tOSU and their Helmet Stickers

There’s a popular commercial running these days about why The Ohio State University has kept their helmets the same for decades. The commercial explains the logic (in short) behind how and why their student-athletes earn buckeye leaf stickers to be placed on their helmets.

If you were to look up symbolism in the dictionary or online you will learn that symbolism is defined as:

“the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.”

Qualities. Ideas. Symbols.

Symbols can be very powerful. If you have any doubt about their importance, look no further than how popular emojis, avatars and bitmojis are. Symbols are incredibly persuasive because they take complex ideas and simplify them. In the world we live in, I believe we all are looking for more simplicity.

How can we apply this to our businesses? It’s easy. Stop trying to put your mission, vision, and values into words and think about its essence. If you cannot define what you aim to do and why you exist by creating a symbol, there is a very real possibility that your teammates and consumers of your products/services have no idea why you exist.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, can you recite your organization’s Mission Statement? Can you recall your vision without looking it up? When you make your organization’s purpose easy to understand, you create a common language. You create opportunities for your brand ambassadors to understand your purpose, but you also allow them to express your purpose in their own unique way.

People do not buy products. People buy relationships. People buy “stuff” that they can relate to. Even if everyone within your organization did memorize your Mission Statement, would it resonate with your target market? My guess is that it would for some, but it wouldn’t for most.

Simplify your messaging. Empower your teammates and watch the results. You will be amazed.  There IS some value in “doing things the way we have always done them” if what you are doing is truly meaningful and memorable.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

Without wax,




Credit Union Shark Week

Shark Week on Animal Planet is a pretty big deal to a lot of people.  Not so much for me.  I’m the guy that goes on vacation to Florida and sticks his foot into the ocean and calls it a day (I’ve “been in the ocean” three times. So, I’ve got that going for me…Which is nice.)  I know sharks don’t lurk in 2 inches of water, but jellyfish are another story.  Anyhow, I think there are some lessons that credit unions can learn from sharks.  I’m not talking about feasting on sea lions or instilling fear in people like myself.  Instead, I’m talking about the inherent characteristics that make sharks, well, sharks.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

 Sharks can’t stop swimming?

You’ve probably heard that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die.  This is true of most species, but there are some exceptions.  Nonetheless, credit unions cannot afford to stop “swimming”.

As an industry we need to continue to make a concentrated effort to further what I will forever refer to as the “Credit Union Revolution.”  Every decision we make (I think about marketing and advertising mostly) should be about raising the bar, pushing the envelope and separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters in the banking industry.  I am not talking about bank bashing, but poking a little fun here and there has proven to be a tried and true method of getting people to understand that we are different by design.

Be cartilaginous!

Sharks are cartilaginous.  (Personally I just love this word.)  An animal that is cartilaginous is defined as one who’s skeleton is made up completely of cartilage.  This means that the animal is more flexible by nature.

We need to be flexible.  This rings true in the things that we already do.  A prime example of this is working with our members to understand their situation when they come to us for a loan that they can’t get anywhere else.  It goes much further than this though.  We should be flexible in the fact that we are one of the “best kept secrets” in the finance industry.  Being rigid and sticking to traditional ways of spreading the word about the value of credit union membership simply will not fly.  Our world has been rapidly changing for years and we need to be flexible and change with it.  Our marketing and advertising efforts need to be different, standout, maybe they need to be a bit outlandish (James Robert Lay has great insights on this. Here is just one of his most recent blogs for CUinsight.)  Generally speaking, the smaller size of our respective institutions are the perfect atmosphere for being flexible.  We need to enable our employees to tap into the resources we read and rely on for fresh new ideas.  Instead of only some of us hearing about the exciting things other credit union people are doing, we need our entire staff to understand that there are a lot of people doing awesome things in the name of “The Credit Union Revolution”.

I don’t know about you, but when I read an awesome blog post or hear about an exciting campaign someone in the industry is spearheading, I get amped.  Imagine if you could ignite your entire staff with that same amount of passion…

 Sharks are so misunderstood.

I’m a prime example of this.  I think sharks exist to hunt humans.  In reality, the number of shark attacks on an annual basis is relatively low.  Sharks are most definitely opportunistic.  I think the “we” the the torch bearers of “The Credit Union Revolution” could be much more opportunistic.  There is no better time than right now (Van Halen reference.)  While many of us are wearing many hats at our credit unions, we need to think outside of the branch (thought I was going to say box didn’t you?)  How can we carry on the conversations we have everyday in our branches to a wider audience?  How can we get the attention of others who have no knowledge or understanding of credit unions?  I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of countless community outreach events and each time, I’ve been able to spark conversations about credit unions.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is the credit union that I work at.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for everyone to join my credit union, but if the person doesn’t qualify, I’m Quick Draw McGraw with my iPhone to tell them about a credit union that can serve them.

We are a cooperative.  We are unique.  We are not sharks, but we should be fierce with passion about our industry.  People helping people sounds great, but we are much more than that.  We are people helping a population that is mostly unaware of what we can do for them.  To me this is the biggest tragedy.

Be cartilaginous, don’t stop swimming and make sure we are never misunderstood.

I look forward to your thoughts…

Without wax,


You Call That The Vulcan Neck Pinch?

“What the h#ll are you doing?”

“The Vulcan Neck Pinch??”

“No, no stupid, you’re doing it all wrong..” -Spaceballs

There are plenty of social media advocates and probably as many or more naysayers in the finance industry.  I’ve witnessed all sorts of different viewpoints and honestly, I respect them all.  Some people have valid points about ROI being difficult (or imposible?) to measure, others claim it is just a waste of time and money.  I agree.  ROI is difficult to measure.  ROI may very well be nonexistent.  Credit unions may be wasting their time and money on social networks and new media.

The one thing that is constantly overlooked is the fact that the vast majority of financial institutions that are engaged in some sort of new media campaign are “doing it all wrong” like Lonestar in Spaceballs.  The fact remains that most of the chatter about these issues is taking place on the very communication channels that are being called into question.  I’m still trying to figure that one out…

So when is new media pointless and when is it priceless?  New media is priceless when it is social.  It is often called “social media” but most of the time it is anything but social.  The advent of Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Google+ (insert other platform here) occurred because people became sick of being talked at and wanted to have their fair share in the conversation.  This fact is too often overlooked.

When I see a credit union or any other business talking about how great they are all day and offering nothing of substance, I cringe (I cringe a lot.)  new “social” media isn’t about your business, it’s about the people who keep you in business.  It’s about people interacting with each other and sharing information, laughs and insights.

The next time someone says, “Social media has no utility in the finance industry” I encourage you to think, “Is this really the case?”  Are the communication platforms being used to facilitate dialogue or are they simply internet billboards?  New media isn’t for everybody and I will never say that it is, but when it is done correctly it is priceless.  With the proliferation of smartphones, businesses that can remain relevant and add value to their Fans and Followers have the ability to be with their members/consumers everywhere they go (who really leaves the house without their cellphone?)

 You WON’T build a following overnight, but if you continually do the right things, your following will grow.  Too often marketers are focused on getting a “Like” or follow and have no clue what to do after initial interest is expressed.  Getting someone to click a button is easy, keeping them coming back is not.

It would do us all well if we focused more on the engagement and conversations to come in the future rather than a persons sometimes random impulse to click a button.  Conversation is key.  If you are using new media to talk about yourself (business), you are wasting your time.  If you are interacting daily with your Fans and Followers, you will see the return.  New media is unconventional.  Traditional measurement techniques do not work.  You wouldn’t weigh a rock with a thermometer, so please do not try to gauge the importance of a social exchange with a spreadsheet.

What are your thoughts? Am I nuts? Am I genius?  Are you bored yet?  Let’s talk.

Without wax,


Fashionably Late vs. Not Showing Up for the Social Media Party

Social media marketing is like a party.  There’s just not getting around it.  Like any party, there are certain types of people you can count on finding in the crowd.  You know what I’m talking about: the guy or girl who can’t help but talk about everything they’re doing or have accomplished, the one guy who just sits in the corner (why does that guy go to parties?), then there’s the super hyper dude or chick that talks so fast that you can’t even digest what’s being said let alone comprehend what the heck they’re talking bout.  There are some other usual suspects as well, but you probably get the point by now.

So how is social media marketing like a party?  Well, first of all you have “The Planners”.  The Planners are the innovators of social media marketing.  They saw the potential social media had to offer, embraced it and set the stage or party for our purposes.  If it wasn’t for The Planners, the rest of us might have had to overcome even more barriers when it was time for us to pitch the idea of using social media to connect with our members to the front office suite.

Now let’s talk about the unique group of characters you usually run into at the party.

The self-absorbed partygoer:  Nobody likes this dude as much as he likes himself.  The same goes for brands that only want to talk about how awesome they are with every Facebook update or tweet.  We get it, you really like yourself and you’re either really successful or you’re not and you want us to believe that you are.  Either way, no one approaches this type of person at the party.  It’s usually the exact opposite.  This person hounds you down until you strongly consider getting a restraining order (or clicking the unlike or unfollow buttons)

The Wallflower: Being shy is not a character flaw, but it will do you no good when it comes to social media marketing.  We all know about this person.  They lean against the wall continually looking the room over with their sad eyes just waiting for someone to approach them and talk.  Thing is, when someone does approach, they don’t know what to say because it’s such a rare occurrence.  In case you’re wondering, this character is the Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account that sits dormant.  Again, why even come to the party?

Hyper McHypster: How annoying is this guy?  He is so amped up he makes you nervous just by his proximity.  You don’t know what is going to come out of his mouth next, but you do know that it will most likely make no sense.  This guy has no self-filter and is just putting information out there.  It usually doesn’t take too long before you find an excuse like, I need to get a refill or I have to use the restroom to escape.  This guy is the brand that makes 5 Facebook posts every hour and blows up your newsfeed with insignificant information.  They also like to tweet their every move (i.e. I am now typing that I am typing).

So that’s three of the many characters you’re sure to find at the social media party, but what about how they got there?  Obviously, no one wants their social media presence to be like one of the aforementioned characters, but do you truly know what you want your presence to be?  Furthermore, are you at the party, on your way or going to pass?

Truth is, this party we’re talking about is like New Years Eve 1999 (without all the Y2K hoopla.)  Marketers far and wide are just now figuring out how to harness the power of social media and the communication channel is only going to get better with the constant changes and refinements that are made on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis.

Right now, if you’re considering launching a social media campaign you’d be considered fashionably late.  Remember, fashionably late was the cool thing to be in high school.  It’s not entirely bad now, but you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.  What you DON’T want to be is the person that doesn’t show up for the party and hears about

all the fun everyone else had the following day.  Starting a social media campaign and going to a party are very similar.  You’ve got to put yourself (your brand) out there if you want to reap the rewards.  What reservations do you have about making your brand more social?

Without wax,


Being Human in an Online World

Being human, it’s not that hard.  Sadly, most of the time when we refer to being human we use it as an excuse for all the mistakes we make on a daily basis.  This post is not about the fallibility of the human condition, rather, it is about how important it is to let your “humanness” show through your use of social media.  Some of you reading this (if anyone actually is) may be casual users of social media.  You might get on for a couple hours a day to connect with friends or check up on brands you follow etc.  Others may be on one platform or another all day (guilty.)  No matter what you use social media for, the fact is that most brands and their marketer(s) have already set up their shop online and are trying to lure you in.  The problem is, many of them are taking a brand new distribution channel with more potential and possibility than any channel we have ever seen before and they continue to send out the same messages.

If you are anything like me, I don’t appreciate being talked at.  I do however, like being spoke to.  This is where the focus needs to shift.  Social media now affords us the opportunity to send out our branding message(s), but more importantly, it allows us to connect.  Even though we may be communicating through computer screens, we can now be more human than ever.  Let’s face it, one of the most important and powerful aspects of our human nature is our ability and desire to connect with one another on some level.  Think about the last time you met someone new, whether you realized it or not, I’m willing to bet you spent the first part of your conversation trying to figure out a connection between you and your new acquaintance.

If this is something that we do in everyday “real life” why is it so hard for some of us to figure out how to make our brands more human?  Why are some of us still only broadcasting our sales and specials in our Facebook Newsfeeds?  Why are some of us not responding to the inquiries of our “Fans”?  How is that being social?  More importantly, how is that being human?  Even more importantly, how could we ever think that these practices ever could be or would be good for our brand or our business.

We can’t and yet we still continue to operate in such a way.  Are you being social online?  If so, are you being human?  I think we all could ask ourselves these types of questions more often.  Unfortunately, if we’re honest with ourselves, I don’t think many of us will like the answers we find.

Without wax,