PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (5/26/10)--They may be just dancin' fools, but Innovations FCU's Flash Mob team members are creating the Buzz about the credit union in an innovative way: By having fun. They have the youtube video to prove it. The mob--about 50 employees, Facebook fans, members and family--appeared at the grand opening of the NorthWest Beaches International Airport Monday in what seemed like a spontaneous display of party-down-itis. The video shows a typical grand opening crowd milling about on the asphalt until the Panama City-based, $150 million asset credit union's CEO, David Southall, snaps shut his cell phone. He takes a couple of dance steps as the music begins. Gradually people--secretly the mob--fall into step with him, form lines and dance four numbers to the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and hip hop. The mob drew people, photographers, and news hounds who watched the line-dance routines. Then the music went off and they all just milled back into the crowd. Southall told News Now
that the spontaneous burst of dancing took weeks to choreograph. "It was all a secret," he said, adding they worked with a partner at the local radio station. "Holly and I choreographed everything, and we held practices for two months. We recruited team members and gave them an instructional DVD to watch so they'd be familiar with the moves when we started practicing.
"We practiced every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after work, with 10 or 20 team members at a time. Then we got the whole group together." The group also had to get the permission of the Transportation Authority and airport. "This was tricky because the governor was pulling up as we did the routine. We had a permit for a four-minute routine from 11:16 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.," Southall said. "People were already seated in chairs for the governor's appearance, and they were turning around, heads popping up like popcorn and cell phone cameras going off. Then the news people picked it up. We had t-shirts afterward so everyone knew we were Innovations FCU," Southall said. "We wanted it on youtube, not the news. Those watching the news wouldn't understand what we were doing." The video on Youtube proved to be so popular Monday morning that Youtube suspected the hits were falsely escalated; Youtube locked the video's hits counter but unlocked it Monday night. The video counted 1,600 hits Tuesday. "Our phones are ringing, people are talking about us on their Facebook pages. People want to become a member. They want to work at the credit union," Southall said. "Credit unions can be so boring and they don't have to be. You can't make banking cool, but you can have a bank that does cool things," he said. Innovations FCU used to be a military credit union--"old, stale and boring," he said. "We changed our business model to having fun and providing exceptional service. We got rid of the teller lines and opened up a dialogue where we meet members and work together on the transaction. We hired sales people; not everyone worked for a credit union before. Our philosophy is to have a good time providing that exceptional service. It's what others want to do but they don't have the resources." The credit union is attracting younger members. "You have to do the things that attract them, go where they go. You can't attract young people with a billboard or a TV commercial. You have to get to where they're doing things." Since Southall became CEO at the end of 2004 and the credit union became a community charter, it has seen a doubling of assets, of members and of loans, he said. The credit union will have another "flash mob" at a street festival on the first Friday in June. "It's a venue that is held outside, with music, and bands, and it's a party crowd. That's our youth market. We want their business," he told News Now
Check out the video and turn the music up loud.