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Archive for October, 2009

Community FirstBank in Charleston, SC recently launched ‘Have You Found Your Smile Today?’ – a fun and buzzworthy promotion where each weekday, October 8th through October 30th, $100 is hidden around the city and clues are given via radio, Facebook and Twitter as to where the money is located. Participants in this mini scavenger hunt must correctly decode the clues to find out where the day’s “smiley bank” is located. Inside the grinning yellow ball are instructions on where to pick up the $100. New clues are added each day until someone finds the smiley bank.

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In addition to giving out a total of $1700 in prize money throughout October, anyone who opens a checking account at one of the bank’s six branches before November 4th gets a free gift and is entered to win $500. Considering the small size of the bank and the limited time frame, one’s odds in the drawing aren’t that bad.

The promotion is a good example of how word of mouth marketing / social networking and traditional media can complement each other. Clues are given out on four radio stations, in addition to the bank’s Twitter feed and Facebook page. Community FirstBank has over 400 fans on Facebook – pretty successful compared to most financial institutions. I’m glad to see that their page doesn’t just repeat the same information as their website. Instead, the information is value adding: daily clues, photos of winners, community news and events.

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For a promotion, ‘Have You Found Your Smile Today?’ is pretty inexpensive and was executed with the limited resources of a small bank. Regardless, it seems to be getting a lot of people’s attention in the Charleston area. Hopefully in addition to generating excitement about free cash, it will also generate some new account openings.

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I am a fan of Estee Lauder’s latest promotion, which I think will end up being a successful paring of social media and interactive marketing. The high-end cosmetics brand is offering free makeovers and photo shoots to women at select department store locations across the country, starting at Bloomingdale’s in New York. No purchase is necessary, but shoppers will have to approach the counter, chat with a representative, and wear the brand’s cosmetics to participate. After having makeup applied by an expert, a photographer takes pictures that the person can use on their social networking profiles. They will even touch up the photos before delivering printed and digital versions to the lucky lady. (Though considering this Estee Lauder photoshop disaster, I don’t know if you can trust them to properly use the airbrush tool.)

So how is this a successful use of social media? Well, each of the profile pictures will have Estee Lauder’s logo watermarked in the background, thus appearing on hundreds – if not thousands – of women’s social networking pages for free. (This is, of course, unless those women know how to photoshop the logo out.) The entire promotion plays to people’s vanity. Who doesn’t want to get a makeover and then have hot professional photos taken of themselves? It essentially allows women to play at being models – a very buzzworthy idea. I’ve told several people about it and am keeping tabs on if the promotion comes to our local Saks.

/Maija

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If you’ve been an avid reader of this blog and our sister blog, The Story, you know that we’ve been preaching the use of Word of Mouth Marketing tactics for years – but you still may not fully realize how your bank or credit union marketing department can use word of mouth to increase your results.

Well, reading this blog is a great way to start learning.

Another great way to learn is to join us for Jeff’s upcoming webinar, Bottle the Buzz: Word of Mouth Marketing for Credit Unions, hosted by the Marketing Association of Credit Unions on Weds, Oct. 21 at 1pm Pacific.

During this hour-long webinar, Jeff will discuss word of mouth basics and shed some light on how it can be more effective than traditional media, considering both cost and trustworthiness.

Word of Mouth marketing is an excellent method of gaining customer loyalty and reaching your target audience in a compelling way.

Check out Jeff’s webinar on October 21st to learn more about how you can put this effective form of marketing to work for your credit union or bank.

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First Direct, the UK internet/telephone bank and subsidiary of HSBC, is leveraging its positive word of mouth reputation with a new microsite that highlights people’s sentiments about the bank – both good and bad. The Marketing Communications Manager for First Direct, Natalie Cowen, says the microsite is, “a very open and transparent way of projecting the voice of our customers.”

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The microsite gathers mentions of the First Direct brand from social media feeds, blogs and message boards, and displays them for all to see. Visitors can also post their comments directly on the site in the Talking Point area. There is no one else in the industry that is facilitating public conversation about their brand in such an honest and open manner. It is clear that First Direct is embracing the principles of social media and word of mouth marketing, and their forward-thinking approach to communication should do well to differentiate them from the masses.

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First Direct understand that their new business comes largely from customer referrals, and that referrals are more believable when people hear both positive and negative testimonials. In addition to posting them on the microsite, the bank will be taking a selection of people’s comments and using them in a print, digital out of home and online campaign.

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I admire First Direct for allowing the site to be a real-time aggregate source of positive and negative public feedback. It would be daring of any company to do this, but it’s especially so for a bank because the entire financial industry has received so much criticism over the past year. The First Direct brand is known for its exemplary customer service and for having a vocal fan base. This microsite is indicative of how much the bank trusts its customers to spread positive word of mouth. How many financial institutions can say that? Certainly not Bank of America.

/Maija

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The financial services industry really needs to learn this. Today’s post on Andy Sernovitz’s blog, “Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That” reminded me of how many financial institutions share the same name. For example, Google search “First Bank” – you will come up with several banks on page 1 with that name. Hardly a recipe for standing out, is it? Besides just being forgettable, there are other issues associated with sharing a common name:

1. Only one bank gets to have a easy-to-remember URL of http://www.firstbank.com. The others have to settle for weird variations, which are more difficult to recall.

2. When a consumer is looking for the First Bank in their area, they are going to pull up a long list of results and perhaps have to go through several sites before they find the right one.

3. It’s hard to have a differentiated and uniquely positioned bank brand when your name, or similar variations of it, are shared by other financial institutions.

Could this literally affect the amount of business a bank gets? Perhaps. Sernovitz asks this of himself, “Does Andy Sernovitz get more referrals than social media expert Peter Kim because there are few more Kims than Sernovitzs out there?”. Something to think about!

You don’t have to name your bank anything super crazy to stand out, it just needs to be something that is:

1. Different enough that you’re the only one
2. Simple enough that everyone can say and spell it

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Someone tweeted the other day about about an interesting microsite called “Bank With Texas“, which is an effort to educate Texans about the large out-of-state banks that invaded the state and ate up market-share during the mid-1990s. It’s not the topic that makes this site buzzworthy – the “bank local” message isn’t exactly new. Rather, it’s the way in which the message is presented.

The site is sponsored by Texas Dow Employees Credit Union, whose President & CEO, Ed Speed, has some harsh words for national banks. He says they “…descended on Texas like carpetbaggers descended on Texas after the Civil War” and “…don’t give a damn about Texas.”

The message is repeated in spots like this:

In addition to the historical analogies and highly critical words, there are a couple noteworthy points about this site. The first is that it’s the brainchild of a credit union. This is surprising because TDECU is not pushing a “bank with credit unions” agenda at all. Instead, the message is just “bank local”. TDECU doesn’t seem to care if visitors pick them, or any other credit union for that matter, as long as they choose a Texas financial institution. The second point is that this site is bound to offend some people, and they don’t apologize for that. Not everyone in Texas is originally from the state, nor particularly against banking with national (or international) companies. TDECU is focusing on a specific market – one that very patriotic, proud of Texas, and against government bailouts. The site’s background music is “El Degüello”, which was played during the siege of the Alamo – need I say more? I’m definitely not their target audience, but TDECU’s feisty microsite did catch my attention.

/Maija

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