Challenge marketing for credit unions part 1: An introduction

Moving beyond passive contesting and throw-away promotions

Social media marketing advocates will tell you that traditional media is dead. They will have you believe that TV, radio and print can be completely replaced with social media and word-of-mouth marketing. The promise of Web 2.0 will conquer all.

To perpetuate the myth, credit union marketers are being bombarded at industry conferences and in trade publications with the notion that all they need to do is start a blog and the millions (if not billions) of people online will find and flock to their lovable institutions.

There is this sense that if you are not involved online on this newfangled social web, you don't exist.

At Currency, we agree that the social web is extremely exciting and presents an opportunity to connect like never before. We agree that dialogue trumps monologue. However, we do not agree that social media is a replacement for all other forms of marketing. We believe that there is a time and place for many different marketing approaches.

The social media honeymoon is over

Countless credit unions have attempted to join the online conversation only to find that no one is interested in talking with them. The hard reality is that posting newsletter articles and press releases to a corporate blog or creating a Facebook page does not inspire conversation or incite action.

You need to ignite a following and create real excitement. The goal with challenge marketing is to draw considerable attention to your credit union by throwing down a unique challenge stoked with a significant reward and by encouraging people to creatively participate, compete and connect. Challenge marketing can help your credit union move beyond passive contesting and throw-away promotions and enable your credit union to really make a noise online and offline in your marketplace.

Traditional media is not dead and social media is not the cure-all. You have a far greater chance of finding marketing nirvana when your strategy combines traditional and non-traditional real-world activities with an online destination to create excitement and inspire action in your own backyard. Tie a relevant and differentiated product offer to your challenge and you have a legitimate recipe for success.

A YouTube contest can't save the world

Challenge marketing is not for every situation. Direct mail has its place. So does a TV or a radio brand-awareness campaign. And you don't have to mimic the latest reality TV show to promote deposits or lending at your credit union. To that end, Currency has created successful campaigns without a lick of interactivity, some of them bringing in more than $100 million in deposits.

What we are advocating is for your credit union to look at a portion of your marketing differently. Use the power of the social web to get consumers physically and emotionally involved with your credit union. Combine all of this crazy new stuff with proven marketing techniques to offer something unique in your marketplace. This is the essence of challenge marketing. It's social media marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, guerilla marketing, traditional marketing, public relations and user-generated content all rolled up into an exciting and memorable promotion.


For the rest of this series I will use three examples of challenge marketing to illustrate very different approaches with very different budgets.

I think Matt from Members would agree that his initiative would fall under the category of challenge marketing. William will take some convincing that Change Everything falls under the category of marketing! I'm sure both with correct any errors I inject along the way!


Must-read social media white papers from Filene and Central 1

Challenge marketing for credit unions part 0: A preface