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.
Facebook is thirteen years old.
So it’s not exactly breaking news that we live in a direct-led and socially connected world. We’ve been living in it for over a decade now. It’s not going to change our lives; it already has. The way we talk. The way we think. The way we act. As people. As consumers. And, for those paying attention, as brands.
Even the line between brand and consumer is becoming blurred. With brands like Lyft and Airbnb, the platforms themselves have become communities where brand values and benefits are communicated through daily interactions, rather than through headlines. Actions, not ads, have become the coin of the realm.
46-inch TVs sitting in living rooms have become 7-inch smartphones constantly moving. From couch to desk to coffee shop to grocery store. From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to Instagram to Snapchat. Seamlessly. “Word of mouth” has become “likes,” “shares,” “comments,” and “snapchat follows.”
People are literally carrying your brand around in their pockets. So it makes sense that marketing has become more personal. Now, more than ever, people want to be a part of the brand. They expect to have a voice.
And this is why we invented The Selfifesto® – a new and innovative co-creation process that puts your brand’s most devoted fans at the center of the process to bring the brand truths to life.
Tapping into today’s selfie-culture, we ask brand loyalists to record videos of themselves on their smartphones. Then we package the video into an ad where they become the stars. We provide the brief, strategy, concept, scripts, and editing, but each consumer is their own director, actor, and camera operator. An ad co-created between the brand and consumer. It’s not just our campaign; it’s theirs as well.
In return, the brand develops a greater understanding of their target audience, increasing customer satisfaction through the back-and-forth interaction. A community is built, and engagement is only further intensified when the superstars themselves spread the spots online.
It’s an experiment we first tried with WeightWatchers a few months back, and then again with Affinity Federal Credit Union. Real customers with real stories… a celebration of their success with the brands, all for a fraction of typical production costs.
No one knows your consumers better than they know themselves, and when you give them the voice they want and invite them to join the conversation, some amazing things can happen. Remember, a brand is not what you tell people it is. A brand is what people tell people it is.
If you want to learn more about how we can do this for you and your brand, we’d love to talk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more on The Selfifesto®.
If you think of the credit unions as sleepy, dated, obsolete organizations, you are not like most people, because most people don’t think of credit unions at all.
So, when Affinity Federal Credit Union came to us a few years after the second-worst financial crisis in American history, we needed to find a way to get a lot more people to think about a credit union. And not only that, we needed to get them to contact that credit union and to make it their own.
Seven million people had lost their homes in the previous few years. Eight point eight million jobs had been lost as well. The trust in financial institutions plummeted by fifty percent, while trust in banks fell even more.
We did a strategic exploratory of all the key messages that might help Affinity Federal Credit Union achieve its goals, and we found one message 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. And people do need financial services.
Affinity had an inspiring idea above commercial intent. It had a not-for-profit public service mission that aimed to help people and small businesses help each other through community credit.
Affinity discovered what the people it serves aspire to be and do. Our planning team talked to credit union members and learned how motivated they are to not see themselves as the victims or enablers of Wall Street. Instead, they prided themselves on investing in their own community and in maintaining institution that had become so important to that community.
We had our line…
All the financial services of a bank, but 100% Fat Cat free.
Affinity took this inspiring idea and dramatized it through a small number of iconic actions.
First, we created commercials, which could have never, ever 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. And the campaign for a community credit union went viral on social networks, dramatically increasing the efficiency of the advertising. Yes, it was iconic.
Affinity Federal Credit Union – Fat Cats from DiMassimo Goldstein on Vimeo.
When it came time to showcase Affinity’s low checking fees, we knew we had to be dramatic. 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.) It was literally an in-your-face advertisement, and it too went viral.
Affinity FCU Fee Ball :60 from DiMassimo Goldstein on Vimeo.
Affinity is using technology and system to shorten the cycle of test and optimization. The media that we run isn’t just reported by some bot. It’s seen and interacted with. We’re buying it only in transparent ways, eliminating the estimated 15-20% waste from inefficiency that most media planning/buying firms are passing along to their clients. It allows a modest and cost-effective investment to cause a dramatic uptick in both acquisition and brand value.
Through demonstrating the 10 Signs of an Inspiring Action Company, Affinity is changing behaviors and getting 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.
That’s why Affinity Federal Credit Union is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Week, and we couldn’t be more proud to be its agency.