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FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Northern Schools Federal Credit Union is leveling the credit/ debit card field by making the most of its natural surroundings. “Our biggest credit card competitor here offers airline mile credits for purchases made,” said Northern Schools FCU Vice President of Marketing Nevada Bovee. “We don’t have the ability to offer something like that but we wanted our card to not only energize members but also stand out from the rest without promotional gimmicks. Alaskans take such pride in their state and so we took our cue from that and so far the results have been great.” According to Bovee the time was right to revamp the credit cards. “We had to redo all our cards anyway to comply with the VISA settlement terms that cards clearly state debit,” said Bovee. “So we decided to use this as an opportunity to bring a centralized theme to all the cards that would encourage members to show it off and hopefully use it.” Discussions of how the cards could further brand awareness led to a theme of featuring a caribou, which is part of the credit union’s logo, in different settings that are representative of the credit union’s field of membership areas. The $77 million credit union turned to Lake Forest, California-based PSB, the Marketing SuperSource to find images that would help strengthen brand recognition, awareness and usage of its credit and debit cards among its members. For the teen debit card Bovee says she took the idea directly to the high school classrooms to have teens select their own card. “Our previous teen debit card was pink and purple, so while the girls may have been okay about carrying it it’s a different story for the guys,” said Bovee. “I teach a `Fundamentals of Finance’ workshop so it was a great way to educate the teens about the process of debit cards while getting them involved in selecting an image that best represents them.” The picture selected by the kids features a caribou against the midnight sun, as seen during summer solstice north of the Arctic Circle. The remaining debit and credit card images feature caribou against backdrops ranging from snow-capped mountains of Denali Park to the northern Aurora Borealis. At a price tag just under $12,000 Northern Schools FCU launched a complete coordinated media campaign in April. Scheduled to run in various phases over the next five months, the campaign includes television promotions, lobby posters, banners, statement inserts, direct mail by Certegy, newsletters and updated graphics on its Web site and employee name badges. In addition, Bovee says the television commercial, which shines the spotlight on the Alaskan landscape, can also be used for other promotions throughout the year. According to PSB CU Marketing Services Senior Account Representative David Lombardi, too many credit unions still subscribe to the myth that they can’t afford coordinated media campaigns. Lombardi says not only do such campaigns heighten exposure but they can also go a long way toward helping credit unions level the playing field with their competitors. Since all card reissuances are processed on a particular day, results are easy to track. According to Bovee, in just the first month card reissuance was up to 50 cards a day. Bovee says the images reinforce the credit union’s tagline of “Quiet strength, pride in Alaska.” “We are in a unique very competitive market here but we want people to realize that we’re one of a kind compared to other credit unions here that are either much smaller or hugely bigger-there isn’t anyone in our peer group here so we’re making the most of that position with our campaign,” said Bovee. “We know Alaskan Airlines is the most popular credit card in this area so we expect to be the secondary card members use.” Bovee says initial member response to the card and the commercials has been great and the added surprise bonus has been a marked increase in teen accounts. “The other day I used my card in a craft store and the cashier told me she had been seeing a lot of our new cards and really liked the new look,” said Bovee. “To see and hear that people are happy to use our cards now just makes our day.” [email protected]

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