Billboard ads deliver messages in the form of mathematical equations and direct consumers to a microsite, YouAreSoSMART.org, to enter their guess and find answers to some of the campaign's questions.
For example, the answer on the site to the billboard equation 4x13-52 is 0 as in "No ATM Fees. That means every ATM is your ATM. Pretty sweet, huh?" The site also provides financial tips and details on NuUnion CU's SoSMART checking program, which was launched in late 2007.
"The checking account, which offers a high interest rate, helped provide us with a deeper relationship with members," said Senior Vice President of Marketing Chris Day. "We now have about 13,000 SoSMART accounts with over $55 million in deposits."
He added that despite paying above-market interest rates, the checking accounts have proven to be profitable. The idea behind the billboard campaign of getting people thinking reinforces the NuUnion CU image of being a forward-thinking financial institution, Day stated.
"Working with local agency Vision Creative, we wanted to extend our brand into the advertising by using a completely unique approach by creating interest and allowing members to go out and gather more information on their own," said Day. "This 'pull' approach to advertising leaves the consumer the choice to take the next step by trying to solve the equation and finding out more. It's fresh and unexpected fun from a financial institution."
The grassroots campaign is part of NuUnion CU's word-of-mouth marketing efforts. For the past two years, the credit union has been shifting its marketing dollars from mass media to word-of-mouth. From creating specific campaigns for each of its 14 markets to the YouAreSoSMART billboards, NuUnion is doing its part to be visible and get locals talking.
"We're seeing how effective we can be without spending a lot of money, and just being visible in the communities we serve helps with word of mouth," said Day. "What we've found is the awareness has gone up as well as hearing at meetings the appreciation for our community involvement."
The marketing team works with individual branch managers to identify what the credit union should be involved with in each area and creates the materials accordingly. Every month the team then tracks how many awareness tactics were implemented.
"The managers understand the member demographics, interests and make the contacts in the community so we help support them," said Day.
The current campaign will run through the summer, and according to Day, plans are underway to run a follow-up campaign as the microsite has been extremely useful for tracking.
"We know word of mouth is the best way to market and advertise. Surveys show that television, radio and newspaper just are not as effective as they used to be, and we realized it was time to do things differently. We have seen a tremendous jump in traffic to the microsite since the billboards went up," said Day. "It is definitely creating some buzz. We even got a few e-mails about people pulling over and getting their calculators out trying to figure it out. This has a broad appeal while also targeting the younger 20- to 30-year-old market."
He added that questions about the boards have also given staffers an opportunity to share the NuUnion difference on a more personal, grassroots level.