Credit Union Magazine: Can you describe your “intentionally left bank” ad campaign?
Wright: This was the first piece of our strategy for addressing the emerging banking crisis.
Once we had people’s attention, subsequent stages incorporated this “battle cry of the disenchanted” with a positive message about our brand.
CU Mag: Where did this idea come from?
Wright: A blank page. We were looking for a way to take a relatively small outdoor presence and use it to become a part of the conversation about bank dissatisfaction.
It needed to turn heads and be a strong confirmation of consumer sentiments. When searching for an arresting image, we realized a mysteriously blank billboard was both eye-catching and had a suggestion of protest.
We tested the idea internally and realized it had word-of-mouth potential.
CU Mag: What did it look like?
Wright: It incorporated a strikingly minimal message with an all-white billboard and the words “intentionally left bank” right in the middle.
The unusual design quickly drew attention, and soon we were receiving phone calls from colleagues as far away as Boston and Nova Scotia who were very excited about the campaign.
CU Mag: How did you measure success?
Wright: It’s hard to measure the success of a billboard, but we experienced steady membership increases through 2009 and 2010 as a result of various initiatives related to this campaign.
Specifically, the member referral promotion saw an increase in new members of 34% over the three-month average, which was pretty exciting.
CU Mag: What was the second phase of the campaign?
Wright: We carried the billboard theme over to our website and got a fantastic response. We created a Web page with the message “Have you (intentionally left bank) yet?” and we asked visitors to describe their stories of bank frustration.
Everyone who shared a story got an intentionally left bank T-shirt. In the first day, we had about 100 comments, and many were long, heartfelt essays of 400 words or more.
Clearly, these members weren’t simply writing in for the T-shirts.
CU Mag: What's the most unique thing about Seattle Metropolitan CU?
Wright: We’ve embraced our cooperative roots. We constantly look for ways to incorporate cooperative principles into our day-to-day operations and to distinguish ourselves as a credit union that understands the importance of attractive, functional design.
Especially in our market, people appreciate brands that celebrate good design, and they don’t expect that from a financial institution.
CU Mag: How do you communicate the importance of democratic ownership and other cooperative principles?
Wright: Through our actions and policies. Our promotions, such as our current “P3 Member Referral” program, don’t happen unless they support cooperative principles in some significant way.
Our blog posts are categorized by principle. More explicitly, the seven cooperative principles are posted in all our branches, training rooms, and the board room.
CU Mag: What's the biggest compliment someone has paid you?
Wright: Without a doubt, it was when my wife, Sunny, said “I do.”
CU Mag: How do you unwind after work?
Wright: I spend time outdoors. I feel very fortunate to live in the Puget Sound area where you can hardly step outside without being in some beautiful, inspiring natural landscape.
I like to take walks and look at the water and the mountains. If I really need to get away, I go to the home brewery in my man cave where I can plan the style of handcrafted beer I might try to make next. I’m really fascinated by the history, culture, and biochemistry involved with this hobby.
CU Mag: What's one thing people don't know about you?
Wright: I lived in Mexico for a couple of years. They’re often surprised when they hear me speak Spanish.
I was a very improbable kung fu instructor down there. I also taught college-level English as a second language to Mexican students applying to American universities. I was really inspired by how hard the students worked.