Clever Ways CUs Are Spreading The Love This Valentine's Day

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A box of candy is nice. A bouquet of flowers is OK, too.

But this year, credit unions across the country are offering members more clever ways to spread the love during the most romantic month of the year.

Community One FCU in Las Vegas for example, suggests its members "shower that special someone" with a fee-free home equity line of credit or a flexible term auto loan.

In its direct promotion created by PSB, The Marketing Supersource in Lake Forest, Calif., the $155-million COFCU uses the Valentine's Day theme complete with candy hearts to advertise various products and services. "Say 'B Mine 4 Ever' in your own special way," it coos, offering gift-giving ideas that include "surprising your sweetheart with a Caribbean cruise, a dream kitchen or a brand new car."

Christina Eclips, graphic designer at COFCU, said the month-long campaign was kicked off in January with statement inserts.

"I like to do theme campaigns, especially around the holidays," Eclips said.

Eclips said she created the image and the idea to promote several products at once, and then handed it over to PSB to create the final artwork.

Age Pays Off

At the $50-million Cintel Federal Credit Union in Cincinnati, members couldn't wait to take advantage of a CD promotion called "The Older You Are, The Sweeter It Gets" that pays the current rate plus the member's age in basis points.

On opening day of the promotion, 60 requests were already waiting to be processed, said Jessica Howard, director of marketing and business development at Cintel.

"We started advertising in December," Howard said of the campaign that included an insert in member statements and mentions on its website and in its January newsletter.

For the member who proved to be 104 years old, Howard said-the oldest one to take advantage of the promotion, thus far-the credit union a bonus of 1.04%.

"We see it as a way to reward our older members," Howard said, adding that direct mail advertising was on its way to members 30 and older. "We were thinking about not running this promotion until the end of April, but with such a surprising response early on, we may end it in the middle of March."

Howard, who created the idea, said she was flattered when a neighboring CU called and asked if they could run the same promotion.

For Ohio University Credit Union in Athens, Valentine's Day gives staff a reason to celebrate senior members with its "Annual Sweetheart Luncheon." As a way to tell members, "Our sweethearts are you!" the CU invites the 55 and older crowd in to be fed and entertained by a barbershop quartet, said Laura Pratt, marketing manager.

OUCU staff also takes advantage of their captive audience by presenting the updates on CU products and services, she added.

The $100-million Coca-Cola Company Family FCU in Atlanta with more than $100 million in assets is offering "Scent of a Rosy Deal" throughout the month to members who transfer loans from another financial institution. The campaign, also created by PSB, shows a sleek car on an eye-popping bed of red roses and an offer of up to 3% off their current loan rate.

Marketing specialist Nancy Howard said CCCFCU does a similar promotion every February. "Sometimes we call it "Sweetheart of a Deal," she said, adding that the target is always to recapture auto loan business.

This year's campaign includes lobby posters and direct mail postcards targeting members at the end of their loans, as well as members in good credit standing who don't carry loans with their CU.

Howard said while it's too soon to tell whether the campaign will be successful, past efforts have been good.

"Last year, we collected $400,000 in new loans," she said. "The year before, we brought in $1.2 million."

She suspected the fluctuating economy had something to do with the discrepancy between those two campaigns.

Also working to "Spread Love" by referring friends, family and co-workers is Sun Federal Credit Union in Toledo, Ohio. This campaign is using its website and newsletter to lure its audience with $5 for every referral and a chance to win a digital camera.

Melissa Gregg, marketing director, said the members are asked to fill out a coupon for the referred member to present when they join. SFCU has $212 million in assets.

In Santa Rosa, Calif., the $1.2-billion Redwood Credit Union is offering "The Perfect Couple" a money market account with free dividend checking. For a limited time, RCU is pairing the two in what it calls "a match made in heaven." The offer requires at least $5,000 or direct deposit in a money market account for an APR yield of 2.4% and complete liquidity.

Kate Kelly, AVP of marketing and community relations, said its Valentine's Day theme worked well to introduce another new product, as well.

"We have also recently introduced a 14-month Share and IRA Certificate, which we are promoting via print ads," Kelly said. "At present, we're playing off the 14-month term in conjunction with Valentines Day and promoting the certificates as a 'sweetheart of a deal.'"

She said the credit union website's main graphic currently features both Valentine-themed products, positioned as "Rates You're Going to Love."

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