Special Perk For Members Of Denali Alaskan: Their Own Blend of Coffee

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Denali Alaskan FCU has added "another great perk" to its product line up-a special blend of coffee called Above & Beyond Blend.

"Coffee up here is pretty much worth its weight in gold," said Eileen S. Thompson, marketing/business development manager at DAFCU. "There are coffee carts on every corner in this city."

The clever marketing tool was a byproduct of a new brand campaign called Above & Beyond, and a new branch that features an Internet Caf?.

"In 2003, the credit union decided to make a serious brand identity program," said Keith Fernandez, AVP of marketing at DAFCU. "They came up with five or six different (slogans) but this one-Above & Beyond-stood out most because members say we seem to go above and beyond to assist their needs."

That became more apparent with the new main branch with its non-traditional features that include services pods where members can get all of their needs met in one place, and a waiting area where they can drink coffee and read newsletters and newspapers while waiting for service, he said.

The brand campaign was part of the CU's effort to stand out amid competitors that include several major banks, among them First National Bank and Wells Fargo, and CUs such as Alaska USA FCU, which has $2.5 billion in assets and 40 branches, and state-chartered Credit Union 1 with $483 million in assets.

DAFCU has about $340 million in assets and close to 47,000 members. Its FOM includes 575 SEGS and community charters, or investment areas, in major cities including Fairbanks, Juneau, Matanuska and Susitina.

When a staff members suggested the CU create and offer its own unique blend of coffee, it seemed a natural fit, Fernandez said, especially since one of DAFCU's 575 SEGS is Kaladi Bros., an Anchorage-based coffee maker.

DAFCU and Kaladi Bros. teamed up for a session that included lessons in coffee etiquette and concocting and sampling various blends until Above & Beyond was perfected. The brew is called Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. That means it comes from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. It has a light to medium body with winey, Jasmine characteristics.

"Everybody seems to like it," Fernandez said, admitting that he personally is not a coffee drinker. "It was an unexpected byproduct of developing the brand campaign, but it's really good. That's what keeps the marketing going." He said he expects the brand, now in its second year, to have at least two more years of marketability.

While the coffee, introduced last spring, was initially served to members in a few of the CUs branches, it was soon requested company-wide. Its popularity triggered another idea to distribute it to vendors in gift packages and sell it to members.

"It's really taken off at various different levels," Thompson said. In addition to selling it via the credit unions along with other logo products, members and non-members alike can buy it online through Logo Outlet, a website linked to the CU's homepage, www.denalifcu.org, she said.

"The intention wasn't to make a buck," Fernandez said, adding that the initial investment was minimal, "About three or four hours of a graphic artist's time to create the logo for packaging." Kaladi Bros. did not charge for the coffee-tasting session, and generously affixes the labels to the packages, he said.

"The cost is even a little less than the coffee we used to buy for all of the branches," Fernandez said. Staff who want to purchase extra supplies get the Above & Beyond Blend at a discount-20% above cost-while anyone ordering online will pay a bit more. It's sold in 12 oz. bags of coffee bean ($13.75) and 2 oz. bags of ground coffee ($4.50). Price includes cost for shipping and handling. Thompson said she's working on another phase of the campaign that will require member participation.

"I would like staff and credit union members to embrace our Above & Beyond branding by taking promotional items along on vacations to exotic places, and taking pictures with these items," she said. They will be displayed in the branches to show just how far and wide the CU's brand campaign has traveled, she said.

Thompson and a fellow employee kicked the campaign off during a spring trip to the Bahamas where they were photographed on the deck of a boat holding a bag of coffee. "Kinda silly, but fun," she said.

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