As marketing stratagems go, giving away gasoline is hardly original, but it does tend to grab people's attention. That must be why employees of 40 community banks and credit unions put aside their traditional differences to participate in a two-day petrol giveaway cooked up by BancVue subsidiary Kasasa.

Each institution doled out $20 of free fuel to 200 consumers last week — more than $150,000 of fuel in all. As employees pumped, of course, they used the face time with motorists to make a quick sales pitch. "This was a way to remind customers that they don't have to do business with a megabank," says Brad Sturm, president and chief executive of Coulee Bank in La Crosse, Wis.

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Kasasa markets itself exclusively to community banks and credit unions, so as one would expect, its marketing — gas giveaways included — always casts bigger financial institutions in a negative light. Sturm received a golden opportunity to bash big banks when he was interviewed last Thursday on the Fox Business Network by host Neil Cavuto.

He did not disappoint.

"A lot of mega banks were the recipients of a great deal of help from the federal government over the last several years, and needed it quite frankly," Sturm said on Fox.

Kasasa ran a free-gas promotion last year, but its 2013 freebie was twice as big, CEO Gabe Krajicek says. An even bigger promotion is being planned for 2014, but Kasasa might build it around something other than free gas. "We're not ready to commit to a specific [theme], but it's definitely going to be a big event," Krajicek says.

Three-year-old Kasasa provides small financial institutions with checking and savings products, as well as marketing assistance. It counts more than 150 banks and credits unions as clients and says the number is expected to top 180 in the near future, Krajicek says.

The growth is gratifying, he says, but it has its challenges. Working with both banks and credit unions, Krajicek often gets caught in the ongoing sniping between the two industries. "At times I feel like I'm trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East," he says.

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