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Director of Awesomeness Laura Eblen discusses all things mobile at Member Connect Summits

A featured speaker at our recent Member Connect Summits in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Laura Eblen is Mazuma Credit Union’s self-proclaimed director of awesomeness. That’s a pretty unique title for someone working in the financial industry, but Eblen felt her history of commitment to and involvement in the success of credit unions warranted such a unique designation.


Like most credit unions, today Mazuma understood that to grow their credit union, they had to focus on the largest part of the population: millennials. As the Director of Awesomeness, Eblen’s passion and deliberate focus on marketing Mazuma’s brand and understanding the millennial audience is a major part of the reason her credit union has been able to find amazing success in the mobility space. She understood her audience and then leveraged mobile and marketing to reach them.

Eblen shared her secrets with us at our member events, and we’re making sure to pass them on to you so that you can find success at your credit union, too.

Identifying what directly impacts your bottom line

“In the credit union world, ‘3M’ is not just about Post-Its,” says Eblen, referencing the maker of the famous sticky note. “3M stands for mobility, marketing and millennials, just a few of the top buzz words these days, but each one makes a direct impact on credit unions’ bottom lines.”

Millennial focus

For example, one of the ways the millennial audience has made a direct impact on Mazuma, which is based in Overland Park, Kansas, is in the makeup of its membership: Out of 60,000 members, 38% are millennials, a number Mazuma has grown intentionally. “The percentage of millennials as members was only 15% in 2012,” says Eblen, “but we knew we wanted to grow that number because right now 62% of online bankers are millennials. And, in fact, 97% of our mobile users at Mazuma are millennials. This is an audience that is having significant, direct impact on financial institutions today.”

Eblen shared a variety of industry statistics during her presentation at the Member Connect Summits to drive home the point that credit unions can’t afford to ignore the millennial audience. For example, research on this demographic reports that:

  • 1 in 4 people are millennials.
  • 1 in 3 people in the workplace are millennials.
  • 1 out of 2 people are completely comfortable banking ONLY online.
  • 54% want to make payments with their mobile phone.
  • 61% have bought something because of an online ad.
  • 70% are willing to switch financial institutions if it’s convenient.
  • 75% say they can’t get by without their phones.

And the list goes on. It’s estimated that financial institutions will depend on millennials as a revenue source for the next 32 years. Talk about direct impact.

Marketing focus

Eblen also focused on specific ways Mazuma has found success with the millennial audience. Back in 2013, Eblen’s credit union launched a brand refresh and culture shift that involved putting on their “member goggles.” Basically, Mazuma just asked millennials what they wanted and looked at things from their point of view. They found out that millennials want:

  • To be loyal to a brand
  • To have a financial institution that focuses on the local community/gives back
  • To have convenient, financial mobile channels
  • To be entrepreneurs

Once they were able to figure out what millennials wanted, Eblen says Mazuma focused on defining and marketing their culture. This included identifying their core values, making the member experience consistent, and holding their vendors accountable (for supporting Mazuma’s brand consistency).

Mazuma has also found success by starting its own blog. The blog focuses on not only financial tips and education but also on happenings in the Kansas City area that are relevant to those who live, work and bank there. With just a quick visit to their blog, you’ll see fun topics like “11 Secrets Kansas Citians Will Never Tell You” and “21 Signs You’re a Kansas City Hipster.”

“Knowing our members is key to helping us decide what to publish on the blog,” says Eblen. “As with all of the channels we use to attract the millennial audience, which also include radio and newspaper ads and commercials on Pandora, we make it a point to know what our members want and then try to give it to them wherever they are at.”

Unique photos for ad campaigns is another successful marketing tactic of Mazuma’s. The photos they use are not stock images or purchased photos; instead, Mazuma hires local talent that reflects the credit union’s membership and then photographs this talent across the city. A new car promotion might show a young millennial family in the suburbs, while another promotion might show a single millennial in the historic downtown area.

Mobility Focus

With 59% of millennials making financial transactions on their mobile devices and 56% already using alternative payment devices (Venmo, PayPal, etc.), Eblen also emphasized the importance of credit unions’ online environment. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • A credit union’s online environment should be an extension of its brand. The same feeling someone gets when they walk into your branch is how they should feel when they use a mobile access point. Consistency is key.
  • The reason that consistency in the online environment is so critical is because online is your fastest growing “branch.” For example, millennial members check Mazuma’s Facebook page and Twitter account for branch updates when the weather is bad. It’s important to have 24/7 communication channels so you can meet your members’ expectations of having real-time information at their fingertips.
  • Make sure your vendors are supporting the consistency of your brand. Choose vendors that understand the uniqueness of your credit union, and then cultivate relationships with them so they are not simply contracted companies but trusted advisors and partners.

What’s the bottom line? Understanding your target audience

“In order to be successful with the millennial market,” says Eblen, “you need to have a solid understanding of who they really are. Otherwise, you’ll just end of throwing everything at them – every strategy, tactic, marketing gimmick – and hoping that something sticks. That’s not a very efficient use of your time and resources.”