Matt is a senior marketing and communications executive with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. He has significant experience establishing brand visions and strategies, and delivering in-market results that exceed expectations. He excels at leveraging customer and market insights to develop clear and high-impact brand marketing and communications plans to achieve channel excellence. He’s an expert at developing programs that leverage brand elements to create valuable customer experiences that enable a path-to-purchase. Matt is married to his beautiful wife Brooke and has three kids.
Brad Burrow: Hello, this is In a World with Real Media and I have Matt Johnson from CommunityAmerica Credit Union here with me today. Matt, it’s great to have you here. It’s awesome. You guys are doing some amazing things. It’s been so awesome. In all transparency, we work with you guys on production stuff. But it’s been so awesome to see what’s happening at CommunityAmerica. I mean you guys are just blowing up, you’re getting involved with the Chiefs, at the perfect time by the way.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, no kidding. No, thanks for having me. I really appreciate you taking the time to spend with me. And yeah, CommunityAmerica is just a gem. It represents all things Kansas City. Kansas City’s a gem in and of itself. And yeah, timing is everything I think but we’ve definitely got some momentum going our way and we’ve got several goals we’re trying to accomplish and it’s hard to tackle any one of them or all them at once but we’re doing our best.
Brad Burrow: And some amazing history too. I’d love to even talk about that a little bit with the credit union, TWA and all that. I don’t know if a lot of people actually know all of that.
Matt Johnson: I doubt it. I think there are lots of things about CommunityAmerica that are either misconceptions or misperceptions. People don’t quite understand what a credit union is. But yeah, we’ve been around. Next year’s our 80th year. We started out as TWA Credit Union. We even had a branch in LaGuardia at one point.
Brad Burrow: I didn’t know that.
Matt Johnson: At one point in time we had I think 70% of our members were spread out throughout the US and only 30% were in Kansas City. And now that’s completely flipped. I think it’s probably more like 90/10. With 90% being in Kansas City. But over the course of the last 80 years, especially the last 20 to 25, we’ve really put our roots down her in Kansas City. We’ve merged or acquired with other credit unions. The banking industry is an interesting one and it just continues to kind of culminate and where banks fail, we tend to be able to prop ourselves up because of our business model. Putting our members first and giving back. And yeah, so the last 15, probably 20 years have been really fortuitous for us.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. And you guys really do … And I want to get into that a little bit later on the giving back side. But you really do walk the walk. I mean, I see it. It’s really amazing.
Matt Johnson: It is amazing. I’ve worked for mostly large companies my entire career. I’ve been at CommunityAmerica now for five years. At this point I’m like, what took me so long and what’s taking anybody so long to go find a place that truly cares and gives back to the community. We exemplify that most noticeably with our profit payout. We give back about … Last year we gave back $8.4 million. My CFO would shoot me if I said how much I think we’re going to give back this year. But it will probably be more. And each year we continue to grow that. That’s a big goal of ours is to give back more money to our members and we don’t keep our profits, we don’t pay shareholders so we give back. We don’t just do it with our profits, we do it with our community give back as well and our philanthropy. And we get involved with a ton of organizations and not just a ton but the right ones that have a great mission and purpose and great people that are helping run those and truly, truly helping this community be stronger.
Brad Burrow: Yeah I was at an event Friday and it was a networking event and there was a dentist there. So we were talking about businesses and stuff and CommunityAmerica came up and he goes, “Oh yeah, I’ve got my home mortgage there, my accounts there.” And he goes, “I got $4,000 back.”
Matt Johnson: Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.
Brad Burrow: He’s like, “It’s just unbelievable how it just shows up.”
Matt Johnson: Yep.
Brad Burrow: “Shows up in my account. Four grand.” He was so fired up about it. And he’s a dentist. He’s a pretty prominent dentist in Johnson County. But that makes a big deal to him.
Matt Johnson: You know it doesn’t take that much. I mean if you pile things up … We all live a life of debt. That’s sort of the way it is in the world. And our goal is to not have you saddled with that. We don’t want to just put you in a credit card or whatever it might be just so you can have it. We want to help you manage your life. Most people carry a mortgage. Most people have a car loan. Most people buy cars every three or four years. So, the more you have with us, the more balances you carry, the higher your payout. So if you’re getting $4,000, he’s either got a few homes or he’s got a few things going on.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Matt Johnson: Or if you have a lot of deposits or whatever it might be. I mean yes. But our goal is to give you more and give it to as many people as we can.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about your background. One of the things I like to do on the podcast is really learn how people that are successful in business have their path to that success. So I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, not the creepy way. But you’ve had some pretty interesting experiences. You know GE Capital, interning for them. That’s pretty cool.
Matt Johnson: It was cool.
Brad Burrow: Starting right out of school. You went to KU.
Matt Johnson: I did, rock chalk.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. By the way, I hope we’re okay.
Matt Johnson: I know.
Brad Burrow: That’s a whole nother podcast.
Matt Johnson: It sure is. It sure is. I’d love to spend time on it.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, yeah. But Farmers Insurance. So really went down the marketing path. Then to Sprint. Everybody in business in Kansas City has worked at Sprint at least sometime right?
Matt Johnson: Truly. In some way or worked with them. Yes.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. And you had two stints with them it looks like. And then Payless.
Matt Johnson: Yep.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Pretty amazing. So an interesting background. And then I thought it was pretty cool, your board experience. Being part of boards here in town is pretty cool. So the ballet, still doing that?
Matt Johnson: Yeah. It’s actually new.
Brad Burrow: Is that pretty fun?
Matt Johnson: It’s a new one for me.
Brad Burrow: Oh okay.
Matt Johnson: My first true board meeting is actually today. I took place in a board retreat a few weeks ago. My daughter’s in ballet. She goes to Kansas City Ballet. She was in the Nutcracker for the first time last year. She transitioned over to Kansas City Ballet just about a year ago. And her dream is to be in the true Nutcracker that’s in Kansas City. So the only way to that is if you’re in the Kansas City Ballet company in some way. And so she takes classes there, is really dedicated to it, loves it.
Brad Burrow: That’s great.
Matt Johnson: And her passion became mine. It’s part of a CommunityAmerica way. I didn’t really think about joining boards until I got there. And again our community involvement is so important. So it’s not just me, it’s other leaders at the organization that are trying to get out there and do what’s passionate for them. And I think the only way you’re going to be successful on a board is if you’re doing something that you care about. Another one of mine is Metropolitan Community College.
Brad Burrow: I wanted to talk about that one a little bit.
Matt Johnson: My dad, he was an English professor at the University of Central Missouri. It was Central Missouri State University when I was growing up there.
Brad Burrow: In Warrensburg?
Matt Johnson: In Warrensburg, yeah. Education has just always played a big role in my life. It was a rude awakening actually graduating from college and realizing that I didn’t have a normal schedule. Like we’d take off two months out of the year and go drive around the east coast. They’re from Pennsylvania so we would visit family back there. I don’t have that-
Brad Burrow: You thought that was just the way it was.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. Like summer’s off. It’s great. So yeah, should have gone the education route. But it’s still a passion for me. I think education continues to evolve. How people learn, where they learn, the cost of tuition, access to learning. I think the trades are interesting. I could go on about this. But for example, welding. I have a mentor of mine that was telling me a story about a welder that was working someplace making $60,000 a year. The department of defense realizes there’s a huge shortage of people in that trade.
Brad Burrow: That’s right, yeah.
Matt Johnson: And they went and recruited this kid. It was counter offer, counter offer, counter offer. Now he’s making $120,000.
Brad Burrow: Double.
Matt Johnson: He’s like six months out of high school.
Brad Burrow: That’s amazing.
Matt Johnson: But he knew what he wanted to do and that’s something that this country needs and lots of different organizations, companies, manufacturers, need that kind of skill. And it’s not easy either, but it’s something that if you focus you can get in on. So anyway, Metropolitan Community College. That’s one of many things that they’re out there to offer and also to help rise up the community.
Brad Burrow: Well, so there’s a couple of things I’d love to talk about on that. One, Kansas … I’ve been involved in an initiative with the former state representative guy that’s … We can’t get enough workers in Kansas. Especially in the skill trades. So they’re trying to build plans to help college and high school kids realize that maybe you don’t have to go to college. Maybe you should think about a skilled trade right out of high school and you’re making over six figures.
Matt Johnson: Without debt.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: Without debt.
Brad Burrow: Without debt. Exactly.
Matt Johnson: You talked about your dentist friend, and I’m sure he’s very successful. But gosh, I can’t imagine what burden he’s had to carry having dental school plus an undergrad. A lawyer, whoever it might be, the path that you have to go down, just to get to that point. And then you’ve got debt and this keeping up the Joneses kind of thing. It’s not easy. And so if you’re focused, you can actually live a really nice life well lived. We aren’t always present those opportunities. I know if I would have told my parents I was going to go be a welder or solder things or be a plumber or something … My dad being in education-
Brad Burrow: He would have said no, probably.
Matt Johnson: He didn’t have that opportunity. My grandfather didn’t get to go to school. So it became this expectation. You go to a four year school. I think we need to change that expectation. That’s not for everybody.
Brad Burrow: The stigma.
Matt Johnson: That’s right.
Brad Burrow: It’s like oh you didn’t go to college.
Matt Johnson: It’s a great marketing job they’ve done.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. Pretty cool. So you’re going to be the chair elect. Is that correct?
Matt Johnson: Yeah. I’m the incoming chair.
Brad Burrow: That’s pretty cool.
Matt Johnson: It is cool. I guess I’m coming up on my second year and it’s a great board of volunteers. It’s the foundation board by the way, I’m not on the board of trustees, so it’s not an elected position.
Brad Burrow: Okay, gotcha.
Matt Johnson: Although, that could be in the future. I don’t know. I never really thought about it. You know our job is to help kind of guide the foundation and make sure that the dollars are being spent the right way. There are certain capital expenditures and scholarships that we can help to provide the school. And yeah, I’m the incoming chair. So there’s the chair elect, there’s the outgoing chair, and then there’s the incoming chair. So I have about a year until I get to takeover as the chair and then I’ll be the outgoing chair at some point.
Brad Burrow: Kind of help you transition a little bit.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, it’s a nice hand holding opportunity.
Brad Burrow: So Marquita Miller is a good friend of mine.
Matt Johnson: Oh, no kidding. Oh Marquita’s fantastic.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, isn’t she great?
Matt Johnson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: Very energetic. I bet your board meetings are very energetic with her.
Matt Johnson: They are. The chancellor is energetic too. She’s got a huge appetite. She reminds me of my CEO actually. And the two of them have connected on some initiatives. Chancellor Beatty, she’s amazing. She’s pretty new to the position too. I don’t know if she can claim that anymore. She’s got her things in line. But yeah, Marquita plays a great role, she’s awesome.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. We’ve done a lot with her here at Real Media and she did a lot of our accounting work for many years. So, big fan of hers. So, I want to talk a little about … Obviously we want to get into branding and I’d love to get some insights into branding. You know you came into CommunityAmerica, it’s changed a lot since you’ve been involved. Would you agree with that?
Matt Johnson: Yeah I think so. I mean I’m not going to pretend to take credit, but I did see some opportunities. I just had my five year anniversary like three weeks ago. And yeah, things were very different five years ago. We had a title sponsorship of the Kansas City T-Bones, which that was for about 15 years. And that treated the credit union well. Very well. I mean at the time that we joined forces with them, they were brand new to the city. It was a new opportunity for entertainment for Kansas Citians. And the Legends hadn’t really even become much yet. The speedway was in progress and there wasn’t much else out there. That sort of ran its course. I remember talking to my CEO, Lisa Ginter about this Chiefs opportunity that came up, which started out as something really small. It was a cold call from a really great guy over there. He’s no longer with them, but he-
Brad Burrow: So they reached out to you.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. They were fishing for just something really small. And we started a conversation and it took a good year to get to where we ended up. Which was, mountains beyond what we originally looked at.
Brad Burrow: That’s amazing, yeah.
Matt Johnson: But I remember talking to Lisa about it and thinking I was going to get laughed out of her office but we’re the official banking partner of the Kansas City Chiefs. We’re actually the exclusive banking partner now as well as wealth management partner and mortgage lender now. Those are new designations. When I went in there to talk to her about it, I remember saying, “Look, do we want to minor league or do want to be major league?” Again in the banking industry, everybody remembers 2008, 2009. So we ended up on the back end of that. I think in a worse spot. The big banks have even more power then they ever had, but it had to go that way. It’s really no different. We compete with the banks. The smaller credit unions, they’re great, they serve a great purpose, they’re awesome. Credit unions in general just have a great mission. And the business model is one that really truly is for the consumer, it’s for the member.
Matt Johnson: We’re owned by our members. But to last and be able to continue to give back the way that we do and to be able to help people, we kind of have to think the same way. So we need to be bigger. We need to be bigger so we can help more people. And a way to amplify our brand, we thought, since we’re regionally focused, we’re in Kansas City, because we’re a credit union, our field of membership is the 10 counties of Kansas city. We’ve got one in St. Louis as well. Which dates back to our TWA days.
Brad Burrow: Okay.
Matt Johnson: We primarily focus on Kansas City. There’s a five county metro area that we focus on and we’re staring to expand that out to 10. Which would be Topeka, Lawrence, some surrounding areas that we don’t have branches in today. But that’s all part of Chiefs kingdom, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s right.
Matt Johnson: And this is a college town almost. The fandom that we have for our sports teams, the Royals, Sporting, and certainly the Chiefs I think reigns supreme. What better opportunity then than to partner with them and we did so about three years ago. And yeah, talk about timing. I mean it’s been, what a ride.
Brad Burrow: You couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.
Matt Johnson: No. I mean it’s been … Seriously like I’ve got goosebumps. It’s amazing.
Brad Burrow: Well and even signing with Mahomes before he was a starter. I mean the first year. I mean we didn’t know what he was going to become.
Matt Johnson: We didn’t. And that was a risk we were willing to take. I remember that draft day and how elated everybody … The whole city was just like, we took a quarterback.
Brad Burrow: Unheard of in Kansas City.
Matt Johnson: We maybe took a chance right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah, right.
Matt Johnson: But what you knew about him or what we know, or knew then, is he had a cannon for an arm. We could build a story around that and help … He’s young, he’s an up and comer, there’s a lot of excitement. The Chiefs have had some success under Andy Reid. So to take that Chiefs partnership and then introduce Mahomes into the mix. You know if he didn’t do well, we pull the spot. We don’t necessarily focus as much on it. We put him in a position to be successful. We didn’t ask him to say a bunch of lines or anything like that. We just put him in front of the camera, let him showcase his arm, got a little funny and quirky with it and here we are. A little bit later. It all worked out.
Brad Burrow: And man, he’s become … It was funny watching the first preseason games. Like every spot in between commercials. He’s blowing up. Do you ever worry about that at some point? Where he’s becoming a little over exposed from a brand standpoint?
Matt Johnson: I do. I think our goal is also to not over expose him and use him in a unique way. Yeah sure, it concerns me. But he’s a great guy. And he really does embody Kansas City. I think this is just a great home for him. I don’t know that he would be any less successful in New York or Miami or wherever … Miami’s not a sports town, let’s be honest.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. But he fits the brand so well, doesn’t he?
Matt Johnson: He really does.
Brad Burrow: I mean he’s so humble. He’s great to everybody. He’s a regular guy. I was looking at his Instagram. Him and Brittany. We feel like they’re part of our family because we’re watching what they’re doing on Instagram, when they’re at a concert, you know. He’s like the greatest.
Matt Johnson: He’s pretty normal.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: All of them are. They’re all just humans. Right, they’re just doing their job and they have a little bit more exposer than the rest of us. Yeah, he’s a great kid. He’s truly a kid I think. And he’s got nothing but upside and he’s … The way we’ve started to develop our story using him and the Chiefs and Kansas City for that matter is, there are cranes that are across our skyline now that didn’t exist before. So Kansas City is on the rise. You’ve got the Chiefs that have, again under Andy Reid and now adding Mahomes and an AFC championship game. And gosh, what’s next? The Chiefs are on the rise and CommunityAmerica really just fits right there too. We’ve been here for 80 years. We’ve been really strong for the last 20. But over the last three to five years we’ve really started to explode. So CommunityAmerica is on the rise. So we’re really trying to figure out that parallel and tell our story together.
Brad Burrow: And even getting into the commercial side, which was a big deal. That’s something pretty unheard of for a credit union right?
Matt Johnson: Oh it is.
Brad Burrow: To get into the commercial side?
Matt Johnson: It is, yeah. Business banking, commercial banking. Credit unions typically aren’t known for that. It’s not that we don’t do it. It’s we’re limited on how much lending we can actually do. But it’s really what I’ve learned a lot about the commercial banking business, banking business in general. It’s kind of fascinating. But in commercial banking, it’s really more about the deposits. And for us it works perfectly because it’s a relationships. You’re a small, medium sized business owner, this is personal. This is 100% personal for you. And it is for most of our business clients. And so-
Brad Burrow: We wouldn’t make it without that by the way.
Matt Johnson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: With the personal relationships.
Matt Johnson: We wouldn’t either. I think most companies wouldn’t. You can’t put a bottom line before a person. And if you think that way … I don’t think anybody’s ever sat in a conference room and said, “Hey, I was in the field last week and I saw some customers doing X, Y and Z,” that everybody else can’t shut up and listen. Because you’re actually there, seeing people interact with you and your brand and your people. So, that’s in our DNA. We’re about people helping people and understanding somebody’s business model, understanding what their goals are, understanding what their obstacles and challenges are. That’s true to who we are. So a natural byproduct that wasn’t necessarily planned, we didn’t write it into the contract was, with the Chiefs we ended up building a commercial bank within CommunityAmerica Credit Union. And we are the official bank of the Chiefs too. They have all their stuff with us. And now anybody, any business, and size, can bank with CommunityAmerica. Whereas that wasn’t the case three or four years ago.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Pretty amazing. I’m really interested to know what branding challenges that … Because that’s a whole different … Consumer banking and everything that the credit union does now, now you’ve got the commercial side thrown into the mix, in the brand. Does that work with the brand? Or does that present some new challenges for you to think about from a, okay, messaging maybe needs to be different. Different approach. That type of thing.
Matt Johnson: That’s an interesting question because we haven’t necessarily blown the doors off yet on the commercial banking message. But I would take a step up from there and say, our challenges didn’t really change. The big ones are, awareness. Just general awareness that we exist. And I think we’ve started to overcome that. Like people know who we are. But the bigger challenges lie in a member. I have to join, what does that mean? People don’t understand what it means to join a credit union. And it’s really easy. You either live or work in Kansas City or you’re related to somebody who lives or work here. So if you have a pulse … I know my compliance team would be like yeah, that’s not true. For the most part we can probably find a way in a seven degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of thing. We can figure out how to make you a member. Because it’s all about Kansas City and having ties here. But people don’t know that. So it’s getting that message out there. And then that next level down, it is a commoditized business. Banking is banking is banking. We do take exception to that though and I’ll get the that in a minute. But it’s awareness of all the products and services that we offer.
Matt Johnson: We’re not just some podunk little community bank or credit union. We have mortgages, auto loans, wealth management, checking, CD’s, IRA’s. You name it. We’ve got something, personal loans, credit cards. I could keep going. And then also, commercial banking. And then also we poached a couple of admissions directors from a couple universities here locally and we offer unbiased college and career planning with a goal of helping you and your family and your student that’s in your household go to college and graduate with little to no debt. That’s our goal. Not just hey, with this university over here, the admissions director’s going to try to get you in there or this one over here. It’s just truly, what’s the right school for you and then how can we get you to pay for it and help you pay for it?
Brad Burrow: To me that was one of the most amazing things. Because I’ve got a son that just is a freshman in college this year. And to have him go through that. What a great tool.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. And it’s two people and it’s tough. We’re trying to figure out how we scale it. We need to digitize it. So we’ve go Karly and Jason, they’re our college planners and they’re fantastic. But they’re just two of them. We want everybody to know this exists, but again we don’t want to sacrifice a bad experience just to tell people that we have something. So, we need to figure out how we digitize it. So there are some tools that are out there on our website today that can help you compare costs of different colleges across the university. We’ve got a great team, Anita Newton in our innovation lab. Anita’s fantastic. Everybody in Kansas City knows that she’s amazing and she’s been able to help us grow our innovation lab and again our collegeroadmap.com. Again, digitizing Karly and Jason, just providing resources and tools for people to understand a very complicated process and make it simple and easy to understand and help you achieve your goals.
Brad Burrow: With a college calculator.
Matt Johnson: Isn’t that cool?
Brad Burrow: What you might think as a perception is that I can’t afford to go to this school, but you put all the information in and we did one where you actually could go to Stanford cheaper than you could go to an NAI school.
Matt Johnson: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: Who would know that?
Matt Johnson: Right. And an NAI school. That’s a good example. Great schools. Awesome. They’re private. They’re all private. And so Stanford or a Harvard or one of these larger schools, they have huge endowments. So they have grants, Pell grants. Whatever it might be to be able to help get people there. Because if you’ve got decent grades, you’re involved in your school, you’re involved in your community, they’re going to see good people and they want good people to come out of their schools and go be successful. So they’re going to help you. But most people don’t know that. There are dollars that are left on the table. They’re just sitting in funds in places that people have access to, but nobody really knows how to navigate those waters. Again, this is Lisa’s vision. And she’s really helping put it into the market and she’s got a lot of expectations that we help bring it to life.
Brad Burrow: She’s a very visionary leader isn’t she?
Matt Johnson: Oh, it’s unbelievable.
Brad Burrow: She sees a lot of thing and is not … No fear.
Matt Johnson: None.
Brad Burrow: Just goes right after it, which I think is awesome.
Matt Johnson: It is. It’s cool to work for it. I think a lot of leaders are that way. I think your huge companies started out in that way, and they pushed the envelope. But the bigger you get, the more you get in your way. And I think we’re in a really nice position, because we’re not small but we’re not some huge company that’s some conglomerate that is global.
Brad Burrow: So you can kind of pivot and move.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, we’re nimble. I think it makes us a really fierce competitor. I’m not afraid to say it. I think a lot of banker friends that I have … I wouldn’t say they’re jealous necessarily. I’m sure they have great jobs. But man, we get to navigate some pretty cool waters. And we get to shift and do some things that, I don’t think I’d get to do other places. And that’s because we’re risk averse. We never put our members at risk. We never want to put ourselves in a bad situation. We want to be safe and secure and stable. That’s our responsibility. But to help grow the brand, we’re able to take some risks and do some cool things.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. So I want to shift gears just a little bit. The growth of CommunityAmerica is going to probably come from millennials and the younger generation obviously. That presents some challenges from a marketing standpoint right?
Matt Johnson: Sure does.
Brad Burrow: Have you really kind of dove into the psyche of millennials and how they make decisions and things like that as you’re developing the brand to really connect with them?
Matt Johnson: Absolutely. It’s a funny question. It’s not just millennials its Gen Z now too. And these are generations, I think everybody’s heard about it and maybe even gets annoyed by it. But they’re large. They have the largest population.
Brad Burrow: Can’t ignore.
Matt Johnson: You can’t ignore it, right. And while Gen Z doesn’t necessarily have as much spending power yet, they have some and depending on what your product or widget or whatever it is that you sell is, that might be your target. But they’re all coming into the … And millennials are starting to come into their own. They’re buying homes, they’ve got … I think if you’re almost 40 now, you might be on the upper end of the spectrum of the millennial age range. Do we understand them? Yeah. I would say this though, they’re not that different than you and me. Technology kind of goes with all of us. We all sort of use things a similar or same way. They certainly are in some mediums that you and I are probably aren’t. I mean I’ve tried to get on Snapchat for example.
Brad Burrow: I can’t do it.
Matt Johnson: Well none of my friends do it, so I can’t really do it. You know what I mean?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: And then it just gets creepy. If I’m trying to be friends with friends’ kids are in college or something.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s right.
Matt Johnson: But I try to study it. That’s a hard one to crack. But I think it’s a pretty similar philosophy. You need to be where they are in life. And you need to build a trust with them. Not just awareness, top of funnel. But as we drive it down to the bottom, we need to make sure that when they have a financial need for us anyway, that we’re there for them. So what we’re doing, and I mentioned Anita earlier, she’s been instrumental in helping. I’m on a team with her to really focus on this college piece. But it’s bigger than that. Because college could be a trade school, it could be … It may not be college. It’s really that time in your life. About 18, 19 year olds, that’s about the first time they’re opening an account. So we’ve got a couple of insights. Maybe on their own, not just mom and dad. But mom and dad play a pretty significant influence. So, that one, two sentences I just mentioned, that’s two segment audiences. Mom and dad or grandma and grandpa. Guardians of their children. And then a kid who’s coming into their own and starting to make their own decisions. And so how are we there for those people in this stage in their life?
Matt Johnson: We could go down the spectrum a little bit more. We just try to crunch data. We try to understand who’s coming in the door, where’s most of our acquisition coming from, and then how do we get in front of those people?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Because if you can get somebody to open an account when they’re 19, 20 years old, they’re probably going to be hopefully a lifetime customer.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. Hope’s not a strategy I guess. But what we do know, I think the millennial and the Gen Z that is that age, they’re not as loyal as maybe you and I used to be or are.
Brad Burrow: Right.
Matt Johnson: If we create a bad experience for them in some way or … They’ll be the first one to bounce and go somewhere else, and they’ll be the first one to tell their friends about it. And so we need to build that loyalty. And again that helps us I think at CommunityAmerica, just because we are all about … That’s part of our ethics or our values are, caring ethical and can do. So we’re going to be there for you. So for us, I don’t think it’s as much a hurdle to keep you. Our retention’s fantastic. Because we do build those relationships. It’s just getting them to understand in the first place, like why should I go there versus a Bank of America or … Because they’re easy. I mean they’re huge, they’re easy and the bar is really low. So people do it.
Brad Burrow: Do you guys study social media and things like that when you’re looking at a marketing plan for example?
Matt Johnson: Sure do.
Brad Burrow: Because a millennial or younger, Gen X, you’re going to have to connect with them on their mobile device.
Matt Johnson: Most definitely. Oh yeah.
Brad Burrow: TV spots don’t necessarily work with that group.
Matt Johnson: Nope.
Brad Burrow: I don’t know that they’re watching, except for sports maybe.
Matt Johnson: Yep. Which is why we aligned with the Chiefs because you get a captive audience and that’s the kind of programming I think we can expect people to watch. But I look at it less about TV and more about video. So, video can play a role in social, it can play a role on TV I suppose or other digital programming that might be out there. Pre-roll, things like that. And video is a great way … You know this, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: It’s a great way to story tell. So I never want to ignore that. But the way that we see that in social is different. It’s definitely different. And this is where I never want to become a dinosaur and like oh, traditional media. These are the things that we need to do.
Brad Burrow: The banking business has been like that hasn’t it?
Matt Johnson: It sure has.
Brad Burrow: It’s very traditional.
Matt Johnson: It’s very traditional.
Brad Burrow: And they’re probably still way behind where you guys are at this point.
Matt Johnson: I would think so. Yes, I study social media. I have a great team of people that help manage it. It’s a really small team, but they’re amazing. And on social it’s just like anything. It’s about building relationships. Well, I’ll use a TV spot as an example. But it’s the same in social. It’s really the same in any medium. It used to be newspaper. They didn’t ask to see your ad. They didn’t ask to see you market to them. But you have them, so if you’re borrowing their time, you better give them something that’s worth it. So our philosophy when it comes to social media is not to push a bunch of product. We do that, sure. But we want to do it in a meaningful way. It’s really just to engage our audience. So we’ll do fun things. We’ll do giveaways or we’ll … Profit payout’s a great time to for us to celebrate. We’ve got a great following out there. So we want to make sure that people know that hey, we’re just the give back place, we’re not asking you for anything. Eventually we will. Or we just want to be here when you have that decision to make. And hopefully that you’ve been along with us for the ride that you understand that we have something great to offer.
Matt Johnson: So that’s really it. We’re about building relationships and social media is fantastic. Again, a millennial is on there, but I’m probably on there just as much.
Brad Burrow: You know it’s interesting though, are there platforms that are more your focus than others? For example Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or any … Have you guys found there’s a sweet spot in there for CommunityAmerica?
Matt Johnson: Yeah, our sweet spot is, I would say it’s a one two punch of Facebook and Instagram. We’re on all of them. LinkedIn’s an interesting one too, especially as we get into-
Brad Burrow: On the commercial side, right yeah.
Matt Johnson: The commercial side. Even recruiting side. So again, a natural byproduct of our brand starting to get bigger in Kansas City and doing some really fun things and … Everybody love Mahomes, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: This was an unintended byproduct of that. That whole sponsorship is, we’re starting to recruit really great talent. Not just recruit them, they’re coming to us. They want to work for CommunityAmerica because they’re like, man that’s a cool place to be. We just got nominated as the best place to work with the Kansas City Business Journal. So it really helps in those recruiting efforts. So LinkedIn’s kind of become an interesting one as well. But back to your original question, yeah Facebook and Instagram … Our average member age is around 40 to 45. That’s continuing to go down. Most of our new acquisition, they’re 20 to 30 year olds. Maybe that’s probably the biggest bucket. The next one’s probably 30 to 40. So yes, there are different platforms that appeal to different people. But it’s funny, the younger crowd is still going back to Facebook. They may not immediately get into it. Instagram’s certainly the … It’s probably number one. Just our legacy has sort of started … At least on social media. That sounds like it was like 50 years ago. But you know what I mean.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Legacy could be last month right?
Matt Johnson: It really could in technology, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: So Facebook’s … It’s our biggest following. But Instagram is where we’re seeing the most growth. But we can’t ignore either one of them. So we’re pretty focused on making sure that we’ve got great content for both. Twitter’s interesting. It’s not probably the best one for us. I don’t know how you use Twitter. For me it’s more like snacks. I get little snacks of information. Your celebrities, your entertainers, your athletes, whatever they might be. I don’t know. I like cooking so I follow a bunch of chefs and see recipes or whatever or stuff they put out at their restaurants. It’s great for that. From a financial perspective, financial education and financial literacy tips and tricks, things like that, we might put on Twitter. We can’t ignore it but it’s not a huge area of focus for us. It’s not to say that it could be.
Brad Burrow: Instagram’s really an interesting platform for me because now they’ve added video. A while back they did, but it’s visual. The younger generations are more visual learners. Read much less. So to me it makes a lot of sense for any brand to be there if you’re wanting to connect with that audience.
Matt Johnson: Oh, most definitely. And again, we’ve gone … Well, let’s use Patrick, our friend Mr. Mahomes. Instagram’s his number one. But it’s where everybody’s going. And it is. It’s a great place to visually story tell and it’s fun to do. It’s fun to put a post out there when you get a great picture or you put a filter on it and then you can add your story to it and see people kind of engage and react to it and try to do something similar or whatever. It’s hard to ignore.
Brad Burrow: Do you have any way of knowing if you’re actually converting on a platform like that?
Matt Johnson: Sure. I mean we know where our visitors are coming from. So if they’re coming to our website … I mean if they’re going into a branch, I can’t quite track that digital footprint necessarily.
Brad Burrow: Soon probably.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, no kidding. Yeah, just tag everybody.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: Plug me into the matrix. I’d go. Just plug me in. It’ll be fun. No, but we know if somebody’s coming from a social platform. But like I said, I think a lot of what we do out there is engagement. I think most of our followers are probably existing members. Some of my team might argue with me. It’s not to say we aren’t a lifestyle brand, but kind of not really. We’re not Anheuser Busch or Under Armour or so on and so forth. Like I love Old Spice. I think they do a fantastic job with their branding. They’re fun storytellers and they’re just kind of quirky. That’s just a great example of a brand that’s … It’s kind of like I would hate to market toothpaste because geez, you know, toothpaste. But if you can find a way to break through and tell your story with a really, really commoditized product, like you don’t see a lot. We fall in a similar camp.
Matt Johnson: So we’re not necessarily going to convert as much on those social platforms as much as we’re really and truly trying to engage and make sure people understand where we are. We’re there for you when you need us. If there’s a government shutdown, how do we tell a story about just being there? Hey, if you got an issue just give us a call, we’ll talk through it.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, I remember when that happened. You guys came out with content saying, hey, let us help.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, let us help you.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. So it’s great for that kind of stuff as well. And social care. Actually I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that. If you go visit any of our pages, you’ll see that our response time’s like 10 seconds. Because Tara and Coryn … Shout out. They do a fantastic job of responding. And they even sign their comments or their posts back to people because we’re trying to create that personal relationship. Therefore people know if they have an issue, they can come to us in that channel. And that’s continuing to grow and grow and grow. Especially with these younger generations, they expect immediate response. And so those that aren’t doing it are losing out.
Brad Burrow: Again, cutting edge. What other bank’s doing anything like that?
Matt Johnson: I don’t think many.
Brad Burrow: I don’t think so either. Yeah, that’s great.
Brad Burrow: You kind of brought up a question in my mind. Last year … You talked about humor a little bit. So the Mahomes spot, he’s throwing the pass and the guy runs over the table because Mahomes throws it so far. This year you went with a different feel for the spots. What was the thinking on that? Because I was really curious. The humor thing I think works really well. But this year it was more, let’s get fired up, kind of the feel good anthem.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, perfect. Yes, it is an anthem spot, no doubt. We had a lot of conversation about this. And I go back to my comment a little bit ago. When you’re borrowing somebody’s time you want to be able to provide them with entertainment.
Brad Burrow: If you can entertain them, they’re going to retain the message right?
Matt Johnson: Hopefully. At least pay attention to it. And so, humor can do that. But really it’s an emotive thing. How do we create emotion? How do we create a connection? I mentioned earlier Kansas City’s on the rise, Chiefs are on the rise, CommunityAmerica’s on the rise. And he ends that spot by saying, “We’re just getting started.” And so this was really an opportunity for us. So we’ve built over the last couple of years a really great brand platform, a really great operation. Not that it wasn’t great before, but we’re continuing to add onto it, make sure that we’re refining it, and commercial banking is a great example of that. Adding college and career planners. We offer insurance, like property and casualty insurance. That’s not really something most banks do. We are trying to be there for you in every life stage so we’re building this great platform.
Matt Johnson: So we wanted to really tell that story through the eyes of the Chief’s partnership, through the eyes of Patrick Mahomes because they’re just getting started too. And then as you see that story unfold it’s Patrick in the locker room getting his guys pumped up, talking about nobody thought we could do this as a credit union. People don’t understand that. And then we showed these little life moments. It’s about these life stages. Whether it’s retirement or buying a new home, having a baby, sending a kid off to college, and so on. I could go on and on. All life’s moments you need a trusted partner that’s going to be there. So we developed a spot and a story and then we wanted to raise our level of sophistication because that’s something that we, based on research, understand that there’s a perception that credit unions maybe don’t have all the tools or technology that a big bank has. So therefore they go to a Bank of America because they’re like, I just know they’re going to have it.
Brad Burrow: Opposite of the truth.
Matt Johnson: Totally. They don’t care about you and they’re going to fee you to death. But, that aside, it still exists. And like I said the bar is so low that people do that. So the medium in my opinion is just as much the message. We never sacrifice quality. Our production quality is always going to be amazing. Because if it looks great, if your partner of the Chiefs it’s like, “Man, they’re a partner of the Chiefs. Wait, look at the beauty of that spot. They must have their stuff together.” And we do. And that was part of the goal as well was just raising the level of sophistication and understanding and awareness of the fact that we have … You’ll even see the end frame on that spot says personal business, wealth management. And that’s not something that we put out there before either, but trying to make sure people understand the different areas of business that we offer.
Brad Burrow: It’s kind of building on the brand a chip at a time right?
Matt Johnson: Yep.
Brad Burrow: Right. What’s the feedback been on that spot? Have you gotten any metrics, anything like that?
Matt Johnson: I’ve gotten great feedback. I mean we really just launched it about three weeks ago.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Pretty early into it right now.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. But we’re seeing growth. I can tell you that much. I mean the main metrics are going to be what you’re seeing on the bottom line and things are going well. We have really huge goals. I will say that. And that’s a product of Lisa’s vision. We’re not going to sit still. We’ll celebrate some of the wins, but we’re always looking at the next thing that we can keep going and building on. So yeah, growth is there. I mean our awareness is there, acquisition’s happening, we’re getting new members to come in the door. We just want to continue it.
Brad Burrow: So you’ve got to be thinking ahead all the time don’t you in your position?
Matt Johnson: Oh yeah.
Brad Burrow: That’s a great transition. Can you talk about anything that’s coming down the pike? Anything new with CommunityAmerica? I don’t know. I’m just kind of fishing.
Matt Johnson: Yeah. The luxury we have in marketing is long term thinking. And it’s great, we always have to have a good relationship with our sales team because they have to react. You walk in the door and somebody’s got a problem or they have a need, that’s the thing you’re dealing with in that moment. You’re not thinking about five years from now. We’ve started looking at our 2025 planning. So we’re putting new goals together. That’s one of the things that attracted me to CommunityAmerica when I first started meeting with some people. They were laying out a vision that started back in 2010. There was one and then it kind of morphed in about 2012, 2013. They had a 2020 goal back then. And I’m like, I loved Sprint. Sprint was great to me. But we were looking quarter to quarter. You’re publicly traded. You’re a product of the street. Things are going to happen. Payless was the same way. I’d come in every Monday and if it didn’t snow in New York in December then women’s boots were not doing well so you were like, “Ah, what are we going to do? We’re going to turn on a BOGO. We got to go, go, go.”
Matt Johnson: Here at CommunityAmerica it’s not that we don’t necessarily do that sometimes, but we’re really trying to think ahead. So yeah, I can tell you some things are getting put in place to look out beyond even next year. Like 2025. I can’t share a lot yet. We’re trying to put our pieces together.
Brad Burrow: You might have to kill me right?
Matt Johnson: That’s right.
Brad Burrow: But that’s awesome. It’s great to see. Just from sitting back and watching what’s been happening, it’s really neat to see everything just blowing up. And it really is. It’s really cool.
Matt Johnson: Thank you. That’s the goal is yeah, you should see us.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Well Matt, I’m going to go ahead and wrap it up here. I really appreciate you coming in. I wish you’d come back sometime.
Matt Johnson: Oh, it’s my pleasure. I appreciate you having me Brad. We love working with you and I think your podcast is great and this was fun.
Brad Burrow: And next time I’d love to … If there are some things that we could share, just to get in your brain a little bit about some really smart things to be thinking about from a branding standpoint. That’d be awesome. Because I think we all need to know how to do a better job in that area.
Matt Johnson: Yeah, me too. Always learning.
Brad Burrow: All right, so this is the In a World with Real Media podcast. Matt Johnson from CommunityAmerica. I appreciate it and we will talk to you guys soon. Thanks.