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Top Takeaways from Judging the CUNA Diamond and MAC Awards

MAC and CUNA Awards

We’ve had the pleasure here at PixelSpoke of serving as judges for both the CUNA Diamond and the MAC Awards this year. That means that over the past few months, we’ve reviewed upwards of 200 entries, including videos, radio ads, annual reports, email campaigns, and more.

So, what have we learned? From our end of things, it’s been eye-opening to get more insight into the vast array of marketing initiatives for which many of you are responsible. We focus so much on websites, it can be easy to forget that your website is only one component of your marketing mix.

Still, we found that many of the best practices we’ve arrived at for credit union websites apply to other mediums as well. When we think about the few entries that really rose to the top amongst the hundreds that we reviewed, here are our top 5 takeaways:

  1. Differentiate by being local. That means drastically cutting down on stock photography and video clips. We even saw some of the same stock photos used by different credit unions! Of course, there are times we just need to fall back on stock, but the imagery you lead with should include real landmarks, businesses, and members. That’s how people will remember you. After all, you can’t differentiate on being a locally-owned cooperative if your imagery looks like a national megabank.
  1. Focus on member stories tied to concrete progress. Similarly, we remember the campaigns and videos that featured real members telling their stories. That doesn’t necessarily mean members ticking off a list of reasons they love your credit union. How did they reach a milestone in their financial journey? How did they overcome a challenge? How did the credit union act like Yoda to the member’s Luke Skywalker and help them to achieve a life goal?
  1. Capture the diversity of your members. Yes, we saw a lot of stock photos of very attractive interracial couples. But the real diversity of your real members is most compelling. And interestingly, when it came to video and radio ads, the vast majority of the voice-overs featured middle-aged white men. Celebrate your diversity in both audio and visual formats.
  1. Use authentic soundtracks. As a former professional musician, I’m sorry to say that not even the highest-energy music is going to make most financial products exciting. I saw videos and listened to radio ads that made me want to get up and dance, but they weren’t necessarily an accurate reflection of a credit union’s brand. And if you’re trying to appeal to younger prospects, they will instantly see through a credit union’s inauthentic attempts to seem “hip” or “cool.”
  1. Lead with impact, not with products. We know you have products to sell. But don’t try to make a product sound interesting or different when it’s actually quite similar to the products offered by most any financial institution. Even if you are offering a unique product or an awesome rate, emphasize the impact the product will have on one’s financial wellness rather than leading with the APR. And make sure to highlight that they will also be joining a cooperative that returns its profits to its members.

We’ll be fleshing out these takeaways with concrete examples in a future article. Stay tuned!