‘CU Man’ Takes Fight to Predatory Lenders

Superhero spreads the CU gospel along with smart money management information.

October 01, 2013
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There’s a superhero in our midst, born out of the frustration of big banking and sent to teach us all a better way to handle our money.

Immune to the gravitational pull of traditional banking, this consumer champion is strong enough to obliterate high fees, able to leap predatory interest rates in a single bound—and lightning fast with loan approvals.

Who is this conquistador of credit; this subduer of subpar financial providers?

It’s Credit Union Man, a.k.a. Fred Brown, mild-mannered director of marketing/member development for Northeast Family Federal Credit Union, Manchester, Conn., by day—and credit union superhero some nights and weekends during youth events, trade shows, annual meetings, and other special events.

Credit Union Man’s mission initially was to entertain and teach kids about credit unions and smart money management. But the appeal of Brown’s message—and superhero threads—quickly spread to a wider audience.

“The kids get a kick out of the costume, but I seem to get a better reaction from adults,” says Brown. “When people see me, they ask what I’m doing—and that gives me the perfect opening to start a conversation about banks versus credit unions. People let their guard down when they see me making a fool out myself.”

People are receptive to Brown’s message, sometimes sharing impassioned stories of poor treatment at the hands of banks.

“When people know they can receive the same services at a credit union—a cooperative that cares about them as much as the bottom line—most will move their accounts, or at least begin making the transition,” he says.

What does the future hold for Credit Union Man? More of the same, Brown says: special appearances to spread the credit union gospel.

“Most people don’t understand credit unions,” he says. “They think we’re labor unions or teamsters. We need to let people know credit unions are the same as banks—we just don’t suck.”

Brown feels fortunate that his chosen method of spreading this message has been so successful. “I’m lucky to work in an industry that embraces that special kind of crazy all credit union marketers have within us.”

The Credit Union Man persona is one way Brown maintains a fresh marketing approach on a limited budget. That’s important for all credit unions.

“We can’t be everything to everyone,” he says. “You need to put forth the effort to identify your market and then market to them. Use social media, use guerilla marketing—dress up in a superhero costume if need be.”

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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