Punching above your weight.

An update on Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU’s new vigor™ Card

A product, in this case a credit card, that has been branded and packaged exclusively for your members is one way (and really, one of the ONLY ways) a small financial institution can still carve out that all-too-critical niche and succeed. Let’s face it. Even credit unions that are several billions of dollars in assets are still small financial institutions, given the fact that all credit unions are competing (regardless of where they are located) with Wells Fargo, B of A, Chase, Capital One, Santander, Quicken, Sofi…etc. And, these are just some of the national players that spend billions and billions each year in advertising.

There is one thing I’ve come to know through my decades of experience: Nothing, but nothing, can ever replace a “sticky” brand—especially in a marketplace of look-alike products. This is how credit unions, large and small, can compete effectively, and to use an old boxing metaphor, punch way above their weight. The old adage, “perception is reality,” has never rung truer. Sure, chopping and dicing data every which way will amplify results. But without a distinctive and well-articulated brand definition, layering a plain vanilla execution will severely curtail results, or worse, just fall flat.

Merck Sharp & Dohme FCU’s vigor™ VISA® Credit Card illustrates the power of a compelling brand strategy, as well as validates this marketing strategy.

Because in a time when the credit card market is more competitive than ever, offering a truly special card to your members—one that provides both form and function—sends them the message that this credit union truly “gets” its members and has its members’ backs.”

MSD FCU took this bull by its horns. Sure, it cost them money—for the brand design, packaging, trademark process, launch campaign, plus offers—but it didn’t cost them as much as you may think. And, that one thing I’ve come to know about a sticky brand over these decades of credit union marketing strategy—did it pan out?

Facts, nothing but facts, because numbers don’t lie.

The one-year goals MSD FCU established for this card prior to launch:

  • 200 new cards issued
  • $2.5 million in approved credit lines
  • $750,000 in balance transfers

What they’ve achieved from May 27th through August 31st (basically, 3 months):

  • 254 new cards issued
  • $3.4 million in approved credit lines
  • $500,000 in balance transfers

The lesson to be learned here. You can compete and quite successfully. Start punching way above your weight.

Olivier Raoust, CEO Raoust+Partners