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Branded Microwavable Popcorn Bags as Event Invitation Consistently Serve Up Excellent Results for Servus Credit Union in Alberta, Canada

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Challenge: Increase awareness for and attendance at a community-based event.

Because community events create positive emotional connections between brands, consumers and communities, companies of all shapes and sizes host and sponsor local events to build relationships with prospective customers wherever they live, work and play.

Servus Credit Union Ltd, Canada’s first province-wide credit union and Alberta’s largest, is no stranger to the event strategy: with 100 locations in 63 communities across Alberta, the financial institution has long used events to establish deep, solid roots in each of the communities it serves. Based in Edmonton and with two regional offices, Servus provides a complete line of financial offerings including loans, deposits, investments, financial planning, insurance, trust, agricultural and commercial services.

In 2008, Servus’ regional office in Red Deer, some 80 miles north of Calgary, began experimenting with a new event: a “Give Food, See a Movie” theme night for Servus members in developing community markets. In partnership with a local food bank and several local non-profits, the credit union scheduled five movie nights, the entry fee for which would be a donated food item.

The Servus team brainstormed for ways to generate awareness for the events using tactics other than print, television and radio advertising—methods they feel are much overdone. They eventually decided to use a tangible product, which would act as a conversation starter and members could take home with them. The team knew a tangible product that potentially involved all the senses—touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell—would, in turn, amplify top-of-mind awareness for the movie events.

The team was correct: we also know from our experience that using a physical product as an event reminder or invitation can substantially increase attendance, particularly if the product is relevant to the event, whether trade show, happy hour, festival or—as in Servus’ case—outdoor community movie.

Solution: Commercial microwave popcorn bags branded with event invitations.

After a few brainstorming sessions, the Servus team discovered a perfect product—branded popcorn bags. Not only is popcorn obviously related to movie events; the bags would also be easy to store and easy to get into the hands of members. In thinking about the ease of popcorn, the team also recalled another successful food promotion they ran earlier in the year: the “Piece of the Pie” promotion during which credit union staff gave visiting members a piece of pie to illustrate how Servus’ offerings could help members have a “bigger piece of pie” at year’s end.

“Popcorn wouldn’t have to be refrigerated,” the team mused, reflecting back on the successful pie experience.

A quick search for “microwavable popcorn bags” on Google led the team to ePromos’ site, where they found Commercial Microwave Popcorn Bags with a large branding area, perfect for their purpose. Green labels affixed to the white bags invited recipients to “Servus Night at the Movies.” Along with the showing date, location and time, the labels also said, “Bring your friends and family and join us for a movie on a giant screen. It’s a great way to spend a summer evening and support a worthy local cause.”

Result: Branded popcorn bags open doors to conversations, help to draw ever-larger audiences to increasingly successful movie night event.

The result—major success! A note from our contact at Servus says it best: “Thanks for everything…. I appreciate you making it happen on your end so that we could make it happen on ours. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from branch staff who handed out the bags this summer and I’m confident the use of these promo items in our branches has helped contribute to the success of the outdoor movie campaign,” which was designed to help Servus give back to the community and raise awareness of the Servus brand in growing markets.

Servus tellers distributed the bags to visiting members, asking, “Have you heard about our movie night?” thus opening the door to conversations about the event, its purpose and the “when and where” details. Drawing more than 1,200 people, the team raised a half-ton of food plus financial donations for the non-profits during their first five events.

Following a merger late in 2008 and on the tails of the season’s movie event success, the team decided to expand the promotion into 2009, now with more branches to work with and to raise awareness for. Beginning earlier, in April, Servus hosted 18 movie nights in 2009 and collaborated with even more community non-profits for even bigger and better results—more than 10,000 movie-goers and more than $20,000 raised for the non-profits. “None of this would have been possible without the microwaveable popcorn bags!” says our contact, whose team is already working on plans for 2010’s movie events, which will start even earlier for more showings—and even greater results.

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