JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a bid to promote the grand opening of its downtown branch, Vystar Credit Union has paved the streets with money -literally. As part of a three day marketing promotion, about $1,200 worth of half dollars and quarters with stickers promoting the grand opening were strategically placed within a four-block radius on sidewalks, steps, in buildings and it got people downtown buzzing. As the credit union’s first downtown branch, the local architect/engineering company RSH designed the small space to function as a member service center. The branch features two member services offices, Internet banking kiosks and two ATM machines. With a focus on creating a more service-oriented rather than transactional environment the branch is manned by three employees -without a teller among them. Members who need to make a deposit can do so at the high tech ATMs, which provide receipts printed with a copy of the check deposited. “It is our first venture into downtown Jacksonville and we decided to leverage the electronics to handle the basics so that the employees there could really focus their attention on helping members whether it is opening accounts, providing loans or something as simple as taking the time to answer their questions,” said VyStar CU Senior Vice President of Marketing Judy Walz. “It has a warm, open feel and even includes an area with the barrel chairs and desks that flip up, which members have been using on their lunch hour to sit with their computers. For such a small branch it’s a very cool, well-planned space.” Walz says spreading the word about the branch to downtown locals had to be unique and leave an impression and the typical newspaper ads and radio spots just wouldn’t work well with this target market. “We talked about maybe doing walking sandwich boards because we knew it had to be something different to get to downtown people,” said Walz. The marketing team lucked out by teaming up with local marketing agency Kreinest & Associates, which had just moved into the downtown area as well. The idea of finding money was sparked in part by Walz’ husband’s habit. “We were all talking about what we could do and I brought up how when my husband walks around he is always looking down looking for money and how excited he gets when he happens to find it, and as we were laughing started thinking this was something we could have a lot of fun with,” said Walz. “We’re really lucky because the board was very supportive and commented that this was one of the most contemporary things they’ve seen and told us to give it a shot.” Using “guerilla tactics” the team took downtown by storm as coins were placed everywhere. Vystar CU business cards with two quarters could also be found taped to parking meters and the credit union sponsored a Jacksonville Transit Authority downtown bus allowing people to ride free for a month. For three days, playing up the “free” concept the team split up in groups of three sporting gold t-shirts that read, “Free is good but we can do better than free” while handing out ice-cream and moon pies during lunch hour around the downtown area. “We had a lot of fun with this,” said Walz. “We even printed on the moonpie wrappers `A lot of financials promise the moon-we deliver’ and the response has been phenomenal. People come in laughing with their coins and they keep telling us how happy they are we did this because otherwise they’d never know we were downtown or where we were located.” During the grand opening festivities it is estimated that over 1,000 people came through the branch over the three-day marketing blitz. In addition to dropping coins, the credit union also raffled the chance to win $1,000 and gave new members $15 towards a free lunch. Walz says the “treasure hunt” also resulted in lots of free publicity from local newspapers and news stations. “What we love about this campaign is that it gave us an opportunity to deal one-on-one with people here and we got far more notice by doing something a little crazy and from the practical side let’s face it promotional items cost a lot more than just 50 cents each,” said Walz. “In total we spent about 75% of what it normally costs to promote a new branch.” Walz adds that it is still too early to tell but if the downtown branch does well, the credit union may either look for a bigger space or open more smaller branches downtown. [email protected]

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