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Rules of Engagement


Vancouver, an urban blend of glass skyscrapers, blue mountains, ocean, sandy beaches and close-knit communities, is known not only for its beauty but its socially progressive spirit. Greenpeace, the granddaddy of environmental activism, was born here in 1971. David Suzuki launched his eponymous environmental organization in 1990. The locavore movement began in Vancouver 2005 with the publication of 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. The city also kickstarted the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in 2011.

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (535,000 members, $23 billion in assets) has long embraced this forward-thinking culture, laying the groundwork for a mighty brand — an institution where people pooled their finances, collectively making Vancouver a better place.

Vancity’s latest marketing campaign, says vice-president of marketing and communications Kelly McNeill-Sproxton, further bolsters that brand, presenting the provocative statement,“Do you know what your money is doing?”

“Most people had never thought about it,” says McNeill-Sproxton. “We found it a very short, concise and simple way into a longer conversation. How can credit unions engage members and consumers with a question? That is why the question in our current campaign has power.”

For Vancity marketing, the medium is often as important as the message. The current marketing slogan is found on a variety of unexpected places, including Shift Delivery’s cargo bikes. This bicycle sharing co-op enables riders to undertake large hauls and even facilitates bike-based food services that deliver to where the customers are.

McNeill-Sproxton calls this “layering. It’s deliberate that we put our message on the side of a cargo bike because that tells the story about supporting organizations that are all about the environment.”Other places slogans can appear is eco-friendly buses. Such layering is an efficient use of marketing budgets, giving Vancity broad exposure with minimal expense, McNeill-Sproxton says. While some marketing campaigns for the 59-branch credit union involve advertising agencies, many initiatives are born from the ideas, needs and wants articulated by members. One of the more memorable was an initiative from 2002, when Vancity embraced the city’s gay and lesbian community. Many Vancouver businesses only support gays and lesbians during the Vancouver Pride Parade & Festival, when it is “safe” to do so, McNeill-Sproxton says. But by embarking upon a bold marketing campaign that extended far beyond the annual summer event, Vancity showed it too was willing to “come out,” co-curating a campaign with members of the gay and lesbian community who recommended appropriate imagery and word usage, messaging and channels. “It had just the right nuance to be impactful.”

McNeill- Sproxton says that Vancity is poised to embark upon an entirely new way of marketing, called “personalization.” This will involve offering services and products that are uniquely designed for every member. “It’s going to be big; people want you to give them the sense that you know them really well — hyper-relevant, we say.”

Marketing is also informed by changing demographics and the economy, especially the continuous rise of the “sharing economy.” The city’s notoriously inflated real estate prices also present significant challenges to those living in Metro Vancouver. Such realities make it imperative that Vancity helps people to get into the housing market in creative new ways. This includes Vancity’s “Mixer mortgage,” where the cost of buying a home is shared with friends, co-workers, or family members.

Such initiatives provide a solid foundation for marketing campaigns that allow Vancity to deliver upon its promises, ensuring that it upholds its brand of supporting the greater good by helping out individual members. ◊

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