JACKSON, Mich.—The undead are breathing new life into auto lending at Michigan Community CU.

Looking for a way to spice up its fall auto lending campaign, the 16,000-member, $121 million-asset credit union decided to go with a zombie theme. The CU worked with Texas-based PTP New Media to create zombie-related collateral for the campaign, including a dedicated microsite (www.lookoutforzombies.com) that used the CU's branding and allowed for online loan applications, as well as other features like uploading user photos to see how they would look "undead."

PTP New Media has "cutting edge, out-of-the-box promotions, and we had heard how successful other credit unions had been with it," said Renee Allen, marketing director at Michigan Community CU. "No other credit unions in our market had used it yet, and it's Halloween time, so it seemed like the right time to do it." Two years ago, Carolina Postal CU ran a similar campaign using similar collateral from PTP (http://www.cujournal.com/issues/15_42/power-of-zombies-tapped-in-promo-1010871-1.html)

Michigan Community's auto loan promo offers 2% interest on new or used car loans for terms of up to 72 months. For those members whose credit does not merit the 2% rate, the CU uses risk-based pricing to determine a higher rate. The promotion began on October 1, and Allen said the CU's goal is to book 75 loans or $1 million in loans by Halloween. Halfway through the month, MCCU has booked 28 loans for a total of more than $406,000. "So we're almost halfway at the halfway point," said Allen. "They're doing a pretty good job."

The CU is spreading the word about the promotion through its eight different social media outlets, as well as with in-branch signage, radio and print ads, t-shirts for staff, and more. Michigan Community CU also held a gas giveaway event, doling out $25 in free gas to the first 20 customers at a nearby gas station, handing out t-shirts, flyers and temporary tattoos all emblazoned with the zombie promotion.

Since the promotion was zombie-themed, the CU also found a unique way to get the community involved-by partnering with Zombie Walk Jackson, a local event where people dress up as zombies to raise money to benefit the March of Dimes. MCCU donated $500 to the March of Dimes through Zombie Walk Jackson, and about a dozen CU employees attended the event, several of whom dressed up as zombies (others wore t-shirts that tied into the auto loan promotion, which read "I didn't have to give an arm and a leg to get my auto loan").

All told, the promotion is costing the CU around $10,000, said Allen, though that figure includes the cost of all collateral, including the microsite, t-shirts, brochures and more, as well as the $500 donation.

Employees are also being incented. Regardless of whether the CU hits its total lending goals, the teller that refers the most closed loans to the member service department will receive a $250 Visa gift card, as will the top-selling MSR or branch manager. If the CU does reach its goal of $1 million in closed loans or 75 loans, all employees will receive a $10 gas gift card. Allen said the CU has about 50 employees.

Despite the success of the zombie promotion during the Halloween season, Allen said that Michigan Community CU does not have any specific plans for a holiday promotion in November or December-a time when it usually promotes its Visa credit card offerings.

But, she added that doesn't mean it can't come up with a new promotion once this one ends. "We put the zombie promotion together in about a week, so we can do things pretty quickly," she said.

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