A Michigan community bank is permanently putting on a altruistic face, tying all of its marketing efforts to charitable causes.
University Bank in Ann Arbor has embraced so-called cause-related marketing since its February debut.
Many banks engage in charitable giving and relationships with charities, but University management says it's the first community bank to use the approach so comprehensively.
"People want to do business with a company they can feel good about," said Stephen L. Ranzini, senior vice president and president and chief executive of the bank's holding company, University Bancorp. "The bank is the first community bank in the nation that we know of to undertake a cause-related marketing approach with respect to all of its advertising and promotions."
A Bank Marketing Association spokeswoman said it's rare that a community bank would make the strategy the bedrock of its marketing.
"If you're a community bank today, you're fighting megabanks," said Jack Macholl, head of Wisdom Bridge Communication Group in suburban Chicago. "To differentiate yourself, clearly you need to be not only giving back (to), but also very active in the community."
The Ann Arbor operation, which had $8.6 million in deposits as of June, developed the "Kids B'Cause" program, in which each quarter it chooses a new charity partner that benefits area children. Its first selections include the local Red Cross chapter and a haven from domestic violence.
Each quarter's charity gets publicity and funding. It's mentioned in bank advertising, including newspaper and radio spots, lobby displays, direct mail, and Internet postings.
Mr. Macholl said a recurring theme in a bank's promotions is a plus. "You see a lot of erratic strategies in most advertising," he said.
University Bank also contributes $5 to the charity for each new checking or savings account and mortgage, subject to certain restrictions.
Moreover, it offers a cause-related certificate of deposit, in which the charity gets one-half of 1% of its value at maturity - a contribution split between the bank and depositor.
"It's a pretty comprehensive thing for a small, brand-new bank to do," said Brian Connelly, a marketing consultant who assisted University Bank with the strategy.
"The bank is not just choosing somebody for a short period of time and giving them some money," said Mr. Connelly
"There is always a cause going."