Garden Savings FCU in Parsippany, N.J. is hoping its newest ad campaign will resonate with locals in a big way by showcasing some of New Jersey’s most distinctive cuisine.

The campaign, which extends throughout Morris and Essex Counties in northern New Jersey, was designed “to increase overall brand awareness, while casually marketing other products indirectly,” the credit union said in a press release.

Advertisements focus on such local gastronomic favorites as pork rolls, disco fries (French fries covered with mozzarella cheese and gravy) and New Jersey tomatoes.

The point of the campaign, said Michael Powers, chief sales officer, vice president-lending, marketing & business development for the credit union, was to create eye-catching ads that differed from those usually produced by banks and also to cater to the tastes of New Jersey residents.

“Let’s face it, banking ads can be boring – but food ads? Who doesn’t stop to look at those?” he said. “So catch the consumer visually with what looks delicious and hits home on New Jersey familiarity. Get them to read the ads, which are running on billboards and buses throughout our markets, and then get them to read about the credit union difference.”

Other ads will also focus on another famous food tradition – New Jersey’s many diners (think of the final scene from “The Sopraonos”).

“We are also known for our diners in New Jersey,” Power said. “So we made it have a very local flavor.”

Powers added that there’s no rule that says “your visual has to match up precisely with what you’re marketing.”

Garden Savings FCU billboard
Garden Savings FCU billboard

CU leaders hope the new ads will attract consumers to the credit union’s website, generate phone calls and eventually lead to new accounts and new loans.

Powers told Credit Union Journal that the $356 million-asset credit union currently has no specific goals or metrics to measure the success of the incipient branding program.

“We have a standing philosophy that branding campaigns are strictly to build awareness and that awareness will eventually drive business,” he said. “We’ve had success stories where people have seen our bus ads and actually gotten off [bus] stops to open accounts.”

Still, Powers asserted that they will look at the Garden Savings website to see “if there are spikes in unique new visitors during the months of the promotion and if we see spikes in account opening or loans. We will then indirectly attribute that to the campaign.”

With almost 27,000 members, Garden Savings posted net income of about $770,000 in 2016, after generating about $1.27 million in the prior year.

Power also said that while the credit union adds about 70 net new members per month and that “membership and loan growth are still the two driving reasons for the campaign.”