Bugging Youth

Grow Financial Credit Union connects with children to increase household interaction and gain young, lifelong members.

Marketing to children usually doesn’t provide instant, measurable paybacks. You can spend heavily on efforts to attract account holders who likely won’t have high balance deposits. And it’s not like kids will take out auto loans or mortgages. But credit unions can reap some substantial benefits from encouraging children to open accounts. Young members eager to participate in credit union activities keep their families interested in the financial institution. Plus, there’s always the prospect they’ll become long-term members who turn to their childhood credit union as they enter adulthood. At least, that’s what Grow Financial Credit Union ($1.7B, Tampa, FL) is aiming for with its Bug Club campaign.

The Challenge

Grow Financial Credit Union wanted to increase engagement with member families. The credit union realized families’ daily lives often revolve around the children’s schedule, but a review of its account offering showed there was little opportunity for the credit union to connect with the youngest members of the family. The credit union had a youth savings account, but it didn’t have a program that could expand overtime and keep kids interested and excited.

We weren’t giving our members a great channel to start their children off on, says Wes Strickland, chief marketing officer for Grow Financial Credit Union. We saw that need and decided to go ahead with the Bug Club.

But Grow Financial had to ensure its activities would be interesting enough to keep children’s attention, after all, the credit union wanted them to pass on their enthusiasm for the credit union to other family members. Executives envisioned children having so much fun with activities that they’d ask to go to a branch or make deposits into their savings account.

The Strategy

Grow Financial designed the Bug Club to encourage children to make regular deposits. Kids who enroll receive a growth chart with the child’s height and savings amounts as well as a punch card to keep track of deposits. For every seven deposits, the Bug Club member receives a toy prize.

We saw the Bug Club as a way to get more engagement, Stickland says. It’s another tie into the household because it gives us a new relationship and starts the family conversation about savings.

The Launch

When Grow Financial launched the Bug Club last year, it focused on creating a campaign with multiple touch points. First, the credit union pushed all the information about the Bug Club onto a microsite, www.growbugclub.org. Second, it promoted the campaign internally to members. Third, it launched the campaign to a wider audience and promoted the product in branches and on its retail website, www.growfinancial.org.

The credit union formed a partnership with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, which brings small live animals such as porcupines, owls, and snakes to the credit union’s events, which are often held at branch locations. And to further help it establish a reputation as a fun institution, Grow sells T-shirts to Bug Club members that allows them free entrance into the zoo (the credit union does not make a profit on the shirts).

We really leveraged that [Lowry Park Zoo] partnership with the Bug Club, Strickland says. It’s played out well and we’ve been excited about what we’ve been able to offer kids. We’re always looking for ways to engage.

For promotions, the credit union has connected with a Radio Disney affiliate station in Tampa, FL, and it has developed a mascot named Grant the Ant, who makes appearances at community events to generate excitement about the credit union.

The Results

In its first year, the Bug Club drew more than 1,000 members and Grow Financial is on track to recruit 1,000 more new members in 2011. The credit union is considering establishing a Tween account for preteens and teens to transition out of the Bug Club accounts into a student account.

We didn’t initiate the program to have a windfall of income from kids, Strickland says. This is something different, something unique that would engage these households. We knew there would be a good bit of upfront effort and investment. But once you get kids in the program, they love to continue going.

June 10, 2019

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