School’s Out Forever

Why Desert Financial promoted its name change with a Super Bowl ad starring Alice Cooper.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Desert Financial Credit Union droppped "Schools" from its name on Jan. 1. Promotion included a Super Bowl ad starring Phoenix native Alice Cooper.
  • For an investment of less than $1 million, the credit union believes the ad generated more than one million impressions.

On January 1, 2018, Desert Schools Financial Credit Union became Desert Financial Credit Union ($4.3B, Phoenix, AZ).

The credit union has a community charter, but its ties to its local education community run deep. As the cooperative dropped “schools” from its name, it wanted members to understand it wasn’t abandoning its schools, teachers, or students — that it was still the same organization.

Desert Financial announced the name change to members in December 2017, went live with a public marketing campaign on Jan. 2, and made some noise on Feb. 4 with a Super Bowl commercial starring Alice Cooper.

In this Q&A, Desert Financial’s chief marketing officer Cathy Graham talks about rolling out the rebrand, coming up with the Super Bowl commercial, and getting Alice Cooper to play himself.

 

 

 

Dropping “schools” is a significant change for the credit union. How did you approach the announcement?

Cathy Graham: We wanted the announcement to reassure members that we’re still the same organization, and we still care deeply about teachers and educators.

We spoke to other credit unions that have rebranded and asked what one thing they would do differently. They all said tell members nothing else is changing. We’re not turning into a bank, we’re not getting bought out, we’re not changing our pricing. We wanted it to be a non-event for members.

Desert Financial Has Its Member's Backs

"We hear over and over that people are frustrated with the big banks," says Graham. "People don’t feel like the banks have their backs. Our members do feel like their credit union cares about them and has their best interest at heart. They know we sell products and services, but we’re not doing it to meet sales quotas. It’s not the same as a bank."

What media are you using?

CG: Phoenix is the 12th largest metro area in the country, so we can participate in every type of media possible and reach our entire audience. We have TV, radio, digital, and outdoor ads. We’ve wrapped light rail trains. We’re using social media, digital ad words, and digital banner ads. We’ve got ads running in movie theaters and on YouTube. We’re not doing a lot of print or postal mailing because we want to keep printing costs down.

Desert Financials’ tagline is “Wherever life takes you, we have your back.” It’s meant to attract those who are frustrated with big banks.

Desert Financial also advertised during the Super Bowl. Why did you decide to do this?

CG: The Super Bowl happened within a month of our name change, it gets huge ratings, and it’s the one time people are watching something specifically for the ads. We knew we wanted to do something for the Super Bowl. Something more than running our usual ads — we wanted to do a legitimate Super Bowl commercial.

Once the idea of Alice Cooper singing “School’s Out” was floated, there was no other idea that could possibly compete. It was meant to be.

CU QUICK FACTS

Desert Financial Credit Union
Data as of 12.31.17

HQ: Phoenix, AZ
ASSETS: $4.3B
MEMBERS: 320,284
BRANCHES: 45
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.0%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 8.4%
ROA: 1.71%

Did you have any reservations?

CG: We thought it was a little bit risky. Our regular brand is warm and friendly, it’s approachable. This was out there for us as a credit union.

It’s important to not completely avoid risk, but to strategically determine when you are going to take a risk. Our CEO loved the idea, but we talked about what could go wrong and what could come across negatively.

The discussion wasn’t that “School’s Out” would offend teachers, so don’t do it. We recognized it could offend, so we needed to demonstrate our continued commitment to teachers and hope everyone understood this is a Super Bowl ad. We had to go big or go home. It had to be memorable. The spirit was to have fun with it.

Every time a Desert Financial member used their debit card in January, the credit union put two cents into a pool that supports teacher appreciation events. Transactions totaled approximately 6 million, meaning the credit union will distribute approximately $120,000.

Was it difficult to coordinate with Alice Cooper?

CG: When the idea came up, he was in the middle of a world tour. And we were, like, really? Right now? But his last tour date was Dec. 7.

We also worried that he wasn’t going to want to do this. But once he heard the idea, he was on board. He’s lived in Phoenix most of his life, so that was another piece. He’s local. We’re local. The song is a perfect fit with the change. He felt like it made so much sense.

As of Jan. 1, "Schools" out forever.

What was the response? How many eyes did you hit?

CG: We shared it with our employees the week before the game, and the response was fantastic. The response from the public has been amazing.

Our local market has approximately 4.5 million people. The Super Bowl traditionally gets a 50 share — that’s 2 million potential people. I feel we’ve reached north of 1 million people. Every person I’ve spoken to since tells me they’ve seen the ad. I’m hearing from people I wouldn’t normally hear from — even the guy I bought a house from six years ago texted me.

Cathy Graham, CMO, Desert Financial Credit Union

As soon as the ad ran, we posted it on YouTube. It had 30,000 views by the next day. It’s been crazy. We loved it, but we didn’t know if others would.

One of our biggest takeaways was the hometown pride we tapped into. People in this market were proud that a local organization did a legitimate Super Bowl commercial. They felt like the ad represented Phoenix.

What are the economics behind this investment?

CG: I can’t give you the numbers, but I can tell you the ad ran only locally, and we are nowhere close to seven figures. It’s still an investment, to be sure, but the airtime for a local ad is a fraction of a national ad. That combined with the publishing rights to Alice Cooper’s song and his fee didn’t add up to $1 million.

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What are some best practices Desert Financial can offer after this experience?

CG: If you are going to make a Super Bowl ad, invest in good production. If you invest in good production, you are going to get your money’s worth. I don’t think it’s realistic to run your normal product ads during the Super Bowl and get a good response.

People are tired of the banks. This is a way to stand apart and show personality in a way that our bank competitors can’t. It’s risky, and it’s an investment, but if you plan it out, find the right creative, and find the right team, then it can be impactful.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Feb. 26, 2018


Comments

 
 
 
  • Great insight here. Would have thought the whole process would have been more difficult than he described, but it seemed to work out great!
    Oak Tree Business Systems, Inc