2 Ways To Make Free Work For You

On a consumer level, everyone loves free stuff. And for businesses, giving customers free products or no-cost extras corresponds to a 20% and 15% lift in word-of-mouth activity respectively, according to the Journal of Marketing Research.


Below, we've highlighted two philosophies that can help credit unions organize their freebie efforts. The first uses freebies to enhance an individual brand; the second celebrates the members themselves.

Celebrate The Brand

Perhaps you've opened a new branch, finished a merger, or approved a charter change and are looking for a way to publicly recognize that accomplishment. Or maybe you're struggling to differentiate the credit union and need a boost to become more top of mind in the marketplace. In either case, the right freebie can be a significant boom to your brand.

Turn Bad Cards Into A Winning Hand

Not every institution is a winner right out of the gate, but freebies can make consumers a little more forgiving when you do fall short. For example, the Washington Wizards are a far cry from the best team in the NBA, but anytime an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws during a home game, all the fans in attendance win a free Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. It's a small token of celebration that keep fans interested in the game and the brand.

A Happy B-Day Indeed

Struggling with brand recognition? Take the time to celebrate your story and create an incentive for people to pay attention. Starting in 2002, 7-Eleven began offering a free small Slurpee to customers every July 11 — the company's so-called birthday. Even though the drink would only cost a customer $1 to buy on any other day, the giveaway is still a big win for the convenience chain. Slurpee sales outside of the freebie spike by as much as 40% on its "birthday" and other sales increase as well.

Superhero Fans Rejoice

It's a tough time for independent comic book stores. They just don't get much attention these days, especially when more convenient sources like eBay carry the same wares. That's why the retailers introduced Free Comic Book Day in 2002. Every first Saturday in May — generally coinciding with the opening of a large-budget superhero film — participating stores give away comic books at a loss of about 50 cents each. However the store owners consider it a small price to pay for building some much-needed industry awareness. Don't you have some causes — MBL caps, tax exemption, etc. — that could use extra buy-in as well?

Take a hint from the following examples and be sure to publicize your promotion in advance to generate interest and increase participation. Likewise, consider making the giveaway contingent upon an outcome that is beneficial to your brand.

Celebrate The Individual

If you can't afford a continuous giveaway policy and it's too difficult to gauge the success of a giveaway tied to an external event, then consider dedicating a day, a week, or even a month to celebrating those who make your institution successful. You'll still ingrain a sense of gratitude and loyalty that can last throughout the entire year.

Spoons Included?

Since 1979, Ben & Jerry's has used its annual Free Cone Day as a way to thank customers for patronizing the chunkiest, monkey-est ice cream provider on the market. Branded stores hand out one free cone to every customer — which totals more than a million cones worldwide in one day — and the company eats the cost entirely. The giveaway might seem even wackier than the flavors that made the company famous, but when people have so many options for ice cream, it's taking the time to say "thank you" that really helps Ben & Jerry's stand out.

Still Better Than The Talking Bass Gag Gift

Don't be afraid to have a sense of humor. Never one to miss out on the opportunity in a pun, the MBL's Los Angeles Angels created trucker hats with a faux fish head sticking out of the front to celebrate their all-star centerfielder Mike Trout and distributed them to fans at a June game against the Texas Rangers. The team might not have won points for high fashion, but these clever freebies created a social media firestorm months before the game was ever played.

We Think Of You, You Think Of Others

People like to help others and they'll support companies with the same philosophy, so one way to turn traditional freebie promotions on their head is by encouraging recipients to make some corresponding donation of their own. Every year since 2006, IHOP has offered customers one free order of short stack buttermilk pancakes during its national pancake day. In return, IHOP encourages those pancake participants to contribute a few dollars to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other designated local charities. In the promotion's first eight years, IHOP has raised more than $13 million for these important causes.

- Erik Payne contributed to this article.

Listen To The Diversions Podcast