Redwood CU Offers A Fresh Start In Checking (And Cash For Bill Pay)

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The beginning of a calendar year is a time for vows to change, begin anew and improve.

In the case of Redwood Credit Union, its "healthy start" checking promotion taps into this spirit of a new beginning.

The $1.3-billion Redwood, a community-chartered CU that serves eight counties north of San Francisco, will automatically deposit $25 into the account of members or small business owners who sign up for checking with direct deposit.

Robin McKenzie, Redwood CU's senior vice president of marketing and public relations, told The Credit Union Journal if a member's employer does not offer direct deposit, he or she still can qualify for the $25 bonus by signing up for bill pay. In addition, one member who signs up for healthy start checking will win a $2,500 spa getaway.

"New Year's is a time for resolutions," she said. "It all ties in to the seasonality of a healthy start."

According to McKenzie, the idea for the checking promotion grew out of an ongoing marketing campaign designed to let people in Redwood Credit Union's membership area know they are eligible to join. The campaign features member testimonials; with one member per month spotlighted with professional pictures.

The pictures are taken in batches of four to six people. McKenzie said the November photo shoot included Wanda Tapia, a well-known local nutritionist.

"We knew we wanted to feature Wanda because she is prominent in the community and because she is Hispanic and we are moving into the Hispanic community," she explained. "Then we thought of her being a nutritionist, which led to a connection with a healthy start. It all tied together in a marketing team brainstorm."

Tapia's picture became the face of healthy start checking when it launched on Redwood CU's Website Jan. 2. The credit union used a layered marketing campaign: in addition to the online promotion, the program was featured in the quarterly newsletter which was mailed the first week of January, print ads and postcards that began shortly thereafter, and radio spots that began airing Jan. 23.

McKenzie said it is too early to know how successful the healthy start promotion has been, but "it instantly created a lot of buzz."

"It takes 90 days to get results from a new promotion. We are anticipating healthy returns fairly soon. We will have more definitive numbers in March," she added.

Redwood CU serves more than 121,000 members in Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, Mendocino, Lake, Napa Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

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