The First National Bank of Central Texas is giving away money — almost.
It has launched a program called First Cash Mob that will involve bank employees handing out vouchers free of charge for use at local businesses and attractions.
The first “Mob” takes place July 23 at Waco’s Downtown Farmers Market, 400 S. University Parks Drive, where bank representatives armed with $2,000 worth of vouchers in $10 denominations, good for farmers market purchases, will mingle with the crowd and dispense as much cheer as possible beginning at 10 a.m.
“That is money that will go right back to the hardworking vendors who make the Downtown Farmers Market a special place,” said Dan Ingham, the bank’s marketing specialist.
Ingham said First National will sponsor a “Mob” promotion every other month at a location it will make known via social media. He said the targets of its attention are not limited to bank customers, and First National expects to receive a lot of suggestions about where to spread its wealth.
“Community banks like ours play a vital role in helping locally owned small business grow and prosper,” CEO and board chairman Monte Hulse said. “These cash mobs are a fun way for the bank to give small businesses an influx of cash and give them some well-deserved publicity.”
Kristi Pereira, who manages the Downtown Farmers Market, said she was excited to get involved in the promotion.
“It’s going to surprise some of our customers, obviously in a good way, and I think it’s going to be a really fun thing for our community and a good way to support our vendors,” Pereira said. She said she and Ingham for a couple of months have brainstormed the best approach to put money in the hands of customers.
Nearly 50 merchants show up at the market on Saturdays to sell fresh produce, cheese, honey, eggs, meat and novelty items.
“This being the middle of summer, we’re drawing really great crowds each weekend, probably an average of 2,500 to 3,000,” Pereira said.
Ingham said he does not know how long the promotion will last, “but I would like to think we would make it part of our fabric here at the bank.”
He said he could see vouchers being distributed “at everything from restaurants and bookstores to floral shops that need an infusion of cash.”
James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University, called First Cash Mob a classic example of cross promoting. He said the market obviously benefits from allowing bank employees on the premises to give customers money to spend, and First National gains from the goodwill it creates for itself.
“This is unique because the company is not handing out the vouchers, the bank is,” said Whitney Richter, business development and marketing manager for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. “I have not heard of this approach before, but it could easily be implemented by others.”
Rodney Kroll, chairman and president of Texas First State Bank, a rival of Texas First, said he could appreciate the approach of his rival.
“I think it’s a way to stimulate things for a business having a slow start that maybe needs a little help getting going, and it’s a good branding move for First National,” Kroll said. “There are a lot of independent banks in Waco and a lot of confusion about bank names, who is who. This can help make that distinction.”
First National Bank of Central Texas partners with the Tribune-Herald on the monthly Greater Waco Economic Index report.