Folks say banking can’t be fun, and some go further and suggest financial institutions shouldn’t even try. The Financial Brand says phooey to that. Consumers hate banking — it’s a burden, a chore. But you’ve heard the expression “time flies when you’re having fun,” so why not make banking fun and help consumers get it over with faster? True, the mechanics of banking are largely fixed — difficult to change and hard to transform into a fun experience (sucky things like math and bills are involved). But that’s where marketing can step in. Here’s 101 ideas for you, broken into four pages.
1. Put comedy routines into your on-hold messages.
People hate waiting on hold because usually pre-recorded messages are cold, canned rhetoric — “Your call is important to us. Someone will be with you shortly. Thank you for your patience. Do you need a new auto loan?” Ugh. Fun brands entertain callers that they have to put on hold. You could tell people the same things you normally would, you could just do it with some personality, style and flair. Southwest Airlines had an on-hold routine loaded with humorous bits about low fares, fun destinations, baggage fees, etc. It actually made sitting on hold a pleasant experience. In fact, some callers would ask to be put back on hold so they could hear the punchlines to some of the jokes!
2. Put Easter eggs on your website.
An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or similar feature — a surprise bonus, something that’s fun to find. For instance, loyal customers of In-and-Out Burger know there’s a secret menu. Coast Capital Savings used to have a virtual greeter named “Julie” on their website who would answer questions from users. If you asked about “checking accounts,” it would trigger a video response from Julie. But if you asked Julie to tell you a joke, she would. These days, video game designers know that Easter eggs are mandatory in every title they release. Take a page from their gamification playbook and hide some fun little gems on your website.
3. Put some fun into your ATM receipts.
HSBC printed origami folding instructions on the back of its ATM receipts. You could print jokes, cartoons or fun facts. That’s what fun brands do: they are always looking for ways to liven up mundane processes and objects. How can you get consumers to see something that’s usually rote and boring as fresh and innovative? You should always be looking for ways to get people to stop and say, “Heh, that’s neat! Never seen that before!”
4. Poke fun at your disclosures and compliance jargon.
Most financial institutions try to hide their legal copy — almost as if they were ashamed of it — by burying it in microscopic type at the very bottom of layouts. But there’s no reason to hide (is there?). Be playful with disclosures, and prove that they don’t have to be dull and stuffy just because the law requires them. Don’t be afraid to put a giant callout on your layouts that screams, “Here’s the fine print!” Or you could refer to disclosures as “some stuff our lawyers want you to know.” Put some jokey stuff in your fine print: “Our free checking account may contain peanuts, but we doubt it. Not switching to [Your Bank] may result in itching, redness and occasional fainting. If conditions persist, see a physician or call [Your Phone Number]. No fur-bearing animals were harmed in the creation of these marketing materials.”
5. Gamify banking.
To make banking fun, you need to be an imaginative student of gamification. As Jim Bruene at Netbanker suggests, you can create a program that allows your customers/members to play financial games and keep score against themselves and peers. They can earn points, honors, badges and discounts for credit-score improvements, savings gains, debt reductions and other measures of financial fitness and goal achievement.
6. Online scavenger hunt.
Get people to explore your online channels (e.g., website, Facebook) with a scavenger hunt. Ask participants to find the answers to five questions. This is a great way to get people to poke around a relaunched/redesigned website. One credit union did this and doubled their web traffic.
7. Lost wallets.
There are all kinds of ways to have fun with “lost” wallets. Get some branded wallets, load them with coupons for your financial products, then drop them around various public locations. You could put cash in them, with a little note from the CEO. You could put clues for a scavenger hunt or trivia game inside. Or you could make them resemble a real person’s wallet, then film how people react when they find the wallets? Do they return the wallets? Do they keep the cash?
8. ATM bonus.
Randomly swap out a few $20s with $50s or $100s in one ATM (or more). To get the biggest bang for your buck, announce when, where and for how long the ATM(s) will be loaded with bonus hundreds, then alert the press. That’s what Industrial Credit Union did when they wanted to draw attention to a new branch location they opened.
9. Have employees tell jokes.
When flying Southwest Airlines, it’s not unusual to hear employees trying their hand at standup comedy or singing songs — “Yes, there is a smoking section on this flight. Please feel free to step out on the wing if you need to light up.” You could even have employees wear buttons that say, “Wanna hear a joke?”
10. Exploit a pop culture meme.
Cultural fads make great marketing fodder. Back in 2008 when the “LOL Cats” meme was a viral phenomenon, one credit union gave away cheeseburgers to college kids who opened new accounts, using a photo of a fat cat with the headline, “I can has cheezburger?” Every now and then a dance routine like the Harlem Shake comes along. Fun banks and credit unions will perform their own rendition and share it on YouTube.
11. Make your recruitment ads fun.
You can use your help wanted ads to position your organization with a fun personality and attract the kind of talent you need. That’s what Coast Capital did back in 2008 with this creative ad sporting the headline, “Wanted: Marketing People. Also, Donuts” – lol 🙂
12. Poke fun at your competitors.
There’s nothing like getting dumped. On Valentine’s Day. That’s what NAB, one of Australia’s four biggest banks, did to its rivals Commonwealth, ANZ and Westpac. Using an elaborate mix of marketing media, NAB announced that it would be “breaking up” with its competitors. The day after Valentine’s Day, NAB delivered an open letter to competitors that reads like a Dear John letter. NAB said it had “moved on” by abolishing fees, offering better interest rates, improving access to ATMs, and supporting local businesses when other banks wouldn’t. The lengthy “break up” letter was published in every major newspaper. You don’t have to go quite as far as NAB. You can just come up with a witty headline, like PFCU did below for this bus wrap.
13. Develop an interactive game.
BB&T, a regional bank in the U.S., promoted leadership skills in a game for iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices. And Barclays in the UK built 56 Sage Street, which is perhaps the single best online interactive game ever developed by a financial institution.
14. Be a student of fun brands.
Keep an eye on brands like Virgin Money, Southwest Airlines, Old Spice, Charmin, Tangerine (ne ING Direct), Taco Bell, Disney, JetBlue, Oreo and Wonderful Pistachios, just to name a few. If you see another brand doing something fun, add the idea to your “fun file.”
15. Offline scavenger hunt.
Eastern Bank hid some GoPro video cameras in secret locations around their market, then gave consumers clues to find them on the bank’s Facebook page. It earned the bank some great free press, and spiked traffic to their website by 20%.
16. Make a billboard out of dollar bills or loose change.
Vancity sorted over 60,000 pennies — now out of circulation in Canada — by color and tarnish level, then glued them to a massive billboard to create a mosaic masterpiece. ING Direct glued loose change to a street level display and let people pick off all the coins to reveal the message: “Tired of being nickel and dimed?”
17. Have fun in your drive-through lanes.
Michigan First Credit Union asked members in the drive-through lanes at one of its branches if they would like some entertainment. Those that said yes were treated to a dance routine from seven high school aged performers who boogied down to C&C Music Factory’s hit “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” around their cars. Then on another day, those who wanted their drive-through “entertainment” got treated to a free performance from a mariachi band.
18. Flash mob.
A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act, often a dance routine or musical performance. Here’s one that Wells Fargo did in Times Square back in 2011.
19. Use toy cars to sell auto loans.
Put a miniature toy-sized kid car in your branch parking lot. You can use either a vintage one from a second-hand store like Town & Country Credit Union (below), or you can pick one up at Toys-R-Us. Chain the thing to a bolt stuck in the concrete if you don’t want to see it disappear. Then put a sign next to it about your current auto loan promotion/rates. Every single person who walks by will stop to check it out.
20. Money tree.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Well in Australia, that doesn’t seem to be the case, where one bank placed a tree full of $5 notes in Syndey’s Fleet Park, then used hidden cameras to record people’s reactions. You’d think people would mob the tree and strip it bare, but they didn’t. Summit Credit Union repeated the stunt in 2010 with similar results. It’s a fascinating psychology experiment that yield great PR opportunities.
21. Reward desired behaviors with fun prizes.
You’ve heard the expression “you get what you give.” That’s how it works when you want people to change behaviors. If you want someone to take action or do something differently than they have in the past, you’re going to have to incent/reward those behaviors. For instance, if you’re launching mobile check deposits, build a promotion where some winner(s) win “Double Deposits.” If you want to increase credit/debit card activity, create a promotion where you randomly select and pay for purchases. If you want people to change ingrained habits, you’re going to have to make it fun.
22. Send your competitor a message.
Coast Capital Savings asked people to sign a giant 8′x10′ greeting card that “congratulated” big banks for the $3 billion in fees that they charge Canadians annually. The Canadian institution had their “I Love Fees” street team collecting signatures on the mock greeting card at various public locations.
23. Cash mobs.
Cash mobs play off the idea of flash mobs, but instead of performing a song and dance routine, a group of folks get together and flood a local, independent business, each ready to spend about $20. A number of financial institutions are having fun with cash mobs, which help position them as supportive of small businesses.
24. Candid camera gag.
Here’s a great gag from NAB, the undisputed king of guerilla marketing in the banking world. Luke, a typical consumer, strolls through the local mall on a sunny afternoon when he stumbles upon a pair of football tickets apparently lost by another shopper. Luke takes the tickets to the nearby “Lost Property” desk. “I found these laying on the ground over there,” he explains, handing the tickets over.
“Well that’s honest of you,” says the agent staffing the Lost Property kiosk. “What’s your name?”
“Luke,” he says. Moments later, as Luke continues his stroll through the mall, he sees his name and face plastered everywhere — on posters and video displays. He’s even on the news. “Is this the new face of honesty?” asks one poster sporting Luke’s photo. A massive 20-foot display in the center of the mall screams, “Thanks for your honesty!” As if that weren’t enough, a baker inside the mall has decorated a cake in his honor. “Honest Luke,” it says in blue, sugary letters.
The campaign stressed the bank’s integrity and approach to financial matters, with a particular focus on a new credit card with no strings or hidden fees.
25. Random acts of kindness.
In the spirit of the film “Pay it Forward,” send street teams out to perform guerilla good deeds for unsuspecting citizens in your community. You can pick up the tab for a family’s dinner, or surprise a local fire department with a free lunch, or pay for someone’s gas.
26. Host an ice-cream eating contest.
In the spring of 2013, Magnify Credit Union invited Joey Chestnut, the number-one ranked eater in the world, to compete at the Magnify Credit Union World Ice Cream-Eating Championship. Prizes ranged from $100 up to $2,000 for first.
27. Interactive floor mats.
These things are a blast. Objects are projected onto the floor, where motion detectors interpret people’s actions, allowing them to interact with the objects. You can kick things like soccer balls. Swipe things off the screen like sand. It’s loads of fun, and something financial marketers can easily make relevant to banking (e.g., coins, piggy banks, etc.)
28. Hand out free money.
Consumers love cash, so start handing out free money in public. Just be sure to bring your camera, because you’re going to have some great material for TV stations and viral YouTube campaigns. Businesses in every other industry give away their inventory, so why not banks and credit unions? Invite people in for some “free samples from the vault.”
29. Hire fun and funny people.
If you want to build your brand and your internal culture around the concept of “fun,” that means you’re going to need fun people on board. It shouldn’t be very difficult finding questions HR can ask in interviews to screen prospective job seekers and see how fun and/or witty they are.
30. Punch the pig.
When a PNC customer is banking online, they can just “punch” a little piggy bank icon that pops up from time to time. Whenever they “Punch the Pig,” money transfers from checking to savings in a pre-defined amount specified by the customer. For smartphone users, the “punch” is actually a “shake”. Users can decide how often the pig pops up or choose to let PNC surprise them randomly.
31. Bake breakfast biscuits for business customers.
Countybank cooked up a clever campaign targeting businesses in the bank’s area. They offered new business customers a free biscuit breakfast for up to 13 people delivered to the firm’s doorstep as long as the business was willing to meet with a Countybank representative.
32. Break a world record.
Commonwealth Bank assembled 935 people wearing Aussie team colors to break the Guinness World Record for “most people wearing the same team uniform in a photo.” This stunt, organized by Commonwealth as part of the 2012 Olympics, reminds financial marketers that there is a lot more to PR than just pounding out corporate press releases. Commonwealth managed to get themselves on the front page of every paper, on the homepage of every new website, and on every news broadcast in Australia. And what did it cost them? Basically nothing. All they had to do was invite a bunch of Aussies to a barbie, then give them beer and jerseys.
Standard Chartered Bank went one step further (actually many steps further) when they became the first bank on earth to have someone use their mobile banking app at the peak of Mt. Everest.
33. Savings lottery.
People love to gamble. So if someone wants to sock some money away for a while, why not do it at a bank or credit union where they have a random shot at winning a few thousand extra bucks? A savings account lottery is a fun, innovative way to capture consumers’ attention and encourage positive savings behaviors while generating new account activity for financial institutions. Just make sure prize-linked savings schemes are legal in your area.
34. Make a friendly bet with a competitor.
Challenge a competitor with a wager. It could be a local rival — say a bank vs. a credit union. Or it could be a non-threatening institution in another part of the country (even the world). When Notre Dame’s football team played Alabama for the national championship, two credit unions — Notre Dame FCU and Alabama Credit Union — competed to see who could get the most credit card applications by game time. The loser had to pay $10,000 to the charity of the winner’s choosing.
35. Whirlwind of money machine.
There are few amusements at live events as alluring as those booths that blow cash around. Lucky consumers get to step inside for a predetermined amount of time and snatch all the cash they can from the monetary whirlwind. It’s fun for everyone, and relatively easy to control your risk/exposure/costs.
36. Give away ice cream.
When Umpqua Bank opens a new branch, they send out a branded ice cream truck to hand out free frozen treats to everyone within a five-mile radius of the new location. The bank also has an “Icicle Tricycle” that they take to community events.
37. Make your window displays interactive.
Using motion tracking, pedestrians can interact with LCD screens mounted in your branch window displays. Citizens Bank did this with an interesting nature theme, and Grow Financial had a virtual “grab-the-cash” game that passersby could play.
38. Fun and exciting giveaways.
Whenever you have a contest or sweepstakes, you can make your prizes fun. OnPoint Credit Union used an all-you-can-grab supermarket sweepstakes where winners had three minutes to stuff everything they could fit into a shopping cart.
39. Find a funny spokesperson.
USA Federal Credit Union used “Spike,” a bulldog to deliver all manner of amusing headlines. And Georgia United used “Aunt Sophie” — a cute little old lady — as their sassy, no-nonsense and unexpected spokesperson. Another credit union created “BubbaLuv.” And E*Trade has been using its talking baby spokes-infant for nearly a decade.
40. End of the world loans.
One credit union decided to have fun with the Mayan prediction that the world would end on December 21, 2012. If that indeed happened, the credit union promised to forgive any of its members new auto loans. And if the world didn’t end, then members would be stuck with a killer rate on a great auto loan.
41. Stage a protest.
There’s a lot that people can get mad about in banking. So why not stage a protest for them. President’s Choice (a supermarket in Canada with a financial arm) had its employees march in front of their locations with protest signs that said “Stop Paying Bank Fees.” Members of the press and various supporting materials were also on hand.
42. Send a bunch of barf bags in the mail.
Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union ran a barf bag promotion back in 2006, the headline, “Is Your Bank Making You Sick?”
43. Keep your internal culture fun.
If you want to create a fun banking experience for consumers, you’re going to have to maintain a fun internal culture. You should “walk your talk” with employees. Don’t tell them to have fun; show them how to have fun. (Hint: Rows of lifeless, depersonalized cubicles are not conducive to a fun workplace.)
44. Don’t block access to social media sites.
Social media is fun, and it’s a part of our everyday lives. Only a fun-hating organization would block access to social media sites. And besides, everyone has a smartphone these days, so isn’t it kind of pointless?
45. Funny commercials.
Talking babies and talking animals are always funny fodder in ad land. First Direct used a platypus. First Tech Credit Union used talking squirrels in its commercials. And who can forget the devious comedy in this series of TV spots from Ally starring hapless kids? GEICO’s crazy commercials prove that you can be funny doing just about anything you feel like.
46. Send anniversary cards.
You can fight attrition by acknowledging people’s tenure. Start with their first anniversary — even just a simple card saying thanks. Loyal customers (or members) might get a yummy treat sent to them on their fifth anniversary. On their tenth, they might get a gift card. In the years in between, you could send amusing reminders about the advantages, benefits and savings they’ve realized in the last year by being a customer.
47. Have fun in social channels.
If there is anywhere that you can let your hair down, it’s on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Don’t be afraid to do create unusual content for your social channels — photos, tweets, cartoons, jokes, videos, etc. If you can’t have fun here, then the “fun strategy” probably isn’t for you. Conversely, don’t try to build a fun brand if your CEO or compliance people force you to play it safe and straight in social channels. You can’t say, “Hey, we’re all about fun,” if you’re not having any fun on Facebook.
48. Make your direct mail “lumpy.”
Whenever you print a direct mail piece, always be looking to do something more than just your standard 6×9 postcard or 8.5×11 letter with a #10 envelope. If you have to send out a standard letter/envelope, at least stick something “lumpy” inside — like a pen. The post office will let you mail just about anything you can stick a stamp on, so they don’t care if you put “lumpy” stuff in your envelopes. Sure you’ll pay a bit more for postage, but you’ll also get a much higher response rate. And it’s fun for the recipient, almost like they are getting a little gift in the mail. With DM, you should always introduce one or more tricks/techniques to make the piece more fun and engaging — a die cut, unusual fold, unusual paper/texture, pop-up, foil, translucent envelope, etc.
49. Trivia games.
There are any number of ways to structure fun trivia contests. One question or many. One big prize or lots of little ones. Online, offline, on Facebook or Twitter.
50. Funny = complete honesty and utter truths.
The next time you listen to a stand-up comedian as they work through their routine, pay close attention to the things that make you laugh the hardest. Those will invariably be the subject matter you feel holds the most truth. Comedians love taking unspoken truths and turning them into punch lines.
51. Make inside jokes only locals would think are funny.
The Bank of Ann Arbor ran a playful series of billboards mocking its competitors’ lack of local knowledge. The billboards feature user-submitted slogans along with the names of those selected as winners in the bank’s “Build-A-Billboard” Facebook contest. “Non-local banks think Briarwood is where Peter Rabbit lives,” read one (translation for non-locals: Briarwood is Ann Arbor’s big mall).
52. Make conspicuous displays from cash/coins.
People are fascinated by money — stacks and piles of it. It’s just fun to look at. This bus shelter display is made from special 3M security glass and real coins. The headline: “Millionaires take the bus.” The copy: “Taking mass transit versus driving saves roughly $5,000 per year. If those savings are invested over a typical 45-year career, you’ll retire a million dollars wealthier.”
53. Run a teaser campaign.
A teaser campaign is an advertising campaign which typically consists of a series of small, cryptic, challenging advertisements that anticipate a larger, full-blown campaign for a product launch or otherwise important event. In the teaser billboard below, the bank starts off with a nearly all-white billboard. “What is it?” people wonder. “Who’s it for?” Then over the course of the next few days, more and more of the billboard is shown to reveal the advertiser.
54. Make a viral video.
Psshhaw, you scoff? “Banks can’t make a viral video,” you say? Not true. This three-minute video from TC Bank has been viewed over 4.7 million times.
55. Go guerilla.
Guerilla is one of the most effective tools in the marketer’s arsenal, and yet it is nearly completely ignored by most financial institutions. There is no better way to get mountains of free PR than pulling of a good guerilla marketing stunts. Study non-traditional campaigns and turn yourself into a guerilla marketing commando. If you want to make banking fun — on a budget — the bang for the buck (i.e., ROI) on guerilla can’t be beat.
56. Beer brainstorming sessions.
If you’re running low on ideas to make banking fun, replenish your creative juices with beer. Get everyone together on a Friday afternoon, or have an offsite overnight retreat. When you’re looking for fresh ideas, it helps to break away from your stale surroundings.
57. Kill a lame product/program.
One way to make banking more fun is to eliminate headaches, hassles and roadblocks. If you’ve got a product or program you know annoys consumers, kill it. It’s only going to get in your way as you try to build a fun brand.
58. Create a mascot.
If you have a financial education program for kids, a mascot is a fun and engaging way to bring your message to life. You can find 25 different ideas for mascots that other banks and credit unions are already using.
59. Play with money.
Western Sun FCU made these printed pieces — a third of a $100 bill — and left them around public places for people to find. It really doesn’t matter what they printed on the insides of this nifty little marketing trick. People probably read the entire message no matter what it said.
60. Use billboards.
It’s not that billboards are a tremendously effective advertising medium (although they can be). It’s that billboards give financial marketers excellent opportunities to express their fun, fresh take on banking. Good outdoor advertising makes use of its environmental context. Great billboards will become local pop culture sensations.
61. Send unusual thank yous.
Everyone likes cake!
62. Have fun during Halloween.
The Financial Brand assembled this gallery of 10 frightfully fun, freaky and fang-tastic Halloween promotions from credit unions.
63. Online guessing game.
Take a page out of First National Bank’s marketing playbook. They came up with a brilliantly simple Facebook promotion that’s a spin on the age-old guessing game made popular at county fairs in the 20th century — e.g., guess how many pennies are in this jar. They took a picture of some piles of cash, posted it on Facebook, and invited participants to guess the total sum. The closest guess won a cash prize.
64. Interactive ads.
Technology now exists that allows mobile users to point their smartphone at an ad and it will trigger an interactive video. Imagine how much fun it would be to bring your next ad to life — literally. Commonwealth Bank has run a mobile-driven, augmented reality advertisement in key Australian markets. The ad, placed in a number of Australian newspapers, invites readers to download the CommBank 3D reader app so they can explore Cherryford Hill, an interactive virtual town.
65. Funny messages on outdoor branch signage.
Some local businesses are famous for the amusing messages they rotate on their monument and pole signs.
66. Throw pies in your CEO’s face.
This is great for charity campaigns. One credit union held an internal contest for staff. Any employee who made a donation was entered into a drawing for various prizes, including a “Pie in the Face Contest.” Winners were allowed to throw a pie in the faces of two credit union executives. Six members of the senior team volunteered to take a pie in the face.
67. Free hugs.
Sound silly? Maybe it is. But isn’t that part of having fun? A credit union in Australia hired street teams to give away hugs around Sydney when it relaunched its brand under the theme “Generous Banking.”
68. Be dog-friendly.
Dogs are fun, playful — man’s best friend. You can put water bowls out in front of your branches for your patrons’ canine companions. You can give out dog treats in your drive-through lanes. You can have a dog mascot, like Sunova Credit Union that has a St. Bernhard in every branch. You can also support local dog charities.
69. Celebrate Christmas.
Cowards hide behind political correctness, while bold brands have all the fun. And Christmas is fun! Innovations FCU performed a brilliant 3-minute lip-dub performance of “Jingle Bells” — shot all in one take. Innovations posted the video posted to its YouTube channel, where it’s been viewed over 16,000 times — not shabby for a credit union with only 18,000 members and $157 million in assets.
70. Offer crazy debit/credit card designs.
Element FCU offers zombie debit cards, and OCBC in Singapore offers a sprawling series of wild card designs including one called “Deep In The Valley” you have to see to believe.
71. Celebrate birthdays.
Send your customers (or members) special birthday greetings. Simply acknowledging them on their birthday with an email or direct mail piece will score points. But you can also include a special birthday gift or offer.
72. Have a stamina contest.
Here’s an idea for an auto loan promotion: everyone who asks about an auto loan is entered into a drawing. Ten winners are assembled at one of your branches on a Saturday where they lay one hand on a new vehicle you’ll award to the last person to be touching the vehicle. You could also run this kind of contest at a state or county fair. BofA ran a similar promotion where contestants had to keep their hand on a branded-jersey to see who would win season tickets for their favorite NFL team — “Last Fan Standing.”
73. Come up with a fun slogan.
If you’re going to be the “fun bank” (or “fun credit union”), you might as well make some noise about it. Consider changing your institution’s branding tagline to something that celebrates your focus on making financial matters fun.
74. Put a big smile on your brand identity.
Refresh your brand identity with a bright, vibrant, playful design. Make your brand identity something that consumers enjoy looking at and have fun interacting with — something they look forward to. Let your creativity and imagination run wild. Copy should be light, clever and friendly. And be brutally honest, because nothing is funnier than the cold, hard truth.
75. Offline guessing game.
Make a display with some assortment of bills and ask branch visitors to guess the amount. Be sure to tell the public about the contest and give the promotion adequate marketing support. Alternate version: put the display in a shopping mall for increased exposure and PR value.
76. Make your headlines funny.
Every headline on every marketing piece your organization creates is an opportunity to express your fun personality.
77. Wrap your vehicles in graphics.
A key part of making banking fun is to make yourself look as unbanklike as possible. Stuffy bankers drive Cadillacs. Fun banks drive something interesting and unexpected, then wrap them in cool, festive graphics.
78. Custom website backgrounds.
A few financial institutions let visitors to their websites pick custom background images. Salem Five Bank gives users 32 different photos to choose from — all equally stunning. Some financial institutions solicit images from their customers.
79. Dorm room makeover contest.
How can banks and credit unions push checking accounts and other financial products on college kids who have other priorities? How about a $5,000 dream dorm room makeover? What college-age student doesn’t want that? Everyone can remember the first time they laid eyes on campus housing. They are dull, lifeless, functional spaces painted an antiseptic shade of white. Bor-ring!
80. Movie night in branches.
There are quite a few financial institutions that have designed their branches to double as community meeting spaces. Yes, they can use the space to host financial education seminars, but that’s predictable — not fun either. Umpqua is one bank that uses branches for family movie nights. They show age-appropriate films for kids who wear pajamas while eating up the bank’s popcorn and other treats.
81. Tie a banker to a light pole.
A bank in Australia duct-taped one of their own bankers to a light pole in a busy town square. As passersby asked the hapless banker if he needed help, he’d say that someone was “already on the way,” then explain that he had been kidnapped by a rival bank who left him stranded up on the pole as retaliation for having such amazing rates and service. “We’ve had so many good things happen this past year, that the other banks… well, it’s just plain jealousy.”
It’s a lighthearted, playful, unexpected and fairly inexpensive gag — another fantastic PR opportunities.
82. Hold a TV commercial contest.
Invite the general public to film commercials for your organization and/or its products. Give aspiring filmmakers video clips and other visual resources they can incorporate into their productions. Prizes can include things like video cameras, TVs, and trips to Hollywood.
83. Name the branch promotion.
If you build a new branch location, why not let your customers (or members) suggest names for it? You can award prizes for the best suggestions.
84. Fight the zombie menace.
Michigan Community Credit Union uses the undead to revive consumer interest in auto loans. They have a massive multi-channel engagement campaign that includes a lead-generating microsite, lookoutforzombies.com. The highlight of the campaign is a crazy “choose-your-own-adventure” style interactive YouTube video that allows users to select different scenarios. It’s really well done and lots of fun. You can buy the whole campaign from the folks at CU*Grow for few thousand bucks.
85. Pull an April Fools prank.
Pulling a good April Fools prank is tough. You can walk a fine line between a good ruse and something that pisses people off. It’s best to poke fun at yourself — create a fake product, or make up a phony funny milestone. The best April Fools gimmicks are just plausible enough to rope people in. You can find some excellent examples here.
86. Make your employee intranet fun.
Delta Community Credit Union’s creative and branded employee intranet is affectionately named “Simon.” Simon is the portal for all employee communications — the guy who knows what’s going on inside the credit union. Employees can access a calendar of events, employee birthdays, HR suggestion box, training information, games, project fact sheets, timesheets, updates on charitable fundraising activities, HR policies and procedures, and more. But Simon is more than just an intranet. He is a full-fledged internal spokesman and mascot, complete with a costume and foam head.
87. Giant corn maze.
O Bee Credit Union partnered with a local newspaper and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions to create a massive, 6-acre financial education maze made from corn. The credit union’s name, “O BEE,” was the centerpiece of “The Amazing Money Maze.”
88. Put people on billboards.
Nothing makes a billboard more noticeable or memorable than when a real person is on it, like the ads below for ING Italy (below). One slant on the human billboard concept is to put a person up until a certain goal or milestone is achieved — e.g., until a certain sized charitable donation is reached, or until you hit $10 million in new home loans. If it isn’t feasible to put a real person on a billboard, think about how you could use a mannequin, like the First Community rebranding billboard (bottom).
89. Hurl some tomatoes.
For a 24-hour period, Heritage ran a live, interactive “takeover” banner ad. When a visitor clicked on the banner, they were prompted to enter their name, suburb and answer this question: “Do you love your big bank?” Their answer choices were “yes,” “no” and “when pigs fly.” Once the information was supplied, they were routed to a live broadcast studio and introduced to “Heritage Man,” the on-going star of Heritage’s TV commercials. Behind him were three targets on a wall with the answer choices: Yes, No and When Pigs Fly. Heritage Man would greet them by name, engage in some light-hearted banter, then hurl a tomato at the appropriate target.
90. Build a parade float.
91. Hold a financial fitness challenge.
First Tech Credit Union selected households to compete for a $10,000 grand prize. The prize went to the household that achieved the most financial success in four pre-determined categories: debt reduction, increase in savings, increase in overall net worth, and overall level of participation in the program.
92. Buy a blimp.
We’re not talking about buying a Goodyear-sized blimp. We’re talking about something much more modest — in the 10-foot range. You can use these blimps at various community and sporting events to drop prizes on people. Sunova Credit Union and a bank in Eastern Europe have both used remote controlled airships to bomb consumers with gifts.
Garanti Bank in Turkey used a remote-controlled hot air balloon and a small, one-person glider to air drop gifts on citizens. The packages contained a small stuffed animal attached to a small branded parachute.
93. March Madness.
America goes bananas for the NCAA basketball championships. It’s okay to use the idea of “March Madness” — using plays-on-words and the concept of brackets — just don’t use the actual trademarked term “March Madness” or you’ll find yourself in deep legal doo doo. 66 FCU held a “Battle of the Brackets” promotion built around a standard “pick-your-teams” contest. Grand prize: a 60” HDTV.
94. A cage for video game duels.
In 2009, Guitar Hero was all the rage. One credit union targeting college students took a step van and converted it into a two-player mobile video game arcade — see-through, with windows on three sides — a Guitar Hero fighting cage. The credit union took the truck to events thick with college kids — concerts, campus events, etc. — where staffers would hand out frisbees, t-shirts and other fare with soft promotional value.
95. Name the goldfish promotion.
You could put a goldfish in every branch and let your patrons submit suggestions for its name. Of you could do an online version on Facebook where you post a photo of a fat cat and have a “Name the Fat Cat Banker” contest. Everyone loves making fun of fat cat bankers.
96. Have crazy or unusual job titles.
Connex Credit Union created a new position called the Vice President of Unbanking. What can you come up with?
97. Be courageous.
You aren’t going to have any real fun at your financial institution if you aren’t willing to take some chances. The best brands are built by those who are brave enough to do something new and different. Just accept that everything you try won’t always work out the way you (or your CEO) hoped.
98. Celebrate with staff.
Throw an employee party when you hit major milestones — reaching $1 billion in assets for instance, completing a core conversion, launching a new product, attaining 50,000 mobile banking app downloads, your 10 millionth pageview on your website, etc. This makes the internal work atmosphere more enjoyable while also connoting to employees that the organization is strong, vital and “going places.”
99. Make financial education fun for kids.
Derived from ING Direct’s “Orange” brand, Planet Orange provides learning activities and games designed to teach kids (grades one to six) financial responsibility. Although not quite as entertaining as Spongebob or Ben 10, Planet Orange nevertheless succeeds in delivering much-needed financial literacy in an interesting package — suitable for today’s media-saturated kids.
100. Ask consumers, “How would you make banking fun?”
Once people have a feel for how much you like having fun, open it up to them. Ask folks what ideas they have for making banking a more fun, less sucky experience.
101. Keep reading The Financial Brand.
If you want a steady stream of fresh and original ideas that bring a little levity to banking services, there’s no better source than The Financial Brand. We publish over 500 articles every year, recapping the most interesting, unusual and unique promotions in the financial sector. Subscribe to the email newsletter and get new ideas delivered straight to your inbox every week.