An Authentic Brand Sells Itself

Design a unique consumer experience true to your ideals, and members will buy in.

October 11, 2013
KEYWORDS brand , employees , growth , sales
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

A brand isn’t an art project—it’s an ongoing consumer experience that sells itself.

Think Nike, whose “Just Do It” campaign encouraged weekend warriors to put on their athletic gear and channel their inner Michael Jordan. Or REI, which breeds visions of scaling Mount Everest.

Engaging credit union staff in behaviors that further the consumer experience you seek will generate growth without needing to invoke the dreaded “S” word, marketing innovator Matt Purvis told attendees Thursday at a CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth breakout session.

Brands that stress a sales culture at the cost of delivering a unique experience might succeed in the short term, but that “authenticity gap” isn’t sustainable.

“Sales is the result of a long line of attitudes and knowledge and skill and technique and communication and listening,” said Purvis, who runs the consulting firm, Purvis Management. “When you start to get that right, the sales become easy and comfortable and authentic to your brand.”

A former marketing executive at Northwest Community Credit Union in Eugene, Ore., Purvis recognizes that a “sales” environment has been anathema to credit unions.  As session attendee Asi Carmeli, vice president of human operations for Scient Federal Credit Union of Groton, Conn., put it: “For years, that was the differentiator—that was what the ‘B’ (bank) people do. We provide solutions, build relationships—anything but ‘sales.’”

How can credit unions grow while remaining true to their principles? Purvis offered a case study from his recent project at MAPS Credit Union in Salem, Ore., which hired him to direct a 12-week initiative to increase auto loan volume.

His key points:

Engage employees, don’t train them. Purvis convened workshops for front-line staff and sought their impressions of the credit union’s “Navigate Life. Together” motto. Then, he asked employees to generate “wacky” ideas for behavior in the branch that embodied that slogan. Staff now pours coffee for colleagues and members who are meeting, and continue discussions with members all the way to the parking lot. Then they follow up with a phone call two weeks later.

“Brand is in the eye of the beholder,” Purvis said. “Brand is determined by the consumer, not by you. If experience in the branch doesn’t change, the whole makeover was moot.”

Measure behavior, not sales. Every week, Purvis joined staff on a fun “Campaign Call” teleconference that always began with employees exchanging tips on how to hone their efforts. No one discussed financial progress reports until the tail end of the call, to underscore that results stem from a solid product.

The program reached its goal of $6.3 million in new auto loans in six weeks, and finished the 12-week window at $11.3 million.

“There are no shortcuts to healthy growth,” Purvis said. “Ask, ‘What is our sustainable, competitive advantage in our marketplace, and focus your brand around that.”

Find more coverage of the conference here and at News Now.

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

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 ( 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.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive