Unity One Credit Union Campaign Spanks Banks
Unity One Credit Union’s new Spank Free Banking campaign, is taking a no-holds-barred approach against banks.
The $209 million cooperative based in Fort Worth, Texas, launched the campaign in March and recently erected a giant billboard featuring a hand-print and a denim-clad female derriere.
The concept is a bit risque and could be seen as sexist to some, but Unity One reported positive feedback from members and the public.
“Using the backside and a hand strategically placed definitely is unlike anything the credit union has ever done in its 87-year history,” Erayne Hill, VP of marketing for the 30,000-member credit union said. “The imagery and creative definitely causes pause, but we think in a good way.”
She agreed the campaign is controversial, but she said it has proven effective.
“Absolutely it was a risk,” Hill said. “However, at the end of the day, we needed a powerful message with reach. I believe that we achieved that.”
“Surprisingly, a majority of comments have been quite favorable,” she continued. “We had a member say, ‘Spank Free? Hmmm … I love it!’ We love these reactions, especially from those in the communities we serve. It means that they are taking notice, and perhaps, the message will stick. We are glad to see consumers embrace fresh and interesting material.”
Hill added that with any new outside-the-box idea, there will always be naysayers.
“However, they have been few and far in between for Spank Free Banking. Our message is clear: We do not condone unnecessary hassles when it comes to managing your finances. Handling your money should never feel like a punishment.”
Read more: Campaign strategy and results ...
The multi-channel campaign skipped the expensive mediums of TV and radio in favor of social media and guerilla tactics, such as sponsoring ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ at local businesses and partnering with community organizations.
During the first Random Acts of Kindness event at a local gas station, Unity One staff members pumped free fuel.
“The staff members were shocked to receive hugs, honks and handshakes,” Hill said. “In fact, a Unity One teller and recent high school graduate said that he didn’t expect to feel so good giving something away.”
The campaign is faring well electronically and on social media, she said.
“Our click-through rate on e-mail is higher than normal,” she said. “The campaign’s landing page is drawing attention (1,208 views currently) and gaining views, and our Facebook impressions for certain posts have skyrocketed (585,000 total impressions, 407 new likes). The PPC and remarketing campaign shows CTR rates that are higher than typical credit union campaigns.”
Because the campaign’s original objective was to increase brand awareness, Unity One conducted a community study when launching the campaign and plans to perform another study when the campaign ends in late October.
“The leads generated from the campaign have been funneled to our branches to close, and at the campaign’s end, we will calculate ROI,” Hill said. “However, Unity One’s June loan growth was about 29%, May 23% and April 14%. Spank Free Banking began in April. Member growth rose from 2% to 4% in this time period. While we can’t attribute all the growth to Spank Free, it definitely plays a role.”
The credit union plans to wrap up the Spank Free Banking campaign with a large community event in collaboration with the Fort Worth YMCA.
Unity One launched the campaign by partnering with Glint Advertising and BlueSpire Strategic Marketing, she said.
“We asked for an attention-getter and they delivered,” Hill said. “Our CEO challenged the marketing team to change the rhetoric and hit pause on the stale financial industry imagery, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Unity CEO Gary Williams told CU Times that the campaign was devised after careful consideration.
“At a strategic planning session last year, we realized that although we were doing well, we knew we could do better,” Williams stated in an email. “We needed to do something to create greater brand recognition.”
“Unity One Credit Union is a lean mean credit union machine; we operate efficiently without excessive head count. Therefore, the marketing/PR team is composed of two individuals,” he said. “We handle a large portion of work in house; however, we recognize that partnering helps us stay competitive and connected to industry trends, saves time and maximizes key efforts. We’ve enjoyed working with Bluespire and Glint Advertising on this campaign because the relationships are easy, and the outcome is far from cookie-cutter.”
For other cooperatives considering going out on a limb with marketing, Williams offered some advice.
“Thinking outside of the box can be uncomfortable, but you look at your options, think about them and trust that your marketing teams and those that they have partnered with have the experience and expertise to handle challenges,” he said.