Gimmicks draw attention to small banks

Marketplace Staff Sep 1, 2009
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Gimmicks draw attention to small banks

Marketplace Staff Sep 1, 2009
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Steve Chiotakis: While some of the big banks work out their bailout repayment plans, other smaller and medium-sized financials are struggling to compete with the big ones. See, the smaller lenders don’t have the ad budgets that the behemoths do. And many of them are turning to unconventional methods to attract attention. From station WUWM in Milwaukee, Marti Mikkelson reports.


Alissa Audley: Here’s your Pony Express delivery.

Marti Mikkelson: It’s a scene from the Old West, kind of. Seventeen-year-old Alissa Audley is dressed in pink chaps and a matching cowboy hat and rides a chocolate brown mare to the front door of a computer software business. She hands the manager some mail. In this case, the mail is promotional literature for a local bank.

Mark Berg is marketing director for Sunset Bank, a lender with about 8,000 depositors in Waukesha, Wis. He dreamed up the Pony Express idea as a way to attract more customers.

Mark Berg: Western themes are big right now, country music is huge, I mean bull riding on TV. So, I thought about a bucking bronc or a bucking bull and we’re going to give away a hundred bucks, so it made sense.

In the past, Sunset Bank has tried other promotional gimmicks like free gourmet coffee, car washes and teddy bears. But Berg says with intensifying competition, it was time to step it up a notch.

Berg: If you drive around Waukesha, virtually every corner is going to have a bank, a credit union, a check cashing place or a mortgage broker.

Other small banks across the country are resorting to promotional gimmicks, too. One bank posted a man dressed as Uncle Sam outside the front door to wave potential customers inside. Another installed a giant pink inflatable piggy bank on its lawn to attract attention.

Carol Kaplan is with the American Bankers Association:

Carol Kaplan: A small bank has more at stake in the small market and more likely to know what might go over well in their community.

Sunset Bank’s Mark Berg says the Pony Express promotion stopped by more than 100 businesses in its three-day run. He says already, a handful of new customers have opened accounts at the bank.

In Milwaukee, I’m Marti Mikkelson for Marketplace.

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