1. Holiday Loans
Many financial institutions promote personal loans during the Christmas season, but few do it correctly. Decades of conditioning have led lenders to believe that the rate is all that matters. That may be true for home and auto loans, but no one really cares about rates during the annual consumer bacchanal known as “Christmas”; all people care about is making sure they have enough to get the gifts they want and cover their shopping list. So instead of marketing the rate, talk about your holiday personal loans in terms of how much consumers can borrow and what their payments will be. If you’re smart and you can make it pencil out, add a “90 days no payment” sweetener to the deal.
2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals
ING Direct (now Capital One 360) has been running both Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions for years. And in recent years, more and more financial institutions have decided to follow suit. After all, everyone else does hops on the holiday bandwagon, so there’s no reason banks and credit unions can’t join in all the retail hype. You can use either Black Friday or Cyber Monday (or both) to promote any number of seasonal financial products: personal loans, credit cards, auto loans, prepaid gift cards. You can structure your promotion as either a 24-hour sale or stretch it out through the weekend, or even an entire week.
First Montana Bank tried this not long ago with amazing success. They started at 7:00 am with 1.5% on secured loans and 3.5% on unsecured, then bumped the rate up 25 points every 30 minutes from there. The promotion brought in over $2 million in new loans in under four hours — over 120 loans with the majority coming from new members.
If you really want to go bananas, go for “12 Days of Christmas Specials.” For instance, you could advertise that anyone who switches to your financial institution during the 12-day period would be entered to win various prizes, including perhaps a grand prize luxury vacation trip.
3. ATM Cash Bonuses
Want some free press? Easy. Just call your local media outlets and tell them you will be randomly swapping out $20 bills for $50 bills in your ATMs. You can limit this promotion to a single day and/or a single location. And it’s easy to control the hard cost — do you want one $50 bill for every 250 notes that would normally be dispensed, or one for every 500 notes? December is the most cash-intensive time of the year, and everyone needs to hit an ATM at least once or twice. If they can score some free cash, it might as well be yours, right?
4. Random Acts of Kindness
The Financial Brand has written a number of times about these feel-good guerilla campaigns. Pick a day or week in December — even the entire month — and have employees run around town performing random acts of kindness. You can give out cookies at a local senior center, pay for someone’s coffee on a cold day, or fill up their tank at the gas station.
5. Dangle Cash Incentives
Consumers are in desperate need of money during the holidays, so tack a cash bonus onto any product you need to promote. For instance, you could run a campaign promising “up to $200 in free cash” — $50 for opening a new checking account, $50 for signing up for online bill pay, and $100 for closing a car loan.
Another slant on this promotion is to offer to pay up to $1,000 in people’s holiday bills (or whatever amount threshold you choose).
6. Skip a Payment Promotion
One way to catch the attention of your financial institution’s current customers (or members) is to offer them a “free pass” on their loan. Let them skip their loan payment in the month of December and they’ll love you. The examples below are off-the-shelf promotions ready-to-go from a company called Image Works.
7. #ShareTheSpirit on Social Media
in 2012, Guaranty Bank hosted a “Share The Spirit” holiday promotion on Facebook. For everyone who shared word of Guaranty’s “Share The Spirit” promo using a special hashtag, the bank donated $1 to Big Brothers. New fans of the bank are also entered into a drawing for a $200 Visa gift card.
8. Pick up the Tab
Encourage people to use their debit/credit cards during the holidays by holding random drawings where the selected winner(s) have their purchase paid for. Chase has run this type of promotion successfully for a few years now.
9. Grant Christmas Wishes
Last Christmas, Mutual Savings Credit Union in Alabama partnered with a local radio station to give away one Christmas wish a day for seven days (Dec 17-24). Listeners were encouraged to nominate deserving friends or needy family members by emailing the candidate’s information and details to the radio station.
10. Holiday Photo Contest
First Merit Bank likes to host an annual holiday photo contest on Facebook where the winners receive gift cards ranging in value from $100 all the way up to $500. Most financial institutions with holiday photo contests opt to host them on Facebook, letting their fans vote for their favorites. If you want, you can choose to give your contest a theme — e.g., a holiday pet photo contest, like the Bank of Easton did in 2011, with gift card prizes from Petco and charitable donations to their local animal shelter.
11. Santa at the Branch
Freedom Credit Union likes to delight members with visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus at their branches. Every year, hundreds of members and their children have their pictures taken with Santa. Employees are on hand to print the free photos for members and hand out candy canes. In addition, the credit union collects boxes of non-perishable food items and toiletries from members for donation to a local food bank.
12. Free Gift Wrapping
13. Online Christmas Choir
A few years ago, Halifax Bank asked its Facebook fans to record themselves singing a sing and upload their rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Participants could then combine their recordings with other people’s performances to create their own “virtual choir.” Halifax donated up to £5 for each person uploaded a video, £2 for each “virtual choir” recording created, £1 for inviting a friend to get involved, £1 for ‘Liking’ the app, and another £1 for ‘Liking’ an individual choir. Halifax says it gave away £100,000 (around $160,000).
14. Civic and Charitable Events
There’s a whole host of holiday activities financial institutions can sponsor.
- Christmas pageants and plays
- Tree lighting at a mall or town square
- Sponsor an outdoor ice skating rink
- Collect warm clothes like jackets and mittens for charities
- Hold a Toys-for-Tots drive in branches
- Collect cans of food for local food banks
- Host a free screening of a Christmas classic at a local theater