First, a disclaimer. Freedom First Credit Union is an Access client. Actually, they are one of our favorite clients. They are nice people who provide good services and do a lot of positive things in the community.
We recently helped them launch a blue envelope campaign. They are in the process of randomly distributing hundreds of blue envelopes with a little bit of cash in them (ranging from $5 to $50) to people in the community with the message that Freedom First reinvests in the community. The goal and the hope is that the envelope recipient will consider passing it on. It is a microcosm of the way Freedom First Credit Union does business as a Community Development Financial Institution.
I took part in the exercise of handing out the envelopes (and, no, I didn’t bill for it) because I honestly thought it would be fun and interesting. It also allows me to fight my tendencies to be an introvert (believe it or not, even Chris Henson has them).
I distributed envelopes in Christiansburg, where I don’t really know a soul, and throughout Roanoke, including areas that I don’t usually visit. This was a great exercise…as an ad agency we often ask people to do things without really realizing what the real repercussions are like.
I discovered the following species of recipients:
- The Cynic… don’t despise the cynic… something in their life must have made them that way. They either didn’t think the money was real or questioned my motives. I only met a couple of these, let’s say roughly 5 percent.
- The Grateful Perplexed… no matter how thoroughly you explain the money they are still confused… but they’ll take the money! Sadly about 35 percent of our friends and neighbors seem to fall into this category… but at least they are grateful. My favorite case of the Grateful Perplexed was a family I approached at a discount store who seemed lost until their 8-year-old said, “Hey! I saw that on the news!”
- The Genuinely Giddy… probably about half the folks fell into this category. They understood the purpose. One of them mistook me for Ron Wood who is in the commercial, at least 6 inches taller than me, thinner, younger and generally better looking. I decided just to go with it.
- The Purposeful Passers…about 10 percent were thankful and reflective and said they would pass it on.
Although we are only a few days into the campaign, the evidence looks good that it’s working. We’ve had a lot of interest in the Facebook account (more than 400 new fans in 3 days) and good news coverage. One competitor even abruptly redirected their marketing, seemingly to say, “Look, we’re good people, too.”
I am not saying it is unique or a first-ever, but it is a pretty unusual way for a credit union to market, especially in a market the size of Roanoke. Then again, I think Freedom First is a pretty unusual credit union. While I am confident the campaign will do well, based on marketing metrics my greater question is whether it will spark a movement…even just little one…of people just being nice to one another. One of the effects of the extended ill-economy is that people are on edge and even a little kindness is appreciated. I believe it was the noted philosopher George Carlin who advised us to, “Be excellent to one another.”