Three CUs See Big Card Marketing Campaign Results
On April 6, Card Services for Credit Unions (CSCU), a card-processing association headquartered in Tampa, Fla., announced the winners of its 2015 Card Marketing Awards – an honor that shines a spotlight on the industry's most creative and innovative card marketing campaigns.
The awards celebration is still several weeks away, but CU Times recently spoke with three of the 28 winning credit unions about how they created attention-getting campaigns that got big results. Here's what they said.
Quest Credit Union
Award: First place, Overall Credit Card Campaign, medium-sized credit union ($250-$499 million)
Campaign: “The holidays don't have to cost an arm and a leg”
Campaign lead: Valerie Taylor, vice president, business development
What they did: When Quest merged with another credit union in 2010, it absorbed new members – few of whom knew Quest offered credit cards, Taylor said. As part of a multi-year marketing plan to address the issue, the credit union, which has $261 million in assets and 24,000 members, ran a two-part promotion last year.
Quest, which is in Topeka, Kan., does its own media buying, so it already had contracts for billboard, radio and newspaper ad space for the campaign, Taylor said, but she also sent email blasts to targeted members during the promotion.
“Our members do not respond to things like direct mail,” she said.
Taylor said advertising was important, but front-line staff members were the primary marketers of the cards. So, the majority of her budget went toward staff incentives.
“Some of them are extremely motivated by that, and that alone is what gets them through the, ‘God forbid I have to sell something,’ mentality, because they see it on their paychecks,” she said. “So many folks, especially long-term staff, they were maybe hired at a time where the skill of being a salesman wasn't necessary. We think that they not only have the abilities, but they are some of the most important folks on the front lines with our members. They really build relationships with them, and so we want to utilize those relationships to help spread the word of our products.”
The results: During the promotion months, it brought in 307 new Visas – a full 10% increase over Quest's normal pace, Taylor said.
Lessons learned: Beware of the holidays. “We did note that most of the time, from prior experience with this campaigning, that our members kind of started to glaze over in December. It was better to catch them before they were in the true holiday rush,” Taylor explained.
Injecting humor made a difference too, she said.
“I think we’ve been a little bit traditional in the past, and we had people respond and remember this particular marketing campaign because of its humor,” she said. “We did have this stuff out on Facebook and it got a lot of likes, whereas your typical ‘apply now and save up for the holidays, here's a picture of Santa’ – that doesn't necessarily work. You’ve got to show them that you’re just as inspired by your product and they should be, too.”
Last but not least, she said, take pride in not outsourcing.
“I would say never doubt what you can do yourself,” she said. “You know your staff most. You know their strengths and their weaknesses, and so you know how far to push them. You also know your members.”
Read more: Columbine FCU uses a special mascot to snag new cardholders...
Columbine Federal Credit Union
Award: First place, Overall Credit Card Campaign, small-sized credit unions ($0-$249 million)
Campaign: “Mitch Haywood's facts”
Campaign lead: Matt Reber, vice president of marketing and business development
What they did: Columbine, which has $51 million in assets and about 4,600 members, ran its award-winning campaign from June through August 2014.
“I’ve been doing this long enough that I know just about when the promotions are going to get stale. Typically with my members, it's roughly three months,” Reber explained. Columbine is based in Englewood, Colo.
The campaign put a new spin on a familiar face. “We have kind of an unofficial spokesperson we use; it's basically just a stock photo of this guy with a handlebar moustache. We’ve been using him for several years and we initially kicked him out for an auto promotion because he kind of looks like a sleazy car salesman,” Reber explained. “Any time we’ve used him for the auto promotion, it works because it's eye-catching and really funny – and it's tasteful, but kind of on the edge of tasteful. Totally on a whim, kind of scrambling my brain for ideas, I thought okay, let's put him in a suit. Let's pimp him out and see if we can swing some cards here. It worked.”
Reber said the campaign message to members was that they were wasting money if they were using a card that wasn't Columbine's. “That brought the whole point home using these ridiculous facts, if you will,” he said.
Columbine did direct mail; everything else was either in the lobby or online, Reber said. That included posters and scrolling marketing messages on the TVs in the lobby, as well as banner ads on the credit union's website.
The results: “We ended up getting 44 new cards, which for us is pretty decent,” Reber said. It came with a little over $200,000 in new limits, just about $95,000 in balances. All said and done with all those figures is about a 20% increase year over year.”
Lessons learned: Research the idea first. “I wanted to do something that focused on getting points and doing a balance transfer,” Reber said. “My initial thought process was, because it was going into summer, to tie in a travel theme to it. Then I did some Googling and realized that that idea is super played out. It would have been a good promotion but it's just fairly overused, and pretty much every tagline that I could come up with for the promotion had already been used by some other credit union somewhere.”
Reber also learned to ride successful campaigns longer. “I probably didn't run the promotion as long as I could have…but I have this fear of overdoing promotions,” he said. “I ran it for three months. I probably could have extended out another month and squeezed out probably an extra $30,000 in new lines.”
Columbine's small size didn't deter Reber creatively. “Shoot for the stars,” he advised. “We’re putting out quality marketing pieces that are eye-catching and humorous and getting the attention of the members in order for them to open the products that we want.”
Read more: Fox Communities CU uses an incentive in its campaign...
Fox Communities Credit Union
Award: First place, Overall Debit Card Campaign, large-sized credit unions ($500 million-plus)
Campaign: “$10 gift card for 15 or more debit purchases”
Campaign leads: Monica Campbell, financial analyst; Amanda Brown, marketing communication specialist and Danielle Jost, creative specialist
What they did: The winning campaign at Fox Communities CU, which has $1 billion in assets and about 74,000 members, ran from March 1 to March 31, 2014. It targeted members who had low debit card usage and offered them $10 gift cards if they made 15 or more PIN or signature purchases in March 2014, Campbell said.
“FIS Debit Insights, along with Saylent, helped us to identify low POS – PIN and signature – transaction volume accounts, which enabled us to develop an incentive-based promotion to reward our members for using their Fox debit card for purchases,” Campbell explained. The campaign broke even after just two months, she added.
The results: After only six months, Fox had an estimated year one ROI of 433% for the campaign, Campbell said. “For the targeted group of members, transaction volume increased by 119%, interchange increased by 115% and spend increased by 87%,” she said.
About 17% of the credit union's targeted members qualified for the campaign by using their debit cards for purchases more than 15 times during the month, she added.
Lessons learned: “I suggest digging deeper into your product transactional data,” Campbell advised. “The numbers can paint a clear picture of where your strengths and weaknesses are. Target those individuals who use your card products less than your average member.”