This Credit Union Bulldogs the Competition…Literally

USA Fed is using a tough-but-loveable bulldog to take aim at “fat cat” bankers. Spike, the $700-milion CU’s new “spokesdog,” encourages non-members to join the credit union and enjoy special offers.

In the brand campaign, Spike draws sharp distinctions between credit unions and banks, noting that they are “as different as cats and dogs.” Indeed, the entire copy platform for the brand is bold and scrappy.

“Join the credit union revolution!” one t-shirt reads.

“There is a lot of debate in the industry as to whether we should emphasize the differences between banks and credit unions,” said Rob Folsom, Chief Strategy Officer/USA Fed. “But as we started developing this campaign we realized that the differences are what it’s all about.”

Even the credit union’s slogan makes the point: “180° from banking.”

Spike emerged as the brand’s focal point in the second half of 2007, when Weber Marketing Group, debuted the bulldog in a two-month campaign resulting in 4,000 new members. The promotion was a coordinated multimedia effort that included advertising, direct mail, online marketing and one-day sales events.

Spike is currently starring in USA Fed’s “Debit Rewards Skip the Pin and Win” sweepstakes. Thus far, USA Fed has landed 1,869 checking accounts — from non-members — leaving them only 131 away from their goal for the campaign.

Weber Marketing has been USA Fed’s brand development partner since 2002.

The credit union’s About Us page on its website says, “Meet Spike, USA Fed’s spokes dog. He represents what makes us different from those other guys! Loyal. Unique. Reliable. He is devoted to helping our members achieve their financial goals leading the way to financial freedom.

Members receive a t-shirt featuring Spike with every newly opened checking account.

Weber Marketing Group created all materials for the member acquisition campaign.

Spike’s “Scratch-and-Win”
Mailed to San Diego area residents with opportunities to instantly win HD TV’s, iPods, Nintendo Wiis, cold hard cash, a $2,500 dream vacation and the grand prize, a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Spike invites people to “Join today, save big and win cool stuff!”

Banner ads on USA Fed’s website, featuring Spike in various settings and contexts.

Spike makes an appearance at a USA Fed sales event.

Spike’s real name is Tubbs. He’s been in a movie, “The Game Plan,” with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson.

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  1. Hi James,

    Yes, I think animals are an excellent way to market a financial institution. Animals come loaded with so much personality, that it forces an organization to examine its brand: What is the right animal to use as we personify our brand with this character? If you pick a dog, you drill down further: What kind of dog?

    FYI – I wrote up a quick blurb yesterday on Harley, the Chihuahua you mentioned. It should be published later today or tomorrow.

  2. Beacon FCU is also using a dog to help connect with people… except it’s a lot smaller than a bulldog but has the personality and character of a hardcore biker.

    AMOCO FCU has also been using animals lately in some of their campaigns including cats.

    Are animals an effective way to market a CU? People can connect with them if they are animal lovers. I’m pretty indifferent though as have never been much of a dog or cat person.

  3. Tim McAlpine says:

    Very cool. I love the variety and the longevity. Spike could have easily become a gimmick, but instead has become an icon that is linked to USA Fed. Nice work.

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