How STCU’s ‘Frank’ Campaign Turned Into A Viral Hit

If you live in Spokane, you’ve seen it on billboards, TV and even YouTube — a man in a business suit asks, “Can I be Frank with you?”

Meet Frank, the Robert Downey, Jr.-inspired face of STCU’s newly rebranded business division. A funny, clever advertisement representing its expanded service offerings, Frank is a viral hit for the credit union years after building up its technology and account offerings for business members.

Since the Frank campaign and re-brand launched in April, commercials with Frank on STCU’s YouTube have been viewed nearly 500,000 times. The credit union saw a 1,112% increase in traffic to its business website. Billboards of Frank directly addressing a nearby small business have sparked the kind of interaction most organizations dream of — after one went up near Ferraro’s Restaurant and Bar (“Hey Ferraro’s, can we be Frank with you? It’s time we said buongiorno”), the Italian restaurant responded on its sign with a “Godfather” quote: “Hey STCU, make us an offer we can’t refuse.” The banter continued on Facebook.

The campaign was a big departure from STCU’s typical marketing approach. But the credit union knew it had to differentiate itself in a major way to attract business membership.

“We had business owners who banked with us personally and had no idea that we had the capabilities to deliver this,” said Curt Fuller, who joined STCU last year as the new director of commercial and business development.

Ensuring that the products, technology, and staffing were fully established was vital. Patience was necessary for the seven-year-long build-out, but STCU’s new services — payroll and lending capabilities across all its branch locations, more complex banking and commercial lending needs managed by a seasoned team of bankers — now make it a true competitor for regional banks.

Capturing the business community’s attention — and creating awareness of a less-familiar credit union service — required a bold move. Ryan Throckmorton, creative services officer at STCU, built the campaign on the idea of relationship management, a top priority for business owners, and used data and research to shape it.

Author Orlando Wood, who has written about the neuroscience behind advertising, and other evolutionary psychologists inspired Throckmorton to appeal to the right-brain — humor, knowing glances, scenes that unfold in a progression — and speak to people’s emotions. That’s why Frank’s personality balances humor with intellect (thank you, “Iron Man”) and why in one ad he sits in a dentist’s office, developing a new relationship you watch in real time.

“Emotion leads to action,” Throckmorton said. “We like to think we make rational decisions most of the time, but really, we make fast, instinctual emotional decisions. So, if we’re trying to influence people to make them consider STCU in the business realm, we need to speak to the right-brain.”

The team collaborated with Spokane-based Colormatics — a visual agency that had worked on national campaigns — on scripts for the commercials and found an actor after a nationwide search who could execute the delivery just right.

“We wanted to have some sophisticated humor, but with this audience, we were also targeting the kind of people who lasted through COVID, work from home, supply chain issues, the Great Resignation — these are pretty tough people,” he said.

The public reaction was fast and rewarding. And as local banks continue to migrate out of small- to mid-sized cities, businesses will rely more on credit unions like STCU, which is — let’s be frank — good for all members.

Posted in Top Headlines, Washington.