Quicken Loans’ billion-dollar gamble pays off

Quicken Loans’ billion-dollar gamble pays off


Mar. 25, 2014   |  

Quicken and Warren Buffett are offering a Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket with Yahoo Sports for this year’s NCAA perfect bracket. / Quicken

by Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

There must be a billion ways for a company to create buzz.

Quicken Loans picked the billionth – and won.

Say what you will about the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge with Yahoo Sports. But the contest, which magically latched on to the mania of March Madness with the promise of a possible $1 billion prize for anyone who picked the winner of every tournament game, put Quicken Loans in rare PR air.

How rare? Try 1 billion social media and PR impressions since the contest began, estimates Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer, in an interview with USA TODAY. This comes at a time when Quicken is on a marketing roll. In its bid to reach young folks ready to buy homes, Quicken on Monday announced a PGA sponsorship. It recently announced a second NASCAR race sponsorship.

What’s more, brand awareness for Quicken – the second-largest retail lender in America, next to Wells Fargo – shot up a whopping 300% since the contest began vs. prior to February, he says.

Then there are new customer leads. While Farner is reluctant to be specific on this, he says the contest elicited “millions and millions” of new customer leads – though that wasn’t its focus, he says. The focus, he says, was “engagement.” The contest, which was free to enter, had a limit of 15 million entries – but he declined to state if it reached that number.

In effect, it was a wildly successful “data generation exercise,” says Steve Barrett, editor in chief of PR Week. “Once you have the data, it’s like gold dust.”

The stunt already is being recognized by some as 2014’s best PR move. “This is easily one of the best PR stunts of 2014,” says PR veteran Peter Madden. “They created a tremendous campaign – part magic and part madness.”

It’s a one-in-a-million promo “that works at all levels,” says brand guru Robert Passikoff.

Did we forget to mention that it even linked-up with Warren Buffett – whose company insured the 9.2-quintillion-to-1 bet? (Odds so good, that the possibility of a billion dollar winner were eliminated days after the three-week tournament began.) Still, $2 million in prize money will be divided up among the top 20 bracket winners. And another $1 million goes to youth charities.

So successful has the ongoing contest been, that executives already are discussing next year’s version. Buffet Buffett, too, has publicly stated interest “though we haven’t had a specific conversation with him,” says Farner.

The only potential downside for Quicken: Buffett may have garnered even more “attention” than did Quicken, says Barrett.

Buffett might not have been rooting for a $1 billion winner, but if Farner had his way, somebody would have won the big prize. “I’m paying him for the insurance. I wanted someone to win this thing.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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