Central Star CU Has A COW And The Results Are Just Bovine

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It all started with a pink cow.

Central Star Credit Union was seeking to separate itself from the herd of financial institutions in Wichita and hired an ad agency to design a new campaign. The one thing the credit union knew it didn't want from the new advertising, said CEO Lee Williams, was just more similar clutter in a market already crowded with ads promoting interest rates.

What it arrived at after conversations with the agency, Kearley & Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, was the tagline, "Brighter Than the Rest of the Herd." A pink star was born.

"We have lots of energy. When we saw it, we embraced it," Williams said.

Central Star CU and Kearley & Co. have since unleashed a barnyard full of cow references: mailers promised that members will be "tickled pink at our beefy accounts," "We're brighter than the rest of the heard - and that's no bull!" and "We're mo-o-oving to Haysville," in reference to a new CU branch.

As part of the effort, Central Star CU ran a "Cash Cow" campaign for quick signature loans. Local country radio station KFDI staff spotted the ad and called Central Star to join forces as the station has its own "Moola the Cash Cow" that makes community appearances.

KFDI Operations Manager Beverlee Brannigan said it was natural to combine the two campaigns and called a credit union a "perfect sponsor" for a radio station using cash giveaways to expand its listening base. The Central Star remote broadcast gave KFDI the chance to shake some hands and then run people through a cash machine in which contestants attempt to grab cash as it's blown around by a high speed fan.

"To have a credit union certainly adds credibility as far as cash issues," she said.

Central Star has several goals with its new promotion: gain new members, advertise a new branch, sell certificates of deposit (CD), and create that much sought-after differentiation. New and existing members were offered certificates with investment amounts from $500 to $2,500 and paying a whopping 10% APR, but they had to visit the new Haysville branch to purchase the CD.

Williams said Central Star spent $50,000 on the media campaign, including two billboards and radio spots on four stations running up to seven times a day for four weeks prior to the branch opening. Two mailers, one postcard and a brochure prominently featuring the now famous pink cow were sent to area residents. Central Star also was mentioned on the air dozens of times when KFDI promoted the live radio spot at the branch opening. On opening day, prospective and current members were entertained by the live radio remote and the chance to catch free money with KFDI's Cash Cow Machine, while the special CD rate brought in $100,000.

The resulting convergence of a radio station partnership and other media has resulted in extensive public awareness of Central Star. Plus, Central Star CU employees are sporting black and white cow printed hats, jackets, and even mooing at each other in the office.

"One built off of the other," said Central Star Marketing Director Gail Adamo. "People remembered, 'Oh yeah! I got that pink cow!' They think it's our mascot."

Central Star CU didn't even have a mascot. They do now. "The cow is just so popular," Adamo said. "We'd be foolish not to keep our pink cow."

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