Are we really listening?

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing

We submitted one piece of marketing material for awards from last year.  I would have liked to see more, advice but I’m waiting until next year to submit our web site (which I think is very innovative and fresh) as well as the In Your Words program.   I am already bracing for a brisk discussion on whether our web page or just the Gen Y Blog will get submitted.  But that debate is for another day.

I found a blog for The Nexus Connection from CUES who do the Golden Mirror Awards.  This was one of the two organizations where we submitted our product brochure for judging.   The blog is written by one of the judges and he listed a lot of items that I think we really need to pay attention to; both for improving our efficacy, this and for creating award winning materials.

Sadly, abortion I found several areas where we were not the shining examples of innovation.

The hottest items on the docket dealt with the Green initiative.  These quotes came out of their observations:

“Small to mid-sized credit unions (assets under $700 million) are consistently doing better creative work than bigger shops.”
– Brent Dixon is the Founder and Principal of The Haberdashery

“The bigger you get the safer you get. Too many cooks have to put their seal of approval on everything which ultimately
waters it down”
– Tim McAlpine, Creative Director, Currency Marketing
“Who knows your business best? Your or an outsider? Others can give you a view from a broader perspective and give you a
shot of reality when you are delusional, but the lens you view your business from is a key component. Sometimes outsiders
discount that component and you end up with the cold porridge look.”
– Gene Blishen, General Manager, Mt. Lehman Credit Union

Brent went on to talk about an observation he made that I wish I could utilize for our efforts:

There was some really impressive brand design work and brand standards books. Again, a lot of this was by mid-sized CUs.
And two of my absolute favorites were done entirely in-house.

We really should encourage our in-house talent.  As Gene said, who knows our business better?

Another blog written by a Golden Mirror Awards judge, Denise Wymore, has a ton of excellent advice.  The first was about how we determine ROI and how sloppy many of the submissions were this year.

CUES gave us a guideline (or definition) of the point values. How ROI was calculated on the entries was all over the board. I like to call this marketing math – and I blame the CFO for making us do it. We are, after all, creative people, and man oh man did I see some creative math. I almost felt like some marketers were viciously complying with ROI.

I’ve always had a problem with the ROI marketing math. Unless you have a coupon or some way to really validate that your newspaper ad, direct mail piece, radio spot directly contributed to the increase in business, can we really say that effort is responsible for the increase? Or, is it because you convinced your CFO to give the best rate humanly possible on that IRA during peak IRA season?

This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but I think in these tough times we need to be more responsible with our members’ money.  We are, after all, a financial cooperative.

We need to submit pieces where we can actually get an excellent feel for the impact of the piece.  Are we really spending our member’s money wisely in the pieces we create for them?    Do we really know if the pieces are having an impact?  I can now create landing pages for our marketing pieces to help and try tracking that information.  We need to put more effort into making sure what we’re publishing is having the desired impact.  Have we become too reliant on what someone else tells us is “the right look, the right vehicle”?

Below are more of Denise’s observations of the submissions this year:

I was surprised at the number of entries that still used the “spray and pray” approach to marketing. With all the tools available to segment members, even with creative marketing math, I don’t see that this is a good idea these days. Some credit unions have confused their “territory” with their “target audience.”

Marketers love paper, don’t we? I think I rubbed off my fingerprints touching the gorgeous papers used in some of these pieces.

We don’t take advantage of this option at all.  When I first started, it was stressed that we use the better paper for certain things.  Now that I don’t do any of the printing myself, no one seems to care.  Saving money has become the rallying cry.  As it should with many things, but when we really need to get attention, then we need to do things that make our members  stop, look, feel, and read our material.

Photography–I was pleasantly surprised to see a distinct decline in the “shiny happy people” usage. Nicely done.

That one hurt the most because we’ve been using Shiny Happy People motif in nearly everything we’ve created for the last year.  We’re behind the times again and that frustrates me.  We need fresh ideas if we’re going to let our pieces compete with what everyone else is doing locally.  We aren’t producing innovative pieces.

The one category that gave me flashbacks to 1983, however, was the radio production. I know it’s fun to go into a recording studio and even more fun when you can hear your work as you drive to the office, BUT…..if your goal is to “young-it-up,” your radio ad is not going to do it. Period.

First–even though your media buyer will tell you that Z100 Morning Zoo is the spot to attract 18- to 24-year-olds, most of these folks are ignoring you with their iPods.

So what can we do, Denise? Well…….think business development. And not in the usual way of sign up a SEG, drop off brochures and pray. Think of it literally as creating buzz in the Gen Y world. I saw one entry that, in my opinion, did not have a category. It was a blog and it rocked. It had nothing to do with credit union products or services, and that confused many judges. It had everything to do with the counter culture that was growing in the credit union’s marketplace. You can’t measure ROI on it, you can’t control when people read it (with a media buy), direct mail won’t drive people to it and members contribute to it! WOW!

This could, should, and HAS to be us next year.   They are already considering adding social media to the award process next year.

It’s time we stop finding ourself lagging a year behind the innovators.

One Response to “Are we really listening?”

  1. zeychaner Says:

    A quagmire of frustration. It will be our year if we stop listening to the “experts” and just do what we know works. We have a brilliant staff with brilliant minds and we lock them into cubicles and windows with a mantra of “serve, but know your role.”

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