Charlotte, N.C., may be big banker territory but Vice President Marketing/Business Development Deb McLean has managed to help Carolina Postal Credit Union carve its own niche with a mix of innovation and a bit of irreverence.
"To me, it's just one more way to set us apart in the marketplace; bankers are far too uptight to have any fun with their own brand," said McLean. "At the end of the day we make sure we're meeting our members' needs."
When it comes to offering new services or products, the 20-year credit union marketing veteran focuses on convenience, education and deepening relations with its U.S. Postal Service members. A priority payday checking that allows U.S. Postal-employee members who have direct deposit and a checking account access to their payday on Wednesday instead of Friday helped increase CP CU's checking account portfolio by 13% and increased overall membership by 2.29%.
"By force-posting the U.S. Postal Service employees' payroll two days early from the ACH warehouse we were able to make our members' lives easier since Friday is usually the busiest and most stressful day of the week for U.S.P.S. letter carriers," said McLean. "In the first month we doubled the number of new checking accounts opened and increased core deposits $1.2 million."
Always ready to have some fun while generating buzz, McLean drew national media attention last year to CP CU with the "I Love My Hoopty" viral campaign. Listening to loan officers and researching the membership base, particularly rural U.S.P.S. letter carriers, McLean learned that since they are not assigned an official governmental jeep to drive their routes, they often purchase an extremely used and beat up car dubbed a Hoopty for their route.
"Members would come in asking if we did Hoopty loans and we thought why not?" said McLean. "The Hoopty is something that at some point everyone has needed whether for a second job, a rural route or a teenager's first car."
Realizing that everyone had their own Hoopty story, McLean developed a campaign incorporating postcards, banners, flyers and an interactive blog devoted to the love of a good Hoopty. Members were invited to post their Hoopty stories and photos to the blog.
There was also a contest in search of everything from the ugliest color Hoopty to best utilization of duct tape on a Hoopty, and winners were provided a CP CU emergency care kit containing jumper cables, fix-a-flat, flares and a roll of duct tape. All submissions were also given an I Love My Hoopty bumper sticker, which turned out to be a popular stocking stuffer gift for the holidays among members. The site also featured a Hoopty rap and a YouTube video entitled "Ragged Ride Blues."
McLean said the campaign costs turned out to be "extremely inexpensive" since the blog-spot was free and she served as the site's administrator.
"It was more of an investment of time and creativity," said McLean. "This whole campaign was not about providing 'bad' loans or even title car loans but really another way to open up a dialogue with our members about what their needs are and how Carolina Postal can meet those needs. That we had a lot of fun and got a lot of attention is just icing on the cake."
It also boosted the bottom line. Secured and installment loans increased by 49% for a direct return on investment of 325% during the campaign period. McLean also points to the Hoopty campaign during new hire U.S.P.S. orientations as an example of the difference between credit unions and banks.
"We can pretty much guarantee that Bank of America will never have an I Love my Hoopty campaign, and that is proof that by just providing what members really need and want can open doors and help deepen relationships," said McLean. "Let's say they were buying the Hoopty for a teen's first car, we ask if their teen also needs a checking account and debit card. Do we need to set the parent up with a financial adviser about college costs or a home equity loan to pay college tuition? The conversations just grow from there."
The campaign even gained international recognition. It was featured in the United Kingdom-based financial and professional market trend analysis and forecasting firm VRL KnowledgeBank's best practices report on successful social media.
For McLean, effective credit union marketing boils down to a mix of solid research, innovation, results and finding creative, fun ways to better connect with members-from there she says anything is possible.