Credit Unions Find Success Marketing with Consumers in Mind

It was a simple idea, all things considered.

Combining elements of a traditional scavenger hunt and an age-old playground game with new mobile technology and some valuable prizes, O Bee Credit Union’s “Capture the Tag” promotion started small and quickly took on a life of its own.

Within several months of its launch, Capture the Tag had effectively engaged that most elusive of demographics—“young people”—while delivering lessons in financial education to everyone who played. The effort quickly received local, national and international media attention and is still being duplicated in other parts of the world.

And when O Bee entered the program in the 2011 Spectrum Marketing Awards, a prestigious credit union marketing and communications awards program hosted annually by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), not only did the credit union take home top honors in the Coordinated Campaign category, but it earned the title of “Best of Show” as well.

According to Lee Wojnar, O Bee’s vice president of marketing, they key to Capture the Tag’s success came as a result of its multi-faceted appeal.

“I think Capture the Tag had such momentum, because we had people from Microsoft to major corporations interested, and it went global. If you have a great idea, put it out there and see how it works. That’s the cool thing about it, just trying to approach the market differently.”

In addition to the entertainment value, Wojnar said, “there’s a cash value, and we didn’t have to put up the cash. It’s a self-funding model. I approached it saying, ‘Okay, how can we make this sustainable?’”

Wojnar accomplished that by again looking at marketing not from the credit union’s perspective, but this time from the vantage point of local businesses, ultimately securing $750 sponsorships from roughly a dozen local businesses, guaranteeing them foot traffic to their business or visits and clicks on their website.

“Looking as an outsider, what do business owners want? They need business,” Wojnar said. “They need new people to come through that door. They can do all the marketing and spend it out there, but here’s something that’s guaranteed to drive people to your website, and that’s what made it so compelling.”

In the end, the same things that made Capture the Tag enticing to consumers and business partners made it such a successful Spectrum entry. In other words, as obvious as it may sound, having a compelling marketing program in the first place is the key to creating a compelling submission.

“There are set forms when you do submissions, even in Spectrum,” Wojnar said. “Here’s the framework. This is what you have to fill out. And that makes it very tough, because trying to convey the excitement is hard sometimes on paper until you actually go through it and play with it and say, hey, this is a unique way of approaching a market.”

Of course, just as important as developing a winning marketing plan is knowing when to change course—no matter how successful an idea has been.

“What I’m seeing right now in the trends is, ‘Oh, it’s just a QR code,’” Wojnar said, explaining that the credit union has tabled the Capture the Tag program in the short term. “It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. There’s no value to it. It’s not novel. I guess when QR code fatigue is gone, that means you can bring it back again. You have to keep your hand on the pulse of what people are doing and what they’re not doing.”

In the meantime, O Bee has been far from quiet.

“We worked out a deal with Pabst, the brewery, to launch the Oly Gold Cards early last year, and it took off. It grew our portfolio by 5 percent, which is good, and then we launched a new branch and did a major remodel at our main branch, so it’s been a busy year.”

Judging for the 2013 Spectrum Marketing Awards will be completed entirely online for the first time, making it possible for the Association to draw on marketing expertise from around the nation in the judging process, and according to Wojnar, the feedback from judges, along with the opportunity to glean inspiration from the work of others in the movement, provides the true benefit of the Spectrum Awards program.

“It’s the whole idea of submission and being recognized by your peers is the most important thing. It’s almost like submission to a think tank. Hey, look, that’s a great idea, and I can leverage that idea into something else. It’s not just the award. It’s also that you’re cultivating a new idea throughout our region, in Washington and Oregon, and that’s what I see as very exciting about it, just seeing some of the results and having access to the work of my peers.”

Entry prices are based on credit union asset size with smaller credit unions paying less per entry. The call to entry is open through March 4, 2013, but credit unions submitting entries by Feb. 15 will receive a $15 discount per entry. Pricing is based on credit union asset size.

The awards will be presented at a gala dinner during the annual Marketers’ Conference, scheduled to take place this year on May 8-9 at the Embassy Suites in downtown Portland, Ore. A program of national-level speakers is being finalized, and conference registration is available online.

“The best thing you can do is just encourage people to say, hey, it doesn’t matter how big or small your idea is,” Wojnar said. “Anything’s possible.”


Questions or comments? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor:


Posted in Awards, Marketing & Communications.