The Five-Fingered Marketing Strategy

Grow Financial seizes all opportunities to interact with students and engage potential members.


At the University of South Florida College of Business, students in a promotions class develop marketing plans for area businesses. It’s an academic setting with real world implications, and one of the class’s subjects is Grow Financial Federal Credit Union ($1.7B, Tampa, FL).

Grow Financial is using the four-year-old relationship to not only help students learn about financial institutions but also educate them on the benefits of credit union membership.

The tactic exemplifies how Grow Financial markets to students. It explores all available means and maximizes the potential of each.

“Students are a very tough crowd,” says Justin Deskins, student services specialist at Grow Financial. Case in point, they’re used to tons of stimuli and don’t have a lot of spare time or attention.  

Grow Financial seizes every chance to get in front of students’ eyes and capitalizes on the small windows of opportunity when they open. The credit union markets its Student Products Suite, which includes a checking account, credit card, and student loan. As an added incentive, the suite also offers a graduation bonus.

The credit union shows clips about its products and services on LCD screens located around the USF campus. It also sets up a tent at the school’s flea market and runs ads in the student newspaper to garner additional face time.

But Grow Financial’s real stroke of genius might have been the foam hands.

Last year, the credit union, which sponsors USF’s football team, handed out between 5,000 and 6,000 Grow Financial foam hands for students to wave in the stadium. The credit union’s marketing manager, Brian Holloway, says several students kept the foam hands for future use. Building on the success of last year, the institution handed out foam hands again this year for USF's homecoming game on October 9. Every time the students don the hand in support of their team, they’re exposing Grow Financial to potential members. That’s marketing collateral working around the clock.

This fall, the credit union launched four student-themed commercials to run on television channels such as MTV and VH1 as well as during college and professional football games. Why? That’s where the young eyes go, Holloway says. Since the commercials started running, the credit union’s overall membership has increased 10-15%.

When you market to students, every channel, opportunity, and moment of exposure counts. Even if it involves a foam hand.