One rogue monkey has helped GTE Federal Credit Union build brand awareness online.
For more than a year now, a young rhesus macaque has traveled across treetops and through backyards spanning three counties and more than 400 square miles in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area. Dubbed the "Mystery Monkey of Tampa" for his ability to elude capture, the primate has not only become a part of local legend but has also drawn national attention, featured on newscasts, websites and even "The Colbert Report" and attracting more than 80,000 Facebook fans.
"Like the pet rock or moon ring, the monkey, who is spotted every now and then, is just this wacky local phenomenon," said Doug Richardson, senior vice president of marketing at the $1.5 billion credit union. "And every time he escapes, even after being shot with tranquilizers, the legend grows."
Wanting to tap into the local legend's popularity, Richardson decided to launch an online GTE Monkey Mystery Tour contest. Running from June 14 to July 8, the showdown between human and monkey had participants logging onto www.gtefcumysterymonkeytour.com for a chance to win $1,500. After creating a tour log on the microsite, participants opted to become a fan of GTE FCU on Facebook to get clues to four locations where the monkey had been spotted. The grand prize went to Bill Bresee, the first person to crack the case by submitting all four locations correctly on his tour log. In addition, the credit union gave official Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay T-shirts to new members who joined by July 6.
The T-shirts came from the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, which houses and cares for primates from across the country that are former pets.
"It is a great place where these animals can happily live out the rest of their lives, and it would be a great home for our Mystery Monkey should he ever be caught," said Richardson. "So we were happy to offer the T-shirts and make a donation as part of this promotion."
To keep the fun going, the CU will send a free Mystery Monkey T-shirt to a randomly selected fan each month.
"For us this contest is just the latest in our attempts to make our credit union's approach to social media fun, fresh and engaging," Richardson said. "Building our online presence over time helps demonstrate what a credit union is and as we grow that channel fans may not walk in tomorrow but when they do have a financial need there's already a relationship and trust in us so they'll check us out first."
With people nowadays spending more time browsing Facebook in the evening than watching television, Richardson said it is worth it to grow that channel, especially as the credit union continues to reach out to the young adult demographic. The entire Mystery Monkey campaign was exclusively promoted online.
Richardson said that as far as he's concerned, the promotion's success lay in spreading the word about GTE FCU through conversation and buzz about a local happening without being overtly commercial. He added that the local flair also reinforces GTE FCU's brand image as a true community partner.
"When it comes to social media the bottom line is that credit unions need to tell their story and it's another communication tool," he said. "We not only promoted the GTE FCU brand but the credit union brand and what it stands for as well and that is something you can't really convey in a commercial or billboard. Just the exposure and buzz generated alone has been worth it. I could not have gotten 25 television spots for the cost of this campaign."
As for the monkey-he's still at large and his fan base is growing.