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New York Bank Turns to Ferns

Select small businesses in Manhattan and Brooklyn recently received an unexpected gift – a live fern. The fern served as an introduction to The Park Avenue Bank, a local New York City bank that specializes in serving small businesses. The plant was also a metaphor: While big, corporate banks handle their customers carelessly or roughly, The Park Avenue Bank treats its customers as one might treat a delicate fern.

A hundred ferns were sent out – 25 in Manhattan and 75 in Brooklyn – plus a handful to journalists. Affixed to the pot was a sticker with the bank’s name and website, plus two stakes with care instructions: an informative, pleasantly written one from the Park Avenue Bank; and a humorously dispassionate, bureaucratic one from a “big bank.”

The branch managers followed up with a call or letter to targeted businesses. A second mailing of a “deluxe fern flair kit” was also conducted by New York ad agency Walrus, which handled the effort.

“The direct-mail campaign was part of a larger rebranding effort for the bank and its website, www.parkavenuebank.com. Our site has become much more of a resource center for small businesses, and we wanted to communicate that core message to a select group of potential new customers,” says Annamarie Suriano, vice president and director of marketing at The Park Avenue Bank.

Ferns were selected because they make a different impression than many of the traditional promotional products, says Suriano. “People expect things like pens and toasters from their local bank, and we really wanted to go beyond that and give something of value that carried our message.”

Plus the gentle fern has a strong advantage: “No one is going to toss out a plant,” Suriano says. “It’s likely the fern will stay in their office as a constant reminder of the bank.”

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