A Little Starbucks, A Lot Of Member Bucks

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Sometimes, it just doesn't take much to get the public's attention.

Case in point: when Altura Credit Union here offered $5 gift cards from ubiquitous coffee house Starbucks to promote its checking accounts, it hoped to generate some new members and expand relationships with its current members. However, the CU, formerly known as Riverside County's Credit Union, was stunned when more than 2,000 people joined in exchange for getting some free java.

Ricki McManuis, the CU's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications, told The Credit Union Journal Altura had not promoted its checking accounts for at least three years prior to launching the campaign-which ran from March until May.

"Credit unions never had to go out and bring in money, it just came," she said. "The Starbucks promotion was successful in our minds because it generated a whole bunch of interest. All just by talking about it and handing out $5 gift cards."

Each non-member who walked into an Altura branch and inquired about opening a checking account was given a gift card. Existing members received a gift card for opening a checking account, increasing their products or services to a total of five, or by referring a family member or friend who opened a checking account.

Every branch exceeded its goal for signing up new members: from a "low" of 109% to a high of 246%. Total membership surpassed 100,000 during this time, thanks in part to the influx generated by "Something's Brewing at Altura."

McManuis said the staff members really enjoyed the campaign, which included weekly e-mails from Chris O'Malley, the new vice president of sales, detailing its progress. Asked if she was surprised how an inexpensive [Altura purchased the gift cards in bulk for $4.50 each] giveaway could be so successful, McManuis said the "buzz" built upon itself.

"We had flyers in the branches, plus radio and print ads. It was just so new," she said. "An advantage credit unions have is the ability to relate do people. Marketing enticed people to come in to the branch, but then it was up to the staff to sign people up. And a little $5 Starbucks card did the trick."

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