Association's Viral Marketing Generates Conference Buzz

The 14th annual conference of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Marketing & Business Development Council took place March 14-17 for the first time ever in Las Vegas, and to promote the conference CUNA's planners chose another first: a viral web video marketing campaign starring a fictional bank manager named Elvis Wilson.

In tandem with its direct-mail campaign, CUNA deployed viral marketing (which uses online social networks to spread brand awareness) as a way of getting people interested in its conference, according to Frank Swoboda, co-founder of Spokane, WA-based Corner Booth Productions, which produced the video. Three 90-second pieces were propagated on YouTube, Corner Booth's website, and CUNA's site.

"We opted to go with viral marketing this year," said Cheryl Sorenson, manager of conferences and meetings for CUNA Councils, "to create a buzz."

The videos show an Elvis impersonator working at a Las Vegas credit union. A camera follows him arriving for work, assisting at the drive-up windows, and counseling customers on identity theft ("Honey, someone could be impersonatin' you right now") while picking up doughnuts with his ring-adorned hands.

Said Swoboda, "Through YouTube, people are constantly seeing viral videos. We can create a viral video for way less than a direct-mail campaign, supply it as DVD or an electronic file, and distribute it directly over the web."

"Boom Creative, our agency, developed the Elvis theme with Corner Booth and added it to the card game theme already developed," said Sorenson. She admitted, though, "We did not go into this with the expectation of increasing our attendance."

Yet, conference attendance increased by five percent, to 405 attendees. Not only that, according to Margo Bida of CUNA Councils' design and marketing team, the e-mails that followed the original brochure and offered a game card and a link to the videos "had a 91-percent click-through rate — that's unheard of."

CUNA Councils is planning to go viral again. "We've contracted for two more viral campaigns, one for conferences and one for membership," said Bida.

Contact Terri Hardin at [email protected]

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