The end of 2008 was a bad time for most financial institutions. Consumers were frightened and, with mega failures, “bank” had become a very bad word. FirstOntario Credit Union, Hamilton, Ontario, recognized the inherent lack of consumer confidence and sense of uncertainty when it came to matters of money. And the CU wanted to find a way to show it was different.
“The idea of FirstOntario’s ‘Extra Safe’ campaign was to instill a sense of confidence in a financial institution during a time when there was no confidence in financial and investment services. We aimed to communicate to consumers that FirstOntario was a safe place to invest,” says Mandy MacPhee, the CU’s director/marketing strategy and communication. The resulting campaign won first place in the “Image Enhancement” category for CUs with more than $700 million in assets in the CUES Golden Mirror Awards. And, as a first-time entrant, MacPhee and the marketing team at FirstOntario CU received the CUES GMA Rookie of the Year award.
In order to break through the crowded advertising landscape, FirstOntario CU, with $2.4 billion (Canadian) in funds under management and 74,000 members, decided to move from telling people about investment safety to having people feel the benefits of safety. The idea was to take everyday items and enhance their perception of being “Extra Safe.”
Working with agency TBWAToronto, Toronto, the credit union came up with four items that showed safety in a concrete way and, in November and December 2008, strategically placed them in high-traffic areas around FirstOntario CU’s key communities:
- custom-made fire hydrants placed in rows of four;
- custom-made park benches equipped with two seatbelts;
- bicycles secured with numerous locks; and
- trees wrapped with bubble wrap.
Each item featured a simple, yet bold sign with the campaign’s tagline “Extra Safe. Guaranteed Investments. ThinkFirstNow.com” and the CU’s logo.
“The items were placed in local hotspots in the communities we serve,” MacPhee says. “We placed them where people visit most, i.e. central parks, downtown eating areas and other community gathering places. Because we wanted to create a sense of excitement and build awareness quickly, we chose to surprise the community by placing them overnight into the community hotspots.
“Consumers were surprised and delighted. They found the displays fun and it created lots of buzz about who FirstOntario is and what we do. Once the community discovered the items, we were asked [by local officials] to remove them immediately, which we did. By surprising the community, this also created buzz and awareness as the local papers and trade magazines caught wind and picked up the story in their publications.”
One of this campaign’s goals was to get media attention and create some buzz in the marketplace. FirstOntario CU succeeded with 260,000 impressions from The Hamilton Spectator, an Ontario newspaper. The CU also got some industry press with:
- 75,000 impressions from Marketing Magazine and
- 500 impressions from The Financial Brand Web site.
For total production costs of just $37,000, FirstOntario CU found a way to get people talking. “The objective was to create positive buzz in the marketplace for FirstOntario and raise brand awareness quickly,” says MacPhee.
Theresa Witham is a CUES editor.