Spend a buck at a local store and 45 cents stays in the community. Spend the same buck at a Big Box Store and only 13 cents stays in the community. That’s become the bottom line argument why “Local” is the hot new buzzword these days.
“Buy Local.” “Shop Local.” “Think Local.” Even the term “Local Food” has morphed from a mantra into a movement, as more and more people are connecting the dots between choosing to interact with local people, local businesses and food grown locally, rather than with big national and international chains and mega farms. Local food is supposed to be better for the Earth since it requires less transportation. Buying local helps the corner independent retailer or company as opposed to some mega-corporation.
All of these concepts are associated with a broader sustainability movement whose goal is to enhance the economic and environmental health of a specific geographic area. And while “Fair Trade” and “Organic” are now being seen as terms that have been “co-opted” by the big box stores and farms, “local” is a term that they cannot claim.
For the skeptics in the crowd, the data is far from proven. Some economists argue that the numbers aren’t as dramatic as has been claimed, and others say that the idea is basically a watered-down version of protectionism. But the concept of local has a feeling of authenticity to which people respond – which is a marketer’s dream.
Peter Barnard of 320 Market.com, spoke to the Ohio Marketing Network just yesterday on this topic. Before his talk he googled the connection, only to find a couple examples: Rogue CU has tied their Visa card into a buying local program they call Living Local, and Merco CU gives a discount when members buy a vehicle from a local dealer in the county. But when I tried to look them up for this post, instead of being a primary focus, both of these programs seemed to be buried within each credit union’s web site.
There has been some national press on the idea, such as the Move Your Money campaign. There is also the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) which is comprised of 80 community networks in 30 US states and Canadian provinces. And there have also been local business alliances such as Somerville Local First in Somerville Massachusetts (where CPCU Credit Union is a sponsor, but again with nothing obvious on their web site to that effect).
So why aren’t more credit unions jumping on the bandwagon? After all, CUs are the epitome of a local financial institution, and this idea is a differentiator. A potential game changer. Something that almost every credit union can use, since it helps explain the difference between credit unions and big national banks. And until we uncover that elusive national campaign idea that credit unions have been looking for, why wait to highlight one of your many attributes?