Brand Slam Award: First United campaign inspires 300,000 acts of kindness

‘Simplicity was the key. United Acts of Kindness is a big concept and can also seem like a big commitment.’

By Craig Colgan

First United Bank’s goal for its United Acts of Kindness campaign was ambitious: Measurably increase the amount of kindness in the communities the bank serves by activating and tracking 100,000 acts of kindness in 24 hours during the National Day of Kindness.

But the success of the campaign went far beyond what the bank envisioned, as communities and groups and individuals embraced the concept. The result: more than 300,000 acts of kindness. And it is not stopping there, extending its kindness acts objective to millions. Earning First United an ABA Brand Slam Award in the integrated marketing campaign category.

The bank provided business clients with materials and created an online store to provide an easy way to order promotional goods (t-shirts, note pads, stickers, etc.) for their employees who made a kindness pledge. The bank also reached out to community groups to promote United Acts of Kindness to their members and constituents.

The Oklahoma-based bank has 70 locations across the region. Community leaders and even law enforcement got involved. The mayor of Dallas declared United Acts of Kindness Day.

The ABA Brand Slam Awards are showcased each year at ABA’s Bank Marketing Conference. This year’s conference is set for September 27-29 in Austin. Deadline for entry for the 2023 Brand Slam awards is July 24. Check out participation details here.

Jade Metcalf, SVP, head of marketing for First United, answered our questions about First United’s winning campaign:

Did your team ever envision such a huge response? What is the secret of such a massive success?

We had no idea how quickly this would blow up. We thought we were a couple of years away from the numbers achieved. The trick to moving the needle was to fully activate every channel in the campaign. Along with digital and offline campaigns, our most powerful channel was also included—our people. By equipping local leaders with information and simple digital tools, they were able to recruit community partners and large commercial clients to be part of the event.

What convinced you to go with this campaign? Ultimately, what is the key connection between the campaign concept of kindness, and the idea of First United as a banking partner?

The company vision is to elevate 10 million lives by 2030. Not “grow share” or “acquire banking customers,” but to truly elevate lives. Whatever form that elevation takes: financial, spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical. Every day our community banks give away free books from authors like Dave Ramsey and Brene’ Brown. So the idea of spreading kindness throughout our communities aligns perfectly with our mission.

Can you describe more about the success here, particularly of your messaging? What worked about that specifically?

Simplicity was the key. United Acts of Kindness is a big concept and can also seem like a big commitment. By breaking things down into specific acts, participants saw how easy it was to spread kindness: buying coffee for a stranger, calling an old friend, checking on an elderly neighbor, etc. But bigger commitments rolled in too. Like the city that pledged to give out warnings instead of parking tickets for 24 hours.

How do you talk about connecting number of acts of kindness with either potential new customers or other metrics?

We’re a small brand operating in some of the largest US markets, so we knew that the biggest opportunity for us was to reinforce our brand with our current customers—both consumer and commercial. This brand reinforcement came not just throughout outbound comms, but also in the customers’ commitment to the kindness cause. The measurements we decided to use for the campaign were engagement and cross-sell. We saw increases in both. The number of repeat website visitors increased as did the number of products per customer. Can it all be attributed to the campaign? Probably not. I imagine the energy from the bankers had a lot to do with the success as well.

We are very fortunate to be able to work with a brand that is dedicated to elevating lives by helping people Spend Life Wisely. We are most successful when we show how that approach tangibly impacts people and communities. It’s one thing to have a catchy slogan. It’s something quite different to have a purpose that measurably delivers on a promise.


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