KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Apparently it is not how much but what information is placed on a bald head that will appeal to elusive Generation X’ers here. “We wanted the students here to know that UTFCU accounts really stand out in a crowd and that we are `head and shoulders’ above the rest,” said University of Tennessee Federal Credit Union Vice President of Marketing Katy Jett. “The ad’s shock value and the words `free checking’ didn’t hurt either.” In just two months the $104 million credit union opened 380 new student accounts, which average 3.42 services per account. While some may think being a university credit union would be a no brainer for recruiting students, Jett says that given the political nature of a state funded university, UTFCU does not get the full support of the university when it comes to telling staff and students about the benefits of the credit union. Another issue Jett faced was overcoming the most common myth about this “pierced, tattooed, highly computer literate, MTV generation”- that they do not have any money. “Let me tell you whether it is from their parents or a campus job, these students have a lot of disposable income go through their accounts,” said Jett. “Yet I was surprised how many of them didn’t know how much they were paying in fees at other institutions or how many never even look at their statement to balance their check book.” With board and management agreeing that people stay loyal to the institution that helped them out during their teen and college years, the marketing department set out surveying students to find out their expectations from a financial institution and what services they would be willing to pay for. Once the results were in UTFCU then grouped services into a free student account that offered online banking, debit cards, e-statements, a Web site with educational financial information, free checks and free ATM transactions at numerous ATMs around town. Jett also speaks at six to eight Freshman Studies classes. These required classes with about 200 students cover the basics of finances, budgeting, savings and how the number of credit cards and payment history can impact credit ratings. “There is a local bank that will charge customers if they come into a branch to ask a question- that was eye opening for us. It made us realize that other institutions are banking on students’ naivet,” said Jett. “While I don’t push the credit union during these classes, I do let them know at the end of class how credit unions are different than banks. We are there for them. So please come on in, call us on the phone, ask us what you can do if mom’s check isn’t coming and so forth.” With an emphasis on accuracy and friendliness, since the survey found that once this group receives good service it could change their whole level of loyalty, Jett began thinking about a marketing campaign that would play up the credit union’s best attributes. For an attention grabbing ad promotion, Jett turned to Texas-based advertising agency Curly & Company to “toss around a few wild ideas”. “When I first saw the bald head and shoulders with the words free checking, I just knew it was what we needed to be more competitive on campus and attract more of the untapped student market,” said Jett. “One of the big things we learned from our member survey was that the students did not want to be treated like children- so we just focused on giving them the information and let them be the ones making the decisions. And by showing and not telling them what they need we have not only sophomores and juniors joining but also graduate students.” For a total of $12,000 UTFCU ran the ad on billboards positioned around campus, in the student newspapers and on the back of the staff and student directory, which is used by 25,000 students. “While we spent a lot for my budget, it was worth it because we are still getting play time from this and we’ll probably run the ad again in the student orientation issue in August and September,” said Jett. “Our ads have been the talk of the town. As long as you treat Gen X’ers with respect and deal with them as adults this group will be pretty loyal and the best part is that they will tell anyone who listens to them about your credit union. They may not do a lot of high ticket things but building that relationship will mean more in the long run.” [email protected]

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