“No whammies, no whammies, no whammies,” was a popular refrain on an old game show (Press Your Luck, in case you were wondering). One credit union, however, is actually seeking ways to “wham” consumers in their market.

ELGA Credit Union (Flint, MI) ($310 million; 49,000 members) started a “wham” campaign in January. Through this effort, the credit union empowers its 148 employees to do random acts of kindness for people in the community.

“Our employees have said this is the best marketing campaign ELGA has ever done,” said Cheryl Sclater, ELGA Credit Union’s business and community development manager. “They are so into it.”

Here is how WHAM works:

The credit union gives each employee a few WHAM cards. The WHAM cards say “WHAM!!!! You have just been hit with a Random Act of Kindness. Make it a GREAT DAY!!!”

  • The card has the credit union’s logo but nothing else (no website, phone number, Facebook request, etc.)
  • Credit union employees are encouraged to look for ways to make someone’s day
  • The credit union reimburses the employee after they do the random act of kindness (for example, paying for someone’s drink at Starbucks)
  • Credit union employees give the “wham” card to the retail employee who lets the consumer know their purchase is paid for and here’s the wham card
  • Employees are not given a set amount or guidelines on how to use the wham cards
  • The simple instructions to credit union employees are “make someone’s day…. just don’t be ridiculous.”

Examples of “wham” acts have included:

  • Paying for gas when someone’s card was denied at the pump
  • Paying for dinner when someone is eating alone
  • Paying for a McDonald’s or Starbucks purchase for the next person in the drive through lane

“The whole campaign has impacted so many people,” says Sclater. “From the employees, to the service people at various retailers and then to the people who are receiving the random acts of kindness.”

So what’s the return and ROI on a campaign like this? From a budget standpoint, Sclater allocated two cards per month per employee (or about $1,650 per month). The reality is that not every employee does two acts of kindness each month.

“We knew it would come back to us,” Sclater says. “We feel our ROI is helping individual people. Now word is spreading and we are seeing an uptick in our Facebook likes and shares. People are also sharing their wham experiences on Facebook.”

ELGA Credit Union does not see the wham cards as a marketing tool. They wanted it to seem genuine and not gimmicky—thus no reference to the credit union’s website, Facebook page and no call to action. Just the credit union’s logo. ELGA Credit Union sees the wham cards more as a community outreach (although on a one-to-one basis) tool. ELGA Credit union already performs 2,835 man-hours per year at community events.

“We truly wanted to touch people and make a difference in their life,” Sclater adds. “If it touches somebody, that’s all that matters.”