The Credit Union Link to James Arness

This entry was posted by Thursday, 9 June, 2011
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While driving home from the grocery store last week my girlfriend mentioned James Arness had passed.  It was sad news to hear, but not necessarily because I was an avid viewer of Gunsmoke or a fan of Mr. Arness’ acting.  It is very sad to hear of his passing because he has a significant link to credit union history.

Here’s how…

In 1977, ABC aired the “epic” western mini-series, “How the West Was Won,” staring James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, and Bruce Boxleitner.  The mini-series garnered a 50-share.  Due to the huge response, “How the West Was Won” returned in 1978 as a TV series.

During the 1970s, CUNA sponsored the National Advertising Program (NAP) an effort to pool credit union resources in order to create advertising campaigns and purchase advertising spots on a national scale.   At the time, the campaign claimed to reach over 325 million people through its combined magazine and television efforts.  As of 1978, the “crown jewels” of the campaign included award winning Tournament of Roses Parade floats and purchasing commercial spots during the “How the West Was Won” mini-series.

Continuing into the future, the NAP secured additional ads during the TV series and participation in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  Appeals for continued support stated the cooperative philosophy: “We have all reaped the benefits because we have all shared in the effort.  Our success shows that all kinds of people getting together can get things done.”

James Arness’ image was used by the NAP for counter displays, newspaper and magazine ads, stuffers, posters, and badges.  Below are some of the “Bullet Proof” ideas offered by the NAP at that time. You might find them helpful for your credit union:

  • Stage a “Credit Union Pardner Day” around the Old West theme at the credit union; encourage staff to wear bandanas and ten-gallon hats, to promote a new service at the credit union.
  • “Deputize” your credit union staff using sheriff’s badges to promote “How the West Was Won.”
  • Sponsor a Western night featuring a Western band or singers for your Annual Meeting.
  • Set up a canteen with coffee in the credit union encouraging pardners to feel welcome.
  • Sponsor a “Chuckwagon Dinner” at the credit union selling tickets for the event and conduct a contest for the member who brings in the most new members during the “HTWW” viewing time.
  • Organize a “possee” to clean up the neighborhood.  A good public relations effort for your credit union.

With the passing of James Arness the credit union movement loses another iconic figure.

James Arness, May 26,1923-June 3, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Credit Union Link to James Arness”

  1. Shawn,

    Thanks for sharing this bit of credit union history! I had no idea credit unions had a link to James Arnes. Makes me think it’s time to do another national credit union branding campaign (although maybe not with a Western theme!).

  2. Shawn San Roman

    The NAP actually utilized a number of different themes and major stars to promote credit unions. And, Credit Union Magazine ran an article in the February issues asking the same question, “Is it time for a National Ad Campaign.

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