Case Studies: Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union-Waipahu Community Office

New Guys in Town

When the Chief Marketing Officer called me back in late 2015, I thought he was selling Yelp or some other form of digital media as the area code was from somewhere not in the 808 Hawaii area digits. When I hit redial, we had an interesting introduction of “Hello, I’m returning your call?”, “Hello, I’m calling from Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union in Alaska.”


I know, it’s kind of a funny way to start a case study, but somehow we got on the same page and met in person and started working together in 2016.

The main issue was the credit union had merged with Kunia Federal Credit Union in 2012, but had not reached its desired goals by the end of 2015; goals being new members and awareness in the field of membership.

Kukui presented a marketing brief covering the issues that needed to be addressed-although the client had a similar foundational background of being a farming community, they had found it challenging to make inroads into the close-knit community of Waipahu. Mainly because the name of the credit union sounded pretty foreign and was hard to say, and Alaska is a place you go to on a vacation cruise instead of Vegas.

For the remainder of 2016, Kukui focused on the basics of establishing an outside, mainland entity in the Hawaii market. Many companies seek to expand to Hawaii and an essential ingredient to be successful is the engagement of a Hawaii agency. Some have tried using institutional generic assets, but to most people in Hawaii, they are perceived as “not here” or “only on the mainland.”

Kukui developed Hawaii-centric collateral pieces including a member brochure speaking to the background of how Alaska came to merge with a credit union in Hawaii and program ads that also told the story and gave a feel for the brand personality of the credit union and credit unions in general, that of people helping people. A community flyer was also produced with the names and headshots of key personnel, benefits and field of membership info. The flyer was posted in various, high-trafficked areas and updated.

Kukui also produced an updated television commercial for a locally produced program. Pretty generic in nature, but as the former commercial was shot during the holidays, the commercial needed to be updated.

In 2017, Kukui continued to expand the media footprint of the credit union. Kukui planned a media campaign of sustaining television using ethnic media and one base-network station that had a good morning news vehicle at a reasonable price. Kukui also set up regional print ads in a free weekly news tabloid.

Kukui produced two new television commercials that addressed the unusual name and why an Alaskan credit union would be in Hawaii.

“Say” featured a young male actor who struggled with saying Matanuska. Some would say the approach had been done before, but rarely done right. The casting selection and the talent’s acting skills delivered the simple message of “how to say Matanuska”, established the brand name in a friendly way and had an appeal to younger and older audiences alike.

“Things We Share” used Alaskan and Hawaii images and illustrated how many things both states had in common, and most especially an appreciation for being an MVFCU member.

Both commercials also included Hawaii staff saying the credit union tagline and also helped establish that Matanuska Valley had an office in Waipahu that was staffed with Hawaii people.

Prior to Kukui, the Waipahu Community Office never used television to promote their loan promotions because the Alaskan office only purchased a small cable buy and were unfamiliar with the Hawaii market.

To promote the Ohana Loan, Kukui created an “emoji” commercial using only graphics and without on-camera talent substantially reducing production costs. The commercial used animated emojis and emphasized the ways the loan could be used. The theme was carried in social, digital and print media. Prior to the 2017 effort, the Ohana Loan was only promoted at the office with posters and waiting-room closed circuit media. The new approach garnered a nice increase in loan applications.

In 2018 and 2019, Kukui employed a commercial produced in Alaska for the “Debt Round up” loan promotion. The commercial was home-grown, kind of cowboy western that was just silly enough to break-through the clutter to appeal to Hawaii viewers. Supported by the branding commercials, the Alaskan produced commercial worked well together, while as a stand alone probably would have left people scratching their heads or thinking it was some mainland ad.

Both loan promotions enjoyed increases with the support of the additional media exposure.

In 2018, when thinking about how to differentiate MVFCU, Kukui observed that a huge advantage of having the Waipahu Community Office in the field of membership is that the staff was already part of the community. Larger credit unions and banks in the field did not dedicate separate marketing funds for the Waipahu area, but for MVFCU, Waipahu was their focus.

Kukui developed a series of “Money Tips” and “What Motivates Me” videos featuring the Waipahu Community Office staff. The videos were placed on social media and were well-received.

In 2022, the credit union’s 2016 membership benchmark was 40,000 members between Alaska and Hawaii. Today, the membership is at 55,000+ and growing; the Hawaii office has doubled its membership since 2016.