Coastal's "Last Straw" ad was one part of a nimble strategy to capitalize on Bank of America's recent $5 debit fee announcement.
What will active Social Media monitoring, brilliant staff execution, $35, a bale of hay and a healthy dose of public anger buy you? In the case of Coastal FCU, that rather odd combination bought a PR coup in the wake of Bank of America’s announced debit fee increase last week.
The credit union decided in August to increase the dividend rate on its Go Green Checking Account to 2.51% for 30 monthly debit swipes effective October 1. The credit union announced the change to members in early September, and scheduled television ads that Coastal produced in-house to announce the change beginning in October.
“Other than television ads, we hadn’t thought about doing a media announcement on the rate change,” said Joe Mecca, Coastal’s Marketing/Advertising Manager. His thinking began to change once he heard about the bank’s announcement Thursday that it would begin a $5 per month charge on debit transactions at the beginning of the year.
On Thursday evening, Mecca and Coastal FCU PR/Networking Specialist Lauren Stranch got a first-hand glimpse of public sentiment about the bank’s announcement, and member perceptions about the Go Green product – thanks to Twitter. “We noticed that people (on Twitter) were really angry about the bank fee, and our members were actually replying back to them to let them know about Coastal’s account and including us in the Tweet,” Mecca said. (Search @Coastal24 on Twitter to see a few of the comments.)
Sensing an opportunity, the credit union wrote a quick press release to local media Friday morning announcing the increased swipe dividend on debit purchases and scored several hits, including WRAL-TV and the Raleigh News & Observer. “We wanted to jump on the story right away,” said Mecca of the decision to counterpunch against Bank of America’s new fee.
The credit union also saw a great opportunity to press the advantage using its television advertising. “We brainstormed a new ad called ‘the last straw’ and decided to produce it that same day,” Mecca said. Coastal Advertising Lead Paul Styron bought the props needed for the ad – a bale of hay, some trash bags and a downloaded sound effects file. Total cost: $35 and staff time to edit the spot in-house.
The ad was finished by late Friday afternoon, approved for release first thing Monday morning and hit the Triangle-area airwaves Tuesday morning, October 4th. “We doubled our planned ad buy for the next two weeks,” said Mecca.
Mecca notes that it’s too early to demonstrate any movement by the general public toward Coastal’s product, but he feels that the nimble response is warranted in the competitive checking arena. “Checking is a cornerstone product,” Mecca noted. “We know that a good, solid checking relationship leads to a broader relationship.”
He adds that the Go Green product, which was developed in-house, has been a major hit for Coastal. Members currently receive 1.01% APY for a minimum 12 debit transactions, and the robust 2.51% for a minimum 30 transactions. The only other qualifier is that the dividend rate is limited to the first $50,000 on deposit in the account.
Mecca says that Coastal’s simple approach to the product makes it easy for the member to understand, and the lack of other requirements such as direct deposit and bill pay doesn’t hurt the credit union. “We’ve found that if you give them the reward, all that other stuff comes with it.”
Thanks to some nimble PR, a bale of hay and good word of mouth, more checking accounts may be coming their way soon as well.