03 June 2008

To Be Buried in a Pringles Can

You may have never heard of Cincinnati's Fredric J. Baur. I hadn't, anyway. Rest assured, though, you know his work.

An organic chemist and food storage technician for Proctor & Gamble, Baur revolutionized the world of snack food in 1966 with his invention of the Pringles potato chip can. After his death on May 4, his family honored his final request by having his mortal remains buried in - you guessed it - a Pringles can.

While hopefully I'm an eternity away from retirement and death, Baur's story made me wonder what my career accomplishment might be. What will I do/create/accomplish that will leave a lasting impression on the world? What will I be buried in?

I'm sure this will change as the years go by, but I thought of three items that I would love to accomplish in the credit union movement:

1) Discover true, industry-wide economies of scale. I'm amazed at how many processes, expenses, and efforts are duplicated by individual credit unions in a cooperative movement. Imagine an industry in which our core processors, ATM networks, card processors, printing services, and financial literacy programs are wholly, and cooperatively, owned. I want to be a force behind these efforts. Together we stand, divided we fall.

2) Financial literacy standardized tests in schools. We measure student performance in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and more. When it comes to financial literacy, however, young people are left out to dry. They say what gets measured gets managed, and it's obvious to me that the contrapositive is also true. Credit unions need to be behind the effort to get mandatory financial literacy education and testing in American high schools. I think we can make it happen.

3) In-house branches. The power of online banking, online bill pay, direct deposit, and telephone/SMS banking is nothing short of remarkable. Recently, some financial institutions have even released home draft capture scanners that allow remote check deposits. To me, it's time to put this all together. I am suggesting the end of physical branches. Video conferencing, reloadable cash cards, remote draft capture, online banking, online bill pay, direct deposit, electronic signatures, and other technologies can make this all possible. Time will allow it to happen.

When I'm buried, I highly doubt I'll have an invention like the Pringles can to hang my hat on. Quite frankly, I'm much more interested in impacting personal relationships than succeeding in commercial ventures. And that's what draws me to the credit union movement.

What would you like to be buried in?


Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmmm. What's about the same size and shape as a Pringles can that exists in the financial world? Oh, that's easy. It's a drive-thru tube canister. Any takers for having your remains stored in one of those? ;)

BenJoe said...

The Co-Op will spring for something for you, I promise.

Where do we begin? Sometimes I CU Execs aren't ready to take the plunge; brick and mortar is all they know.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Morriss That's hilarious! Hadn't thought of that! :)

@BenJoe In a way, I don't blame CU Execs for their reluctance to abandon bricks and mortar branches. In an environment that sees cut-throat competition for new business, execs fear that ticking off any existing members (rest assured getting rid of physical branches will be met with outrage from some) can turn a zero growth year into a negative growth year. No one wants to be a part of that. Such a decision would require an immense amount of courage...and patience to strike at the perfect time.

BenJoe said...


I think you are right on the money, I guess my feelings are directed to people not even wanting to try some new ideas. I love Tim McAlpine's ideas and Young and Free Alberta. But for some credit unions; even that is too radical. Sometimes just having e-statements is too radical. So I am wondering where the balance is, is there a balance, and what will the future hold for CU's if we don't embrace things like twitter, facebook, blogs, mobile banking, etc.

Brent Dixon said...

First: That guy was seriously committed to the bit.

Second: All three of those goals are fantastic. And I think more achievable among credit unions than any other FI. Well-said.

Third: I tried to think about what I'd like to be buried in, but it made me emo and I had to stop.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Brent - My bad, man...I was listening to Whiskeytown on my drive home from work. Somehow Ryan Adams made me go emo too, I suppose! :)

Winter said...

You know they recently opened a 20 year old pringles can and the chips were still good.

Pretty frightening, actually.

I have this crazy idea of one brand for all CUs with a sort of wild franchise system! Guess I'd have to move to Canada...

Love the idea of every home basically being a branch, as long as we don't have to put chains on the pens.

On the body storage issue - I guess I could opt for a safe deposit box as a budget crypt. Hmm... New fee opportunity?

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@winter The last thing I'm suggesting is having one brand for credit unions. Rather, I'm suggesting we collectively cut out many of the middle men that are driving our operating costs up. This would mean even better deals for our members.

As for the "new fee opportunity," if that's what you think the spirit of this movement is you are sorely mistaken.

Breathe said...

I was kidding about the fees. That was a joke. Just like I was kidding about the chained pens. My bad, I left off the JK...

On the branding, I think we've seen when one CU does serious marketing in an area, all CUs in an area can benefit. That said, it's interesting to envision a CU world with one brand - one cost - one message repeating. It's impossible I know, and I wasn't saying that's what YOU were suggesting. It's what I was envisioning in a perfect world.

That said, the task force on growth is considering an image campaign, something I think would work in new media very effectively. Maybe we can unite behind a message, not a brand and we can expand our penetration in every market. That would be a pringle-esque legacy (lol)

How about this for a message:
"Are you a victim of a bank, or a member of a credit union?"
That's what I ask people on airplanes...

I can get away with that since I travel coach and don't run into any bankers. HA!

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@breathe Sorry! I saw that it was an anonymous comment, and my first thought was that it was a banker trying to ruffle feathers. Another example of many in the last week that proves I should lighten up a bit! :)

The hardest part of the national branding campaign will be formulating the message, budget, and variable cost for credit unions. I've always thought that it would be easier to accomplish on the state level because we could localize the argument. In a world of CU community charters and increased intra-industry competition, this too seems like a tall task. Too many are looking for what's in it for their individual credit union, not the overall impact to the movement.

Pardon the "pie in the sky"ness of this comment, but why not go big? Really big! Imagine how small the per credit union cost would be to put two credit union image ads up during the Super Bowl. By my calculations it would be about $5,000/each on average. That's without adjusting up or down based on credit union asset size. To me, that's entirely doable. And imagine an audience of that size learning the difference between a credit union and a bank - in OUR words!

BTW - your comment on planes cracked me up!

John Tanillo "The Marketing Doctor" said...

Bauer's idea for the Pringles can was a good one. Although it was not only used for his product. The point is that his invention was very important for Pringles but it was still only one part of the process of building that brand. It’s the level of commitment to the product that tells us all we need to know about making a brand fly. At every point and on every level of P&G you can be sure that Bauer’s level of commitment was there…sweating details, thinking about the target market and refining the product and all its brand details!

Jeff Hardin said...

@John Tanillo - I couldn't agree more with what you said. People might think of the can when they hear the name Pringle's ... but if they buy, they're buying the chips.

I think it's cute that the guy wanted to buried in a Pringle's can ... dude must have had a really good sense of humor.