NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Common Wealth Credit Union of Lloydminster, Alberta, added the Marketing Association of Credit Unions' MACQUEE Award to its trophy case at MAC's annual conference award dinner May 22. The $1.6 billion Common Wealth picked up three CUES Golden Mirror awards last week.
The winning Young & Free checking promotion relies heavily upon technology and social media, and produced 319 new members from September 2007 through January 2008, boasting an ROI of 359%.
Common Wealth hired Chilliwack, British Columbia-based agency Currency Marketing for creative and strategy assistance to promote the account to the finicky Gen Y audience.
The promotion featured a provincewide search for a spokesperson between the ages of 19 and 25 who would essentially work as a part-time business development representative, communicating with potential young members in person and online. Three finalists were selected from video entries, with 19-year-old visual artist Larissa Walkiw selected as the winner after a fierce online voting competition.
"We really hit the jackpot when we found Larissa," said Nala Henkel, vice president of strategy at Currency Marketing.
"She's an amazingly talented person, and one of most important things about her is she's an unbelievable communicator. She's a visual artist, so all the graphics and visuals you see online are her work, and she comes up with some of her own promotion ideas."
Walkiw is the creative genius behind the promotion's YouTube video, in which the artist uses simple stick figures to explain the differences between credit unions and banks. The video, which Henkel calls "the video seen 'round the world", has 20,000 views on YouTube.
Young & Free's use of the Internet and social media was essential to connecting with its target market, Henkel said. Walkiw posts daily blog entries on a specific Young & Free Web site (www.youngfreealberta.com), and also makes use of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube to promote the account and Common Wealth membership.
"One of the things we quickly discarded was to make the site it's own community, because it didn't make sense," Henkel said. "That market is already using these existing social media sites, so it made more sense to go to where they are."
The strategy expert credited Common Wealth President/CEO Jeff Mulligan for his courage in granting creative blogging license to the quirky, 19-year-old new hire.
"It was a long process to get them comfortable with it," Henkel said, "but Jeff had a vision of providing service to this age group, and the program complimented that."
The promotion also included direct mail, in-branch artwork, new member packages, a referral program and outdoor advertising. Walkiw also travels throughout the province in a company car, equipped with a laptop, camcorder, phone and a paid gas card.
Henkel said the young spokeswoman will focus more on sales during the second half of the year. Finding a way to open new accounts on site in real time is at the top of Common Wealth's business development to-do list, she said.
In addition to 319 new members, nearly 1,000 existing members switched to the free checking account as of January. Common Wealth spent $315,000 during that time.
The entry that produced the most audience interaction was $3.8 billion Wescom Credit Union's Friends Draw Friends entry, which promoted its new Sunday branch hours. Most questions centered on how the credit union manages staff seven days a week in all 55 branches.
Deena Spicer, Wescom's vice president of marketing and communications, said the idea of Sunday hours came from a planning session, in which CEO Darren Williams asked his executive team how Wescom could stand apart from the competition, particularly Wachovia, which was entering the Southern California market at the time.
"We've had a lot of positive comments from members, especially the older folks who go to church, and because they're already out and about, the come in to do their banking," Spicer said. The Sunday hours have changed the credit union's transactional flow a bit, with Thursday through Sunday being the busiest branch days.
"Our Sunday transaction numbers are comparative to how our Wednesdays used to perform," she said.
Wescom's executive team takes turns being the official executive on duty each weekend. In addition to branch staff, back office staff also was recruited to put in Sunday hours. Though each branch added one additional transactional supervisor, Spicer said the credit union has incurred relatively few additional costs.
Friends Draw Friends promoted checking accounts based on referrals, and resulted in 800 new checking accounts over a nine-week period, with an ROI of 352%.
Other finalists included the $1.6 billion Bellco Credit Union of Greenwood Village, Colo., the $246 million Kern Federal Credit Union of Bakersfield, Calif., and the $742 million US Federal Credit Union of Burnsville, Minn.