Cornerstone League and member CUS reap results of awareness campaign
Citing nearly 42 million advertising impressions and an uptick in traffic at participating credit unions’ websites, league says initiative is making a real difference.
NEARLY TEN MONTHS AFTER THE COR-nerstone Credit Union League commenced an awareness initiative in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the league and its stakeholders are emboldened by the positive responses the project has generated.
The “Feel the Difference” campaign was designed to increase public awareness of the benefits of joining a credit union and to differentiate credit unions from other financial services providers.
The initiative was developed over more than two years by Cornerstone’s Awareness and Outreach Committee and GDC, a San Antonio-based marketing firm.
“We have learned through this initiative and through the research we executed to support it that the more a consumer understands credit unions, the more likely they are to consider one as their preferred financial institution,” said Jon Gorman, SVP of communications and outreach.
The enterprise includes paid advertising designed to drive traffic to credituniondifference.com, which can direct consumers to nearby CU branches or credit union websites.
“From March  through Aug. 31, Cornerstone’s combined media buy resulted in 41.7 million advertising impressions—paid and added value,” said Gorman, saying that is “a fairly significant number for the dollars we’ve spent. These impressions are largely targeted at consumers 18-34 and the underserved Hispanic population.”
People ages 18-34, Gorman explained, are facing “major life-stage decisions,” such as buying a home or buying a car, while the Hispanic population is largely un- or under-banked.
During the first three months of paid advertising, noted Gorman, only 7.74 percent of web traffic represented returning visitors. However, during the most recent three months of paid advertising, 30.6 percent of traffic represented returning visitors.
“The click-through rate to the consumer-facing website for the various paid media campaigns is well above [the] industry average,” Gorman added. “Somewhat surprisingly though, we’re receiving traffic from states outside the Cornerstone footprint, with 8 percent of total traffic from outside Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.”
Along with the consumer-facing website, Cornerstone also created a “Feel the Difference” tool kit for its CUS with customizable messaging and creative assets.
Oklahoma Employees Credit Union, a $493 million institution based in Oklahoma City, participated in this initiative. Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Lown said the research GDC conducted for the initiative was “extremely eye-opening.”
“Some of our long-held beliefs about the credit union difference wasn’t messaging that resonated with millennials,” she explained. “The messaging provided in the Cornerstone tool kit helped us target and provide clarity to potential millennial members about what matters to them when choosing their financial institution. We’re now talking to them about the credit union difference in a way that they understand and care about. “
Cornerstone will be continually reviewing the analytics related to credituniondifference.com, Gorman explained, including metrics such as the search engine ZIP code results, demographics and psychographics of those visiting the website, as well as referral traffic, exit pages, time -on-site, percentage of returning visitors, and anecdotal evidence received from credit union executives.
“Over time, we’ll monitor membership growth at individual credit unions, which we track in our association-management system,” Gorman added.
With Google Analytics, said Lown, Oklahoma Employees CU is seeing a 57.76 percent increase in pages-per-session and 161 percent increase in average session duration tied to inbound referrals from credituniondifference.com.
San Angelo Federal Credit Union, a $24 million institution based in San Angelo, Texas, also participated in the awareness initiative. CEO Laura Whisenhunt said her goal for this campaign is “to utilize the videos for social media marketing, educating my members (and potential new members) on the credit union difference.”