Feeling the love

We’d like to congratulate PACE Credit Union on its resounding success at the 2015 MACU Strategic Marketing Conference.

PACE entered its Feels Like Love campaign for adjudication in the 25th annual Achievement in Marketing Excellence (AIME) awards. Not only did PACE receive an AIM award for New Product Launch, they also received the most coveted award of the evening – the People’s Choice Award.

Congratulations to Dan Coldwell and the rest of the marketing team at PACE. We loved working on this creative campaign with you and we applaud your accomplishments and your vision.

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Feel the love

PACE Credit Union celebrated the 2014 Credit Union Day with the launch of an exciting new rewards and referral program. PACE Rewards is the first of its kind in the country, bringing together members, potential members, business clients and a unique payment card*.

Where they started
PACE Credit Union was looking for a rewards program that would tick a few very important boxes:

1. Thank members
Most importantly, the credit union wanted to find a meaningful way to thank its current members for their loyalty. 

2. Gain new members
PACE wanted to find a way to leverage its most important and enduring asset – its existing members – to gain new members. 

3. Support business members
PACE also wanted to find a way to get personal banking members to get engaged as consumers with its business banking clients. 

4. Strengthen the PACE brand experience
The PACE team also wanted to increase engagement with its brand through the development of unique, vibrant campaign creative that would support its short and long-term goals.

The solution: PACE Rewards
A traditional rewards/referral solution would benefit its current membership and help gain new members, but it wouldn’t help PACE to achieve its goal to support its business membership.

Dan Coldwell, VP of Business Development at PACE wanted a solution that would help business clients to experience a direct benefit from their association with PACE. With that goal top of mind, Coldwell conceived a dynamic rewards program that would reward all stakeholders. His concept centred around a pre-paid rewards card* that could be ‘spent’ at participating businesses.

Coldwell made it very easy for PACE business clients to participate in the PACE Rewards program. As long as they had at least one POS terminal that could process MasterCard transactions, they were golden.

With that established, the concept of a member rewards and referral program took shape quickly. Here’s how:

  • an existing member refers someone to PACE Credit Union
  • that someone becomes a member
  • the existing member and the new member receive a $50 PACE Rewards card to be spent at any of the participating businesses

The creative: Feel the love
PACE asked us to help them find a creative spin for this program that would support its goals and engage members, existing members and businesses. Coldwell says,

Pace was looking for a marketing partner who could take our new program concept and bring it to life. Our Rewards program is the first of its kind in the country and it was very important that the marketing and creative representation was strong.’

Our approach to bringing the rewards program to life was to let the PACE Rewards card play the starring role in the creative. We wanted to infuse it with personality and energy and for the messaging to evoke excitement and possibility. We wanted colours and fonts to support the PACE brand, of course, but we also wanted to establish a creative flavour that would be unique to the PACE rewards program. Finally, to support PACE’s long-term goals, the creative would also need to be adaptable.  


Coldwell and his fantastic marketing team were happy with the final outcome, saying,

thirdstream helped us to give the program a voice while creating a value proposition to our members as well as our valued business members. The creative really adds a new layer to our visual brand and we can see using this as our creative strategy moving forward. We also like how the concept can be used for recurring themes and not just member referral. It’s a step towards a solid marketing partnership, that’s for sure.”

Get more details at pacecu.com.

*The PACE Rewards Card is issued by and is the property of Peoples Trust Company

accessible. available. inclusive.

For VantageOne Credit Union, living its vision to provide its 12, 000+ members with an ‘extraordinary experience’ is an inside job. It starts with exceptional leadership, excellent staff and a company-wide commitment to going the extra mile. With so many strengths fuelling its growth, VantageOne CEO Glenn Benischek felt that the time had come to have a website that reflected the credit union’s vision as well as the changing mobile needs and expectations of its membership. 

When Benischek and his team asked us to design and develop VantageOne’s new website, we were more than happy to chime in. 

First steps
As always, our process began with our personification process. It gave us tremendous insight into what VantageOne members were looking for in a website. They wanted to connect with VantageOne online and they wanted that experience to be every bit as friendly, simple and ’end-to-end’ as it was when they visited a branch in person. While their needs were nuanced in many ways, there were clear commonalities. They wanted:

  • information and support to be available from anywhere
  • access to tools that would allow them to take action online, whether it was to manage their accounts, apply for a loan, become a member or to chat with VantageOne staff in real-time
  • the content and tools of the site to be inclusive of every device (phone, tablet, laptop or desktop)

Mobile-centric focus
The VantageOne personas were clearly of the mobile-first mind-set. Kathy Matkin-Clapton, our copy and creative director recognized that mobile-centricity was a potentially huge catalyst for current and future engagement. ‘The personas reflected the intimate relationship that most of us have with our mobile devices. Our phones are becoming an extension of ourselves. We count on them to deliver the content and functionality we want at precisely the instant we request it. We wanted to design the site and choose content in a way would help VantageOne make the most of that mobile-first mind-set.’

Responsive design
Jeff Coomber, our Director of UX Design and the architect of the new website, agrees. ‘We put a lot of thought into how to design a website that would not only meet only VantageOne’s needs but also the needs of its members. With the rising tide of smart phones and tablets flooding the market and increasing consumer demand for virtual banking services, there was no question for our team that responsive design was the way to go.’

Benischek agrees, saying, ‘We live in a multi-device world. A company’s web presence must reflect this to continue to compete effectively. As technology rapidly reshapes the world, a responsive web presence is critical in our business today and moving forward.’

So we developed a site that would:

  • embrace device diversity by making access, navigation and utility simple from every device
  • support every action the personas wanted to take, whether it was to learn more, chat in real-time, manage their money, apply for a loan, open an account or become a member
  • ensure that all content would translate well in a growing number of contexts

Support a multi-channel, multi-device strategy
VantageOne’s new site also supports a multichannel strategy that is powered by thirdstream software:

  • cumulus™, our online member onboarding and account opening solution
  • jump(start)™, our online loan application

Thanks to the seamless integration of this software into the site, people will find it easy to become a VantageOne member, open a new account or apply for a loan, line of credit or mortgage. And since the user interface of all of our software is also responsive, they can do all of this in a matter of minutes from any device. This multi-channel strategy will support  VantageOne in meeting the strategic goals to:

  • increase member engagement
  • grow deposits
  • increase lending
  • promote its other business lines

It’s all about the member experience
At the end of the day, our goal was to develop a website that would resonate with the members and deepen their relationships with VantageOne. Coomber says, ‘We wanted to make it incredibly easy for people to engage with VantageOne online, whether it was to find a branch, transfer funds, open an account or apply for a loan. We applied personification and UX (user experience) design principles to create a simple and intuitive user experience that makes it easy for members and potential members to achieve their goals from their computers, smart phones or touch screen devices.

Check it out

  1. View the VantageOne site here.
  2. Listen to what Benischek has to say about the site here.

For more information on responsive design and other online strategies for your credit union, call us 403-381-1360 or connect with our VP of Business Development.

a refreshing approach to mortgage renewal capture

Mortgage renewal time is an opportunity for homeowners to examine how hard their mortgage – and mortgage provider – is working to make the most of their money. Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union (SASCU)* recognized this. They also recognized mortgage renewal time as an ideal opportunity to deepen their relationship with current members and to forge new in-roads with potential members.

SASCU asked us to help them find a creative and strategic way to reach out to members and potential members about mortgage renewal. We were happy to help.

SASCU is a vibrant, community hearted-credit union that is guided by a promise to provide world class products and services for every phase of their members’ lives. While they can compete on rate and have a wide range of mortgage products for members to choose from, that wasn’t the goal of this campaign. Instead, they simply wanted to find a way to:

  • start a conversation about mortgage renewal
  • empower members/potential members to initiate further contact
  • facilitate a one-to-one ‘mortgage check-up’ with members/potential prior to renewing their mortgage

We worked closely with Deanie Foley Gillespie, SASCU’s Marketing Manager to ensure that the concept would:

  • resonate with the target audience
  • reflect something that staff could get behind
  • differentiate SASCU in the mortgage renewal landscape
  • establish a feeling of relationship rather than ‘sell’

The creative outcome
We chose a very literal spin on the word ‘renew’ to evoke feelings like ‘fresh, clean and possible’ and chose words that would support the concept as well as SASCU’s brand.SASCU_Digital_Display

The strategy
A contest to win a weekend for two at a nearby spa provided incentive for members/potential members to initiate contact with SASCU. This prize reinforced the concept of ‘renewal’ perfectly.

See the campaign in action here and here.


e-mail marketing: good news

With the rapid emergence of digital, mobile and social channels available to marketers, e-mail marketing might sound like old-school digital, but the truth is that e-mail is actually a very efficient way to reach your members.

Kootenay Savings and Credit Union* couldn’t agree more. They wanted to find a way to engage their members and connect with their communities and saw e-mail as the ideal message-delivery and engagement platform.

Deb Melnyk, Manager of Advertising & Communications at Kootenay Savings tells us,

‘Email marketing is a pillar of our member engagement strategy. With CASL coming into effect, we wanted to take every opportunity to optimize a program before July and have a solid strategy that is linked to our brand.

We could have used an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution but we knew we needed more than a template. Our goal was to align our email marketing with other communication channels such as web and social, and have a distinct point of difference in our program, encouraging trust with members.’

Speaking of  CASL, while these regulations might seem limiting at first glance, they actually help credit unions like Kootenay Savings to revitalize email lists into a qualified group of members who are open to:

  • receiving offers
  • hearing about campaigns
  • connecting with you
  • reading about what you’re doing in their communities

Actually, the CASL requirements could make e-mail marketing one of your strongest marketing tools for communicating with current members. A current list of engaged and willing e-mail recipients makes it possible to:

  • personalize your messaging
  • improve segmentation
  • support other key digital delivery channels (web, mobile, social)
  • improve response tools

Come to our webinar on Wednesday, April 23rd to learn more and to see first-hand how Kootenay Savings and Credit Union is using email marketing to reach members, tell their own story and achieve their strategic goals.

*Kootenay Savings Credit Union, located in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, is the twenty-ninth largest credit union in Canada with over 40,000 members and assets of $796 million.

do you really need an annual flight plan?

Have you ever rolled a boulder up a hill? If you’re a credit union marketer, you probably at least feel like you have. You’ve been given the monumental task of differentiating your credit union in a rapidly changing marketplace that includes:

  • a dizzying expansion of delivery channels
  • more data than you know what to do with
  • increasingly savvy members
  • multiple internal stakeholders and decision makers
  • a growing number of external stakeholders
  • shrinking budgets
  • and so on

With all of these pressing demands, it’s easy to put your head down and power through yet another marketing year, reacting to internal and external demands as best you can with the resources you’ve got. It’s an exhausting loop. And it’s not much fun.

When planning for his 2014 marketing year, Glenn Benischek, CEO of VantageOne Credit Union wanted to put an end to this loop once and for all. ‘We wanted to do more than fragmented product and service campaigns that really had no relation to one another. Marketing needs to have the same strategy and commitment that other business lines have.’

We couldn’t agree more. So when he asked us to help his team take a more proactive approach to marketing, we were more than happy to help.

The VantageOne team had done a really great job of defining their current strengths and their strategic goals. To complement this work, we developed personas to help Glenn and his team bridge the gap between what their members want and need and what (and how) VantageOne is currently offering. This collective work helped to define a clear picture of who VantageOne is today and who they are striving to become in the future.

Bridging the gap between these two points required the development of an annual flight plan. This plan will position VantageOne to approach marketing in a way that:

  • responds in all delivery channels
  • adapts to the ever-changing needs of their personas
  • supports their strategic goals
  • strengthens their brand
  • engenders pride and engagement among their staff

Rachel Milan, our VP of Business Development, who was once a credit union marketer herself, could relate to VantageOne’s goal for a unified approach to marketing.

‘I remember those last minute requests to “pull a campaign together” quickly because lending is down or a new technology is ready for members. But that kind of reactive marketing just doesn’t pay. An annual flight plan is integral to the overall strategy of a credit union’s marketing. While marketing must remain flexible for business changes, committing to an annual flight plan that has a common visual theme and tone helps create brand awareness and momentum for the year.’

Glenn adds, ‘We really trust the thirdstream approach which has proven results for other credit unions, so we are looking forward to implementing this overarching theme to all of our marketing programs and tactics this spring.’

We’re so pleased to have been asked to play a role in VantageOne’s bold new approach to their marketing. Like Glenn, we’re also looking forward to revealing these creative and strategic tactics. Stay tuned …

how personas are helping VantageOne Credit Union

Let’s say you’re about to work on a creative campaign for the upcoming RRSP season. You’re probably asking yourself what neat twist you could take on messaging this year that will set you apart from the competition. If only you knew what would appeal to your members. If only you could get a glimpse inside their lives to understand what they need or how they want you to reach out to them.

Getting this kind of insight is entirely possible through the use of personas.

A persona is a fictional but realistic character sketch that identifies the needs, wants and expectations of the people who will come to your website to learn, join or share the content and tools you offer. While each persona’s story is unique and detailed, it is also an archetype that serves as a surrogate for an entire group of real people.

Personas are fictional stories that will help you go (way) beyond your members’ segments, age, income and occupation. They move you into a place of empathy and understanding. They also trail blaze creative clarity and strategic focus by inspiring you to ask:

  • What would the persona do in this moment?
  • What would he need now?
  • Would she understand this?
  • Will it provide them with what they need to take action?

how personas are helping VantageOne Credit Union

VantageOne Credit Union*, based in Vernon, B.C. was looking for a way to breathe a brand new vibrancy into its business and marketing strategies for 2014. When they asked us how to approach this, we recommended that they start with personas. To help them do this, we worked closely with members of the VantageOne team to come to an understanding of their:

  • membership
  • community
  • strategic goals

After discovery meetings with the VantageOne team, we crafted four distinct personas that captured the credit union’s key market. VantageOne’s CEO Glenn Benischeck quickly recognized the value the personas would bring to his credit union’s marketing and business strategy:

‘In today’s competitive environment a business needs to really know who their target customers are and what drives them. The engagement with thirdstream to define our key member  ‘personas’ allows us to give real life personality and insight to these target members. This will be invaluable in executing our business strategies moving forward.’

design touchstone

These personas will also serve as a valuable design touchstone for our team. We are already in the midst of developing a 2014 digital marketing strategy for VantageOne that includes a new responsively designed website. We will look to these personas to help us see VantageOne’s members and potential members as real people with real experiences on unique financial journeys. Then we will design a comprehensive online experience that resonates with their needs and intuitively positions Vantage One as the ideal solution to their financial questions.

VantageOne is one of the top 20 credit unions in BC, based in Vernon. They are a full service financial institution offering comprehensive solutions to consumers and businesses from 5 branch locations, with over 12,000 members and $269M in assets.


As a credit union branding and marketing company, our mandate really boils down to doing all we can to make the credit unions we work with shine in every possible platform. And shine they did this year at the 2012 Marketing Association for Credit Unions annual conference. We’re still smiling ear to ear. In all, the thirdstream team played a key role in 6 award wins this year. They were:

Electronic marketing

AIME for 1st Choice Savings ‘Before and After’ home renovation contest
AIM for 1st Choice Savings ’3 for Free Fees’ campaign
AIM for Your Community Credit Union ‘MOOla’ campaign and net worth quiz

Image enhancement

AIME for 1st Choice Savings ‘Belong Grow Share’ annual campaign strategy

Coordinated campaigns

AIME for Synergy Credit Union ‘I Did it in My Truck’ mortgage campaign


AIM for Raymore Credit Union’s new web property

Our CTO Keith Ginter was at the awards ceremony in Niagra Falls on June 5 to see his creative team recognized on the national stage. He applauds them for being ‘a group of professionals who time and time again are able to leverage each other’s gifts and talents to produce award winning campaigns for our credit union clients. thirdstream CEO Christian Clapton echoes this thought, saying,

‘I’m so pleased that our team’s creative muse has been recognized at MACU. These national marketing awards confirm that our creatives are leaders in making brand, web, social media and interactive campaigns converge to deliver measurable results. I speak for us all when I say I’m grateful for their courage, vision and passion for marketing.’

Our VP of Business Development Rachel Milan agrees. ‘Our creative team brims with talent, applying best practices in everything they do. They’re ahead of the curve in so many important ways but particularly in how they fuse art and copy to align member experience with a credit union’s goals. Our team really is the complete package.’

Led by Kathy Matkin-Clapton, Michelle Cote and Jeff Coomber, thirdstream’s creative team is a close-knit bunch, woven together by both personal and professional regard for one another. As Cote says, ‘this is the best creative team I’ve worked with. A kind of magic happens when we’re brainstorming concepts—each with a unique but complimentary creative mind. Although the results have been tracked and proven, I sometimes find it hard to describe how precisely an idea was formed. The environment of encouragement, open-mindedness and positivity really allows us to put together work we can be proud of.’

When asked what most inspires their team, Matkin-Clapton narrows it down to a handful of vital pieces: ‘Each of us looks to best practices in our own arenas and applies this to every campaign or project. We’re also inspired by our clients, their stories, communities and membership. I know it sounds a bit saccharin, but we’re truly galvanized by our regard for one another. I’m not only in awe of the work, integrity and talent that each team member brings to the table, I happen to really like them a lot as colleagues and friends. Last, but not least, we trust our instincts. When it’s the right idea, we just know it, then we get down to work and make it happen.’