With the entire Southeast Michigan area in the midst of a severe economic downturn, increased even further by the auto industry collapse, $390 million/52,000-member Co-op Services Credit Union wanted to do something to help its hard-hit communities.
Working with edge creative group, Ferndale, Mich., the CU came up with Project 100, composed of CU employees who randomly handed out $100 bills to strangers in public places. The team gave $100 to 100 people over 100 days. The winners could use the money however they wanted, but were asked to think about how they could continue the giving in their community through volunteering or helping someone in need.
The campaign was so creative—and successful—that it earned the 2010 CUES Golden Mirror Awards “Best of Show,” which goes to one of the first-place winners from the four asset divisions in the Coordinated Campaigns category (for a single marketing effort that incorporates a variety of integrated approaches).
The CU set up www.whatisproject100.com, a microsite that featured a funny video of team leader Jeremy Cybulski (the youth and community development coordinator on the CU’s marketing team) interviewing people about money. The site also had resources for volunteering and instruction on how to give back in the community.
After the video had been out for a week, the team started anonymously giving money away. Each recipient received a T-shirt and a stack of business cards to give to family and friends. The CU also created a “You Could Be Next” section on the site for people to sign up for a potential visit from Project 100. The giveaways were videotaped and shared on the Web site.
Co-op Services CU used Twitter and Facebook to build excitement, allowing followers and fans to witness giveaways. Plus those outlets were used to post ideas about volunteering and money-saving tips.
The mystery about who was behind Project 100 helped create a huge buzz in the Detroit area. In fact, at first only a few people at the CU and the ad agency knew who was behind it. Eventually, about a month into the initiative, the Detroit News unraveled the mystery in an article that revealed Co-op Services CU as the creator of Project 100.
“It was sometimes difficult to keep the secret from the rest of the marketing team and executives at the credit union,” says CUES member Lisa Fawcett, Co-op Services CU marketing director. “As the story was breaking, we gathered all of our employees and announced Project 100 to them. Everyone was very surprised and excited to find out that their workplace had created something so big! Keeping Project 100 a well-kept secret really added to the success of the initiative.”
After that, all the components (T-shirts, business cards, money holders) were updated with the CU’s logo and information. The CU also announced the initiative to its members through its newsletter, lobby posters, statement inserts featuring recipients’ stories, and e-mail blasts encouraging involvement.
For the 100th recipient, the CU senior executive team and a news crew joined the Project 100 team to give away its final $100 to a woman who had lost her job earlier in the year. She planned to use the money to host a party and ask guests to bring canned goods to donate to local food banks for the upcoming holidays.
The CU’s goal for the campaign, which ran from July to October 2009, was to make a difference in the struggling Southeast Michigan community, while also increasing brand exposure for the CU. It hoped to get 500,000 non-paid media impressions via newspaper, TV and radio coverage. In fact, the project had 2.4 million non-paid media impressions. Project 100 was covered at least once by every local news media outlet in the area. The total cost of the campaign was $75,000: $10,000 in giveaways and the rest on the supporting materials.
“We sent out a lot of news releases, but did not purchase any TV, radio or print placements,” says Fawcett. “Some of the media coverage was truly priceless. I cannot purchase time on the Detroit evening TV news. It is up to the station what they deem newsworthy enough to cover.”
CUES member and Co-op Services CU CEO Anthony Carnarvon had his doubts about giving away money at first but he warmed up to the idea. That willingness to take a risk paid off. “It was a huge success,” he says. “It had a positive impact in our community when every time you listened to the news, [the news] was negative. The stories of goodwill that the recipients shared with us were heartwarming and kept with the spirit of what Project 100 was all about.”
In fact, the CU was so pleased with the results from the first campaign that it decided to bring Project 100 back, starting in August this year. “What’s great about the initiative is it’s all about giving,” Fawcett says, “and that is important in all of our communities!”
Theresa Witham is a CUES editor