a video with my wife and I. The video was captured on their baby monitor a few weeks ago…and it captured lightning in a bottle.

Late one night, in her own bed, Charlie suddenly awakens. She tosses and turns for a few minutes before sitting up. She looks around curiously, as if she’s experiencing a “where am I” moment. I’m glued to the video wondering what she’ll do next. The anticipation is killing me.

She then begins, what sounds like, humming. Softly, at first. Then she builds…louder and more vocally. I can’t quite make out the words, but I can tell by the melody that she’s singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” And eventually, she’s singing like no one is listening.

Keep in mind it’s the middle of the night. She’s not searching for her parents. Instead, she entertains herself by singing for a moment before laying back down and falling asleep. If not for the baby monitor capturing the video, we remain oblivious to that fun (and funny) moment.

Think about the ways in which you can celebrate those tiny moments with your members or customers. Maybe they’re creating social media posts about a great experience they recently had with you, for example.

Act as your own baby monitor. Consider regularly searching your credit union or community bank on social media. Searching will help discover times your organization was mentioned but not tagged. Drop a like or comment on someone’s post about you to celebrate a small win with them.

Find and Hold Attention


The most important lesson I’ve learned from Charlie so far is that attention spans are generally short. Until you find the right thing.

Charlie’s had a long trip getting to our home last week. She had flights, time spent in the airport, then more time spent in a rental car. Sensory overload for a toddler, which eventually led to restlessness and impatience.

The evening of her arrival, my wife left to pick up dinner while LeeAnn and I stayed home with Charlie. She’s restless after the long day…and she’s hungry. The typical forms of entertainment aren’t viable options at this point. But it’s been about six months since I’ve spent any time with Charlie, and I just can’t contain my excitement!

I lift her onto my shoulders and playfully swing her around. It’s enough to elicit some tiny chuckles, but she’s just not feeling it. I bring her down into a light bounce on the couch. And then…something shifts.

She stands, and she bounces – back and forth, end to end, on the couch. She brightens up and comes alive, laughing hysterically as she goes. When it’s time to eat, she wants to keep bouncing. Eventually, we have to pull her away so we can all sit and eat! She could have easily kept going another hour or so.

Distractions are a constant battle for credit unions and community banks when marketing to their consumers. Competing with the likes of things such as social media isn’t easy. If you’re having trouble getting your message to stick, try something different. You’ll know when you find the right thing.

Programs like skip-a-pay are great things consumers look forward to year after year. But they’re also common throughout the industry. To really keep your consumers’ attention, dare to be different.

Southwest Financial Federal Credit Union offers their members "Mighty Maxx" dividends. They truly embrace giving profits back to members in a way that members can see and understand. It’s one of their most popular programs.

For now though, I’m taking the short-term gains in the relationship with my niece. I know the payout will be much bigger down the road.

And if you need help earning dividends through your marketing, an On The Mark Strategies marketing assessment will help you implement these marketing lessons and recommend where you should start. Sign up for a marketing assessment today!

Austin Lohnes
Copywriter
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