Promotion A 'Flash,' But Awareness Remains; Next Up: The Beatles

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PANAMA CITY, Fla.-Innovations CU has been taking a page from its namesake, promoting itself with a pair of "flash mobs" designed to get the attention of Generation Y.

"With the name Innovations we had to continue be innovative," said President/CEO David Southall. "Our market is the young people and it's hard to target them."

About 60 volunteers, employees and credit union Facebook fans emerged from the crowd at a local airport opening last month, took to the tarmac and broke out into a dance performance that ended with the performers removing their outer layers to reveal bright yellow Innovations CU t-shirts. They followed up that performance with an even larger number at Friday Fest, a local festival complete with booths and live music geared towards youth, in downtown Panama City.

In both cases, video of the performances was posted on YouTube.

After the airport performance, Southall said the phones exploded with calls and the CU's website crashed due to excessive traffic. While the day-after reaction to the Friday Fest performance was not as dramatic, the crowd was much larger, as was the number of performers. Southall said that nearly 100 people spent weeks clandestinely rehearsing the four-minute performance.

"We had small practices in our credit union lobby for weeks every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night until everybody got it. Then got everybody together in a huge auditorium we leased out and practiced for hours," he explained. "The point of a flash mob is that it's unexpected; if you tell everybody then it turns into a performance and that's not the point of it."

Local news organizations took notice of the $148-million CU's unique brand promotionand several performers were pulled aside after the mob dispersed and asked about the credit union. A number of people in the crowd could be spotted videotaping and taking pictures of the performance; Southall is hopeful it will spread via social networks.

"You can't pay for this kind of advertisement, especially with young people, because they're not listening, not paying attention to the other forms of media," he said.

But just as quickly as the mob commenced, it has now dispersed for good. "Two times is almost one time too many. We've retired this thing after this one so we're going to start working on our next project," Southall said.

That next project is a music video in the style of a glee club performance. Southall plans to use The Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" to tell the story of an individual leaving a local bank and joining Innovations. The video will be broken up for television ads and played in full on the CU's soon to be re-launched microsite.

"We are not your typical financial institution," said Southall. "We don't want to be boring, we don't want to be stale and we don't want to be dated."

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