WENTZVILLE, Mo.-1st Financial FCU here brought in nearly $460,000 in auto loans as part of a Black Friday promotion this year, repeating a similar special from 2011.
The one-day-only promotion allowed the first 25 members to get a 1.89% APR on an auto loan for up to 60 months. Existing loans at the credit union were ineligible for refinancing as part of the promo, and there were no requirements as to a car's age or value. 1st Financial loan officers used their normal underwriting guidelines, and all applicants received the A-paper rate.
Michelle Rosner, VP of sales and marketing at the 33,000-member, $210-million CU, said the success is even more remarkable since it was achieved with minimal marketing expenses, primarily reaching out to members via Facebook, e-newsletters, in-branch signage and word of mouth.
1st Financial allowed members to apply online as early as 12:01 a.m. on Black Friday, and Rosner said that "we don't usually see a lot of loan applications coming in at 12:01 a.m." Approximately 10 members applied that night, with another 14 applying during the day on Friday.
While the offer did not sell out the same way previous incarnations did, Rosner pointed to the fact that the 1.89% rate "is certainly a good rate, but it's right in the mix of those rates in our marketplace." Last year the CU offered a similar deal but priced at 1.99%, which at the time was the lowest rate in the area.
Help From Marching Band
The credit union also had help from the Wentzville Holt High School marching band, which held a flash mob event at a branch to emphasize the "gone in a flash" nature of the promotion. Video of the flash mob was posted to the CU's Facebook page and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDz06o5Q-LU&feature=plcp).
The biggest boon to the promo, however, may have been the timing, said Rosen.
"Black Friday has become something that's so psychologically ingrained in consumers that they know that Black Friday equals a great deal," she said. But good luck trying to make that strategy work year round. "Something like "Fall Into Savings" doesn't have an emotional attachment to it. There's no a strong psychological feeling with that, but there is a strong psychological attachment with Black Friday. ... From a marketing standpoint, it's all about making a strong connection with people."
Rosner said that the CU will "most likely" run the promotion again next year.