WaMu Offers Music Exclusives To Build Brand Loyalty

Washington Mutual has staked out an identity in the financial services market as a youthful, slightly rakish and customer-indulging "un-bank." The latest effort by the bank to build loyalty and woo new customers aims to give bank customers an exclusive experience at music, sports and culture events.

The grassroots effort--WaMu Live!--launching this summer features special access for WaMu customers to everything from parking to concession stands, and even a WaMu Lounge, at WaMu-branded venues.

The effort, in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, features at-venue amenities for customer attendees, online access to tickets for events at wamulive.com, and entree to "WaMu Lounge" at WaMu Theatre at Qwest Field, WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatres in L.A., Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif., and Shoreline Amphitheater in San Francisco. Customers have to show their WaMu debit, credit, ATM or home-equity card to get special access and benefits.



The company says the lounges, stocked with food and beverages, are available before the shows and at intermission. WaMu customers also get parking access, special entrances and speed-lanes at concessions.

In addition, WaMu will have kiosks where ticket holders at participating theaters--whether or not they are bank customers--can have digital photos taken and downloaded at wamulive.com.

WaMu is promoting via in-bank signage and at wamulive.com, which has events listed, sweepstakes and a "Tell Your Entourage" viral marketing component. Posters have headlines like "I'm With the Bank" and "Bank Minded. Wild at Heart."

Jane Zalutsky, first vice president of experiential marketing, says WaMu Live is new, but that the bank has been involved with various music sponsorships driven by WaMu's acquisition of naming rights to theaters in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. "It all ties together into a grander scheme. We think the entertainment space is a good place for the brand because of the passion around entertainment and around music from a broad perspective."

In 2005, the company took on sponsorship of the Jones Beach Summer Concert Series in New York City and last year got naming rights for the theater at Qwest Field in Seattle.

"It's about a great experience that's fun and a little quirky and a little different; it's about not being your standard bank," Zalutsky says--adding that although the effort is ostensibly aimed at customer loyalty, it is intended, by extension, to appeal to non-customers. "I believe that people will see others having a great time simply because they are with WaMu, so it will function as a customer acquisition, about spreading the brand message."

She adds that WaMu banks in WaMu-venue markets will have merchandise as well as promotional material, and that the bank is hoping to expand the program to other markets as it increases the number of properties at which it has naming rights. "There are lots of extensions that we have discussed, but we want to see the reaction to the program; we are right out of the gate on this."

She said the target is not restricted to young pop-music fans but includes classical music events, and--at two of the venues--happenings like Cirque du Soleil, and sporting events such as the NBA draft. "It's primarily music, but we are talking about the whole entertainment experience," she says.

"I think our brand appeals to the mass middle market--we have all kinds of customers, and we think this program will appeal broadly. It ranges from Marilyn Manson to the L.A. Philharmonic to B.B. King. The range is varied, so we will have something for everyone."

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