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Connexus : Issue 37
"What about us? We really like this sort of stuff." So Big Sky integrated bnext features across its whole brand. Research shows that members of all ages love the Big Sky brand and its offerings in online financial services. "So what we are really doing," says Ryan, "is a lot of work on the e-commerce channel. Irrespective of your age, if that's the channel that interests you, we want to provide it." Brand power Consumers are being bombarded with catchphrases and slogans through advertisements that are trying to sell the message that the major banks are really not like banks at all. ANZ has highlighted the appalling customer service of "Barbara the bank manager", suggesting it could never happen in its branches. Now they are highlighting their accessibility, with the tagline, "We live in your world". NAB is all about "more give, less take" and breaking up with the rest of the big four. CBA is "determined to be different". Westpac is a "bank you can bank on". St George is "big enough, small enough". While there is a high degree of cynicism around such promises, the banks' strategy to reconnect with customers may present a branding conundrum for credit unions and building societies. Erminio Putignano, managing director of FutureBrand Australia, says mutuals are largely promoting a message that "we operate like banks, but we are just a little bit nicer than banks". "I believe that, in many ways, this is not going to take credit unions that far because the banks are also trying to portray themselves as being nicer, more friendly and all of that," he says. The risk is that, in a marketing sense at least, mutuals will simply "meet in the middle" with the majors. Putignano, who has recently helped Australian Central Savings & Loans with its branding, advises mutuals to drop their "almost apologetic approach" and really highlight how their products and services fit the requirements of younger clientele. "I think they should all have an injection of confidence and understand that they are more relevant than ever," he says. "Among young people today it's all about collaboration and sharing. You can see this in many things that define their experiences -- their social media, their lifestyle, their choices. In many ways, the credit unions are about exactly the same thing, the same mindset but applied to the world of financial services." He says mutuals will have to become more audacious and adopt, for example, a language or a branding look that resonates with younger audiences. "I think that's absolutely possible. It can be done." Mozo, an internet-based service dedicated to helping people research, compare and apply for financial services, highlights the appeal of a different approach in the banking space. The site, which won a Rising Star award in the 2010 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards, has quickly drawn in younger users in particular. Marketing director Kirsty Lamont, who was formerly with BankWest and Virgin Money, says the mutual brand still has little recognition among gen Y and Z, even though mutuals often feature on Mozo's product comparison lists. "Most young people aren't aware of credit unions and what they offer, so they would see a credit "...while gen Y and Z are not a totally separate species, they... have a distinctive attitude to money." FEATURE www.abacus.org.au 28 Connexus GEN NEXT