Coining An Idea: VyStar Puts Change To Work On Awareness

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In a clever ploy to advertise the grand opening of its first downtown branch, VyStar Credit Union dropped $4,500 worth of half-dollars and quarters all over the city's sidewalks.

Each coin included "mini billboards" or stickers announcing the grand opening on the front half and a clever saying on the back such as "There's more where this came from," "We never forget it's your money," and "Putting the free in financial freedom."

Judy Walz, head of marketing at the $2.9-billion CU, said the coins were strategically placed in the popular Jacksonville Riverfront development over three days.

"The idea came about because we were trying to get the people who work downtown to pay attention to us," Walz said. "Trying to target a group of workers is a lot harder than trying to target people at home. You can't profile them demographically, you can only profile them geographically."

She said the newest branch, one of 19, is the only one of it its kind serving the credit union's FOM that includes 15 counties throughout Northeast Florida. Because of limited space, tellers will not handle cash. But, there will be a high-end ATM that can dispense money, read checks and record deposits instantly.

"The member could walk over to another area and get Internet access, and it'll show up," Walz said. "They get immediate gratification."

She said the machine even returns the cancelled check with a receipt for amount deposited.

"We believe in technology and here we are to prove it," she said, adding that the branch was opened in response to member requests. It'll house three tellers, two ATMs, two member service areas and a reception area, she said.

"It's a very, very small office but in a wonderful location," she said. "We decided to do what we can there and if we need to do something else later, we will."

Walz said the goal is to attract more loans from people who work in the city and don't have time to travel to other branches during their workdays.

While the general idea was to have people just stumble upon the coins, she said local media got wind of the idea and let people know about it on television and in print.

Walz said while it will be another 30 to 60 days to measure the results, the initial response was promising.

"We were more than busy during the two main days that we did this," she said. "We saw over 200 (potential members) in two days and over 100 of them joined."

She said many others left contact information and asked CU officials to contact them at a later date.

As part of the lure, the CU also wrapped one of the city's buses with the credit union logo and is paying for all its fares through the end of the month. In addition, VyStar passed out ice cream and moon pies. A sticker on the moon pies read "Some financial institutions promise you the moon. We deliver."

While she didn't give financial specifics, Walz did say that the campaign cost about 25% less than previous grand opening campaigns.

"And, I will say that for the downtown area, this one was far more effective than anything we can do."

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