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Affinity Federal Credit Union & Inspiring Action With DiGo

When Affinity Federal Credit Union first came to us in 2014, the country was in economic disarray.

Following the second-worst financial crisis in U.S. history, seven million people had just lost their homes. More than that had just lost their jobs, and many lost both. Trust in financial institutions had plummeted by 50 percent, while trust in banks fell even more.

Still, the largest credit union headquartered in New Jersey needed new members, and quickly.

The challenge: Help Affinity grow in a post-recession economy where disillusionment with financial institutions was at an all-time high.

Together with our client, we needed to build an iconic brand, change behaviors, and inspire a new movement — and for a fraction of the cost of the marketing budgets of big banks on Wall Street.

We got started with a strategic exploratory of all the key messages that might help Affinity Federal Credit Union achieve its goals, and we found a key insight that did that far better than any other.

Affinity Federal Credit Union isn’t a bank.

You can, however, get a checking account, business loan or credit card there.

Our planning team talked to credit union members and discovered their desire to not see themselves as the victims or enablers of Wall Street. Instead, these members prided themselves on investing in their own community.

And unlike a bank, it had an inspiring idea above commercial intent — a not-for-profit public service mission that aimed to help people and small businesses.

We had our single thought …

“We’re not a bank, we’re Affinity”.

The creative message? All the financial services of a bank, but 100% Fat Cat free.

This was a brilliant example of reframing — positioning a company, a Credit Union, while at the same time de-positioning your competition. And it was based on a single compelling insight, which is way deep into our psyche: We consider all banks the same Fat Cat.

To really position the credit union apart from the bigwigs on Wall Street, Affinity needed to take this inspiring idea and dramatize it through a small number of iconic actions.

First, we created commercials that could never, ever have been done by any uptight bank.

Our major character was a real fat cat behind a desk. The response was so tremendous that the spot ended up catapulting Affinity to a national story and was featured on Spike TV’s Funniest Commercials of the Year — twice.

The campaign went viral on social networks, dramatically increasing the efficiency of the advertising.  It was iconic.

Affinity Federal Credit Union – Fat Cats from DiMassimo Goldstein on Vimeo.

Next, to showcase Affinity’s low checking fees, we took the drama to an entirely new level.

Together with our client, we conducted a social experiment with real people, but one that took a turn for the extreme. We brought elite athletes and fat cat banking customers into the same gym.

Then, to demonstrate how commercial banks clobber their customers with enormous fees, we printed “ATM fees” and other fees on dodgeballs, blindfolded the customers and then let the athletes pelt them mercilessly. (Of course, our lawyers were present with ironclad releases and videotaped disclaimers.)

This insanely lopsided dodgeball game turned into a fully integrated campaign including digital banners, a landing page, and extra outtakes. Talk about an in-your-face advertisement …

It too went viral.

After a couple years, our client’s challenge had evolved.

We had helped Affinity successfully define who they weren’t — a fat-cat-run bank — but now, the credit union needed help defining who they were.

We looked deeper, conducting extensive primary research to learn all about what makes Affinity unique. We spoke with members, employees, stakeholders, and prospects and learned that Affinity members and employees feel proud to belong to something better. And that their tagline, “Belong to something better,” was the core of the brand. The message was authentic, and the sentiment was there, but the members weren’t embedded in the journey enough for this to be showcased to future members. All we needed to do was tell their story by bringing clear meaning to the tagline in a way that allowed every audience to relate to the brand. We needed to showcase the trustworthy human connections that make the Affinity experience so authentic, and who better to tell that story than the members themselves?

The new campaign, titled “A Community Connected,” was co-created with Affinity members. Through a series of regional OOH, display, radio, and TV spots, this innovative approach to advertising brought the brand’s mission to life in a transparent and iconic way. Using our patented Selfifesto® technique, we placed the members at the center of the marketing message and couldn’t be happier with the result. We asked members to record selfie videos detailing their inspiring experience with the credit union, and we worked to compile these videos into powerful ads.

The success wasn’t only measured in accounts and loans, but also by its ability to rally the brand’s employees under one flag. We helped throw a company picnic to celebrate them and build on the idea that they help make Affinity what it is. Our rebranding campaign brought the brand to life and educated audiences about what a credit union is, which is a huge barrier for the category. The campaign worked to tell Affinity’s story to prospects, members, and employees in a unifying way.

Affinity Federal Credit Union – A Community Connected from DiMassimo Goldstein on Vimeo.

The results? A campaign that drove down cost-per-acquisition while simultaneously increasing annual memberships.

During our partnership with Affinity, our client built a thriving community, helping bring the life-changing benefits of the credit union to more and more members each year.

By demonstrating the 10 Signs of an Inspiring Action Company, Affinity changed behaviors and got a new generation to open up accounts and form relationships with a credit union.

People want to be a part of an organization that has their interests at heart, and that’s exactly what Affinity is.