Listerhill Credit Union has literally taken its members’ requests to heart.
Sparked by members constantly asking for promotional swag to share with friends and family, the Muscle Shoals, Ala.-based credit union has launched an I Heart My Credit Union campaign.
“It’s rare in the financial industry for people to find a business they are so passionate about that they want to promote it,” said Brad Green, president/CEO of the over $536 million credit union. “People often ask us for T-shirts and other promotional items. They want to promote us.”
According to Kristen Mashburn, marketing director at Listerhill CU, at first I Heart My CU was to be a unique way to celebrate International Credit Union Day.
“We wanted to do something besides our usual lobby snacks. So we thought the best thing we could do was raise awareness about how credit unions are different from other financial institutions,” said Mashburn. “All the research shows that consumers are over the hard sales pitches and prefer their own fact-based decision making. So why not give people the information so they can decide for themselves what is best for their situation?”
She added that once the decision was made to combine practical information about credit unions with member testimonials, iheartmycreditunion.org was born. The new, socially driven website would offer bare facts, comparison charts of credit union and bank services while giving visitors a chance to share their credit union experiences.
“From the beginning, we wanted it to have a grassroots from the people feel to appeal to local consumers,” said Mashburn. “This was all about consumer choice not persuasion or the hard sell. We wanted it understated, sincere and noncorporate, so no Listerhill CU logo. It was about creating a trusted community resource.”
In keeping with that sense of authenticity, if banks had the better deal the comparison charts on the site reflected that. For those interested in joining a credit union, the site provides asmarterchoice.org link to help consumers identify the local credit union that’s right for them. In addition, the look of the site is minimal, with handwritten fonts and has three simple categories: Who We Are, which discusses the credit union difference; How We Compare; and What Experts Are Saying, which links to media coverage of the credit union industry.
“The copy, videos and testimonials all have a friendly, personal touch,” said Mashburn. “One of the biggest challenges was paring down the copy. With all the negative financial news in the media, it’s about educating people about their alternatives. We love our members and that is why we wanted to put the information out there. If people join other credit unions because of this website, we’ve done our job.”
Given all the press coverage credit unions garnered at the time, she said it was a no-brainer to make I Heart My Credit Union an ongoing campaign. To generate site traffic, the Listerhill marketing team relied on guerilla marketing tactics and peppering the region with campaign billboards on International Credit Union Day.
In addition to email releases and handing out car window decals, a group of Listerhill staffers formed the Where’s Your Heart Squad to go out in the community. The squad, sporting red and white T-shirts with iheartmycreditunion.org, could be spotted at various local businesses awarding $5 to 100 lucky customers who happened to pay using their credit union debit card. Each squad member would explain, “Though some are charging for their debit cards, we’re giving you $5 for using ours.”
“While a $5 cash giveaway isn’t going to help anyone retire early, it did put a smile on their faces once they got over the shock that someone is genuinely giving them free money no strings attached,” joked Mashburn. “We tried to pick businesses that we had some sort of existing relationship with like the places we go to eat or shop frequently and it’s helped in developing some new relationships with local businesses as well. The shop owners and staff really embraced us and were excited about our being there. Many were even proactively asking customers if they had a Listerhill debit card. We definitely plan to keep the squad busy with more interactions like this one.”
She added that plans are also underway to find creative ways to give out the window decals.
“One goal is to see a vehicle at stop light that doesn’t belong to a Listerhill employee with that sticker on,” said Mashburn. “It’s a simple, inexpensive but huge way to get the message out. Think about it. If people love their credit union enough to put it on their vehicle it’s pretty powerful. I don’t think it’s too ambitious to hope to see a fleet of vehicles with those decals. That’s when you will start to see how credit unions have made an impact on people who maybe never really had a reason to look at a credit union until now. So we plan to continue to talk to them in the way they want to hear because it’s not always about the rate. I think it’s about sharing and showing that real connection credit unions have to the people and businesses in their communities. Those true member stories about how their credit union has helped them, speaks to everyone.”