AWCCU campaign promotes online funding

Financial institutions promoting online trading capabilities usually have a fairly predictable audience in mind - urban, internet-savvy and comfortably wealthy investors....

Financial institutions promoting online trading capabilities usually have a fairly predictable audience in mind – urban, internet-savvy and comfortably wealthy investors.

But for the Auto Workers Community Credit Union (AWCCU) in Oshawa the target audience is dramatically different. Because of the AWCCU’s location and its history (it began in 1938 as a financial institution specifically for autoworkers), its members tend towards blue-collar professions and many are still tied in some way to the auto industry – and they don’t much care for, or trust, the larger financial institutions, says Sachi Mukerji, executive vice-president, head of brand for Toronto-based Nexient, the credit union’s new agency.

So when it came time to launch the AWCCU’s online trading feature, Nexient decided to play up this unique position – using the mentality of ‘us versus them’ in its advertising.

‘Credit unions have deep roots with trade unions in this country,’ says Mukerji. ‘The idea of the campaign was to present this David and Goliath mentality through the use of a bit of humour.’

The campaign recently launched in the Durham region and includes radio, TV, print and outdoor, in addition to direct mail. It promotes the credit union’s new online trading capability but also serves as a branding campaign for its online banking services (, says Don Nicholls, general manager for AWCCU in Oshawa. The multi-media effort quite specifically encourages prospective customers to ‘Give Bay Street the finger’ where the finger is the digit tapping the computer mouse.

‘We were looking for something to put (the credit union) in the limelight,’ says Nicholls.

The objective is not only to attract new customers to online banking and trading, but also take existing credit union members and convert them into online members. The DM component of the campaign was a letter and brochure, mailed out to all AWCCU members, that explained the benefits of online trading.

According to Nicholls, online banking has been offered to the 16,500 AWCCU members for less than a year but the site wasn’t impressive and there were only about 1,000 members using the online service. The credit union has since revamped its site to coincide with the late-February introduction of its alliance with Credential Direct, the online trading arm for credit unions across the country, he says.

‘We know that a number of our people are buying and selling stock,’ says Nicholls. ‘Our objective is to offer one-stop financial shopping,’ he says.

But the credit union has a challenge greater than simply converting members to online banking and trading – and that’s increasing membership altogether. The auto industry is shrinking quickly in this country, and research indicates that people assume the AWCCU is strictly for autoworkers and their families.

While this used to be the case – when it was called simply Auto Workers (Oshawa) Credit Union – the name change, whereby ‘community’ was emphasized, was supposed to help change that public opinion. But focus group research indicates that people believe they have to belong to a union to join the AWCCU or they have to be an autoworker, he says.

‘Those are two cultural things that we have to overcome,’ he says, adding that to address the dilemma, current advertising does not play up the union’s name at all, focusing instead on Credential Direct, in a clear effort to open up the union to outsiders. But Nicholls says that future campaigns may have to go further and even hints that a direct campaign may be used in the future to increase membership numbers overall.