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Bear Business: Three Essentials for Growing a Community

Make no mistake about it, O Bee Credit Union placed larger-than-life (2-3 times larger) images of The Berenstain Bears in the windows of their Yelm branch to capture the attention of thousands of motorists traversing nearby highways. The Olympia-based financial institution did this to build trust, offer value, and drive business—three essentials for growth.

Build Trustworthy Relationships

Relationships are to trusted relationships what Facebook friends are to actual friends. Trusted relationships have solid foundations resulting from demonstrated integrity. They are built over time and stand the tests of time.

As the adage goes, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” Trustworthy organizations make good first impressions and prove to be reliable. This is accomplished when a product or service is tied to positive emotion. A fact not lost on O Bee Credit Union, and one of the reasons they partnered with The Berenstain Bears.

Having been around for more than five decades, The Berenstain Bears provide more than an opportunity for O Bee to advance financial literacy and promote credit union membership, they produce an emotional connection because the lovable characters are highly recognizable and trusted.

Offer Value

What an organization offers is not nearly as important as why, by whom, and for whom it exists. There is measurable value in offering solid products and services, but when goodwill is incorporated into the purpose of an organization’s “what,” an irrefutable stickiness is created. The latter is difficult to quantify but the community—customers or members in the case of credit unions—is more inclined to appreciate, respect, utilize, and endorse organizations that practice goodwill.

This is the major benefit of credit unions championing financial literacy. More than any other financial institution, credit unions engage in practices that educate their members, which satisfies their community outreach mission while inadvertently promoting their products and services. It’s a win-win model.

O Bee Credit Union used their affiliation with The Berenstain Bears to take the model a step further. Since offering the branded financial literacy program to members, they’ve forged relationships with business partners to offer added value to their young members through incentives like free ice cream and pizza with savings account deposits. That’s a win-win-win model.

Drive Business

Build trusted relationships and offer value, and the business will drive itself. It really can be that easy, provided discipline and wherewithal are in place to continually analyze the approach. In other words, perform frequent gut checks. Evaluate resolve, commitment, and priorities to be sure the organization remains focused on fortifying the community.

O Bee Credit Union launched The Berenstain Bears Financial Literacy Program in November 2015. Between December 1, 2015 and April 1, 2016, the credit union added 225 new youth accounts, known as Cub Accounts, for children under ten. This amounted to virtually 100% growth over the same period in the previous year for that age group, which had been flat or declining in numbers.

Prior to adopting The Berenstain Bears, O Bee engaged youth through sponsorship of community events. Although the goodwill effort was appreciated, the stickiness factor had the effect of a Post-It Note. It was good, but not the Gorilla Glue O Bee was looking for. The Berenstain Bears were.

Like other credit unions that have incorporated The Berenstain Bears brand of financial literacy and youth outreach, O Bee is also leveraging the program to introduce droves of adults to the credit union concept. As a result, the average member age at O Bee and other credit unions focused on youth membership is significantly lower than the national average. Commitment to youth education and outreach breathes new life into the credit union movement, as many young adults and their young children are introduced to the credit union concept for the first time. O Bee and other credit unions aligning their brand with The Berenstain Bears give the term bear business an entirely new meaning.