Credit Unions Need A New Vocabulary

Hey credit union people, got a question for you: Have you ever googled someone?

Of course you have!

And 10 years ago, did you have any idea what it meant to google someone?

Of course not!

My point: It’s possible to introduce new terminology into the lexicon, and have it stick. And credit unions need to introduce some new language into their vocabulary.

While driving home last night, I heard an ad on the radio for a Boston-area credit union who — like so many other credit unions — was going on and on about the “CU difference” and how it wasn’t a bank, yada, yada. Then came this line:

“Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your banking needs.”

How confusing. “We’re not a bank, we’re not a bank” but, “come to us for your banking needs.”

So what do you replace the term “banking” with? Well, I’ll tell you what you don’t replace it with: credit unioning. Bad idea.

Here’s my suggestion: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for your personal financial management needs.” Or: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union to help you manage your financial life.”

Why is this better? Because “banking” is a verb that has a strong transactional connotation. And managing — or better yet, processing — transactions is not the area in which I think most credit unions are trying to differentiate themselves and compete (nor should they be).

Instead, it’s the advice, guidance, and education implicit in the phrase “personal financial management” that I think will help CUs truly differentiate themselves — and prove that there really is a CU difference.

Please note, however, that I didn’t suggest: “”Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your financial services needs.” That ain’t gonna fly. There are very few (let me repeat: very few) consumers out there who want to turn to just one firm — let alone a CU — for all of their financial services needs.

If you can come up with a good verb that captures “personal financial management”, let me know. I’ll do my part to help make it a fixture of the financial services lexicon.

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13 thoughts on “Credit Unions Need A New Vocabulary

  1. I like to say “manage your money” rather than referring to “financial services” or “financial management”. For some reason our focus groups, etc., indicate that there’s a tendency to think about insurance companies when they hear the word “financial”.

  2. @Morriss: I’m tempted to pufum you upside your head next time I see you. 🙂

    @Danielle: I can certainly understand why you would want to find an alternative to “financial services” or “financial management.”

    It’s interesting to hear about your focus group results — that’s surprising to me. Did the research you’ve done show that “manage your money” was less insurance-focused, and more bank- or CU-focused?

  3. I’m not sure I’d call our findings scientific in any way, shape or form…since that question wasn’t what the focus groups were convened to answer. But the anecdotal comments seemed to indicate that “managing your money” felt more tangible to their daily needs than “financial management”.

    More research needed…on that…and on pufum.

  4. Pufum…… I’m telling you, that really could catch on! It’s quite catchable! See, we’ve got three people using it already, and the word is not even one day old yet! 😉

  5. I’ve been thinking about this post for a week now. Right on the money, Ron. Pufum might not be the right word, Morriss, but you’ve got the right idea on a new word for credit union that doesn’t necessarily explain every detail. Something short and sweet that a person can get their arms around fast. And then they can learn about the details later.

    I’ve been talking to my five year old about savings. And despite watching Mary Poppins recently, which should have left him thinking saving in a financial institution was horrid and all about crotchety old men, he was all about starting an account and letting someone pay him to use his money.

    Mary Poppins and my husband, both, taught my son about “banks.” I enforced the idea that we would deposit his money in the credit union, where he would be one of the owners.

    But when he started telling people he was going to put his money in the credit “onion,” I knew we had a problem.

    “Bank” he got with one viewing of Mary Poppins. But credit union? Whew. Pufum … I’m mulling over alternatives …

  6. @Lisa: “Crotchety old men”? Careful. I resemble that remark.

    More seriously, though, I think a CU has to just come out and do it. If left to “committee”, a new verb will never be defined and accepted.

  7. Hey Ron, You don’t even come close to crotchety if you use the chief banker in Mary Poppins as the standard!

    I do hope to see a CU take the plunge.

  8. Pingback: If we can’t figure it out in the first 100 years… « World 2.0 Adventure

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