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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Credit unions interested in fresh ideas for their marketing campaigns may want to consider plugging into their communities . Whether as a thank you or simply as a creative way to connect with members, some credit unions are looking to showcase their members’ talent in their latest marketing efforts. At Minneapolis-based TopLine Federal Credit Union, the search for a unique way to reward its most loyal members turned into an exclusive recording opportunity. “We were recently granted a community charter to serve about one million residents of Hannipeg County, so we wanted a gift that would have a broad appeal,” said TopLine FCU Vice President of Marketing Katie Pitman. “So we decided to draw on local artists and one of our staffers here is a huge fan of local musician Billy McLaughlin and from there the rest is history.” The credit union now has a CD written, produced and distributed exclusively for its use by McLaughlin. At a cost of just $5 each Pitman says the response has been extremely positive. “I can say the perceived value of his music is much higher than what we paid,” said Pitman. “We give a gift every year and I usually get a few complaints about it, but this year I’ve been getting messages filled with nothing but compliments.” As for McLaughlin, it marked the largest order he has received (some 2,000 CDs) and he composed seasonal songs that will not be released on any other compilation. In addition, to promote the CD, TopLine FCU incorporated a free performance by McLaughlin into the grand opening celebration of its new downtown Minneapolis branch. Pitman says a few individuals attending the “concert” also opened new accounts. At Kingston, New York-based Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, staffers needed a “few good eyes” to help produce its 2004 calendar. To celebrate its 2002 conversion to a community charter, the credit union hosted a community photo contest in the summer of 2003. “Basically we wanted a project that would underscore a sense of community that would involve the members and end up with a product that could be a wonderful gift to share,” said MVFCU Vice President of Marketing Nan Greenwood. “The calendar idea was perfect and by involving members in the project, we further defined the credit union difference by celebrating the community we serve.” Hundreds of photos were submitted and MVFCU asked the head of a local art department to select the final winning entries. Greenwood says final cuts were made based on seasonal and regional considerations to ensure that all three counties served were equally represented. Winning entries were then mounted and became part of a traveling photo exhibit to be featured in every branch. “We were blown away by the talent in the community,” said Greenwood. “We could have easily used another 50 images if we had space. And the members are raving about the calendar. It has just been win-win for everyone involved and it created a whole new avenue for reaching potential members.” The calendars which cost the credit union about $1 each were made available to members at no charge and were distributed to corporate partners, credit union business affiliates and the local chamber of commerce. According to Greenwood, the “photo tour” before publication not only generated a buzz about the calendars but also about the credit union. In addition to the pictures, the calendar itself includes a monthly credit union message and important credit union dates such as the annual meeting and International Credit Union Week. “This campaign has been such a success. It helped us recognize some talented members, share the excitement and celebration of the community and continue to do so for 12 months- which is a nice shelf life for a campaign,” said Greenwood. Greenwood and Pitman agree that they have only scratched the surface of such campaigns and will continue to look to locals for other campaigns. “As far as advice, I know it sounds simple and basic but especially with a community charter, you should make sure that the marketing effort is something unique and local,” said Pitman. “And not to sound trite remember `if you hold it they will come’ so plan accordingly,” added Greenwood. [email protected]

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