Credit Unions’ Collaborative Roots Can Help Innovate Their Marketing

Collaborative marketing is an ideal outlet for a smaller brand's marketing strategy. The business model should sound very familiar to credit unions.

Sam Brownell


Jul 9



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Sam Brownell

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Sam Brownell

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How CUs Can Use Their Founding Principles for an Edge

Collaborative marketing is an ideal outlet for smaller brands to include in their marketing strategy. As it implies, businesses can pool their resources to expand their reach and influence. The business model should sound very familiar to credit unions.

It’s likely you’ve already experienced collaborative marketing. How many people swarm the exhibit halls at credit union conferences, walking the booths, talking to vendors who provide services you need, dropping a business card in a fish bowl or picking up a tchotchke? Collaborative marketing is a group of like-minded and organizations working together to achieve a common goal, such as supporting a stronger credit union community. The trade show floor is one example of collaborative marketing, but it’s been adapted to the digital age.

Collaboration goldfish shark 2-1

Websites like provide content and resources for consumers who join their platform to support their financial well-being. In turn, companies like Chase and American Express partner with NerdWallet to have their companies or products strategically placed around the website and even be reviewed. NerdWallet has a disclosure link on every single page of its website sharing this information, adding that its partners do not influence the content of the reviews and research.

A handful of credit unions have partnered with NerdWallet, but the shortcoming of the site as it pertains to credit unions—or perhaps the shortcoming of credit unions’ arcane field of membership constraints—is that it’s difficult to impossible for most credit unions to precisely target consumers who fit their membership profile.

Learn how credit unions can make their mark with the marketing collaborative.

Credit unions are relatively small fish in the financial services world, therefore putting our collaborative roots to work is necessary for credit unions to compete. In the modern digital age, many collaborative marketing sites have popped up, but credit unions aren’t able to fully take advantage of these sites the way their competition has because of their field of membership restrictions.

CUNA is currently working to raise $100 million for its three-year “Open Your Eyes to a CU” public awareness campaign. The details of the initiative and how it works are outlined on the association's webpage.

In announcing the funding drive, CUNA CEO Jim Nussle said at CUNA’s Annual Credit Union Conference, “The future of our movement depends on more Americans than ever opening their eyes to everything a credit union offers them. By leveraging modern digital media tools to reach the right consumers at the right time, we’ll create a fresh image for credit unions and challenge their assumptions about who we are and what we do. When they open their eyes to a credit union, they’ll be pleased by what they see.”

"One of the most basic laws of nature is that all things are connected. If so, we are encouraged to identify viable synergies, creating opportunities for us to leverage our resources and thereby enabling us to simultaneously solve multiple problems. The difficulty, of course, is overcoming our current mindset and the tendency towards serving self-interest above all else. As beneficial as competition and individualism might be, so too are cooperation and community partnerships. In the final analysis, self-interest is always best served through our service to others." —, regarding collaborative marketing in its Journal of Lifelong Learning

Some may dismiss his statements regarding the ‘future of the movement’ as typical trade association rhetoric, but it’s not and credit unions must open their eyes to that. Collaborative marketing hasn’t sustained itself and become a booming industry for no reason. McDonald’s has been doing it for years with its Happy Meal toys that tie into pop culture and movies. Uber and Spotify partnered so that uber users could get a more personalized experience while also exposing more of its riders to Spotify.

CUNA invested more than $2 million to create the Creating Awareness Advisory Group from among its membership, which devised a data-driven campaign to combat two myths about credit unions it’s difficult to become a member and, once they are, it’s difficult to access money.

CU Search Desktop

CUCollaborate’s JoinCU solves the first problem by taking the mystery out of credit union membership eligibility. JoinCU helps members find credit unions they’re actually eligible to join and pays referring credit unions a finder’s fee. Credit unions can minimize drop-off rates for online membership applications, grow faster and earn money on ineligible consumer traffic through a seamless and customizable platform.

Marketing and awareness must be a top strategic priority of the credit union community; credit unions have sat at 7% market share for far too long. We must innovate and grow to survive. How can growth be wrong when it means helping more consumers get better deals on their finances? We can’t afford to wait another 100 years!

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