Authenticity. Story-telling. Distinctiveness. Credibility.
Those are some of the goals for top bank marketing executives who attended a “Pragmatic Marketing Leadership” forum that Novantas recently hosted in San Antonio.
The two-day event in April brought together representatives of major U.S. banks with marketing executives from other industries, as well as experts in artificial intelligence and brand building.
The importance of creating a distinctive brand in a sea of lookalike competitors was a key theme throughout the event. It is especially difficult in an industry that has long focused on being merely functional, not tapping the consumers’ emotional sides.
“This is tricky territory for banks that may not be comfortable in this area,” said Paul Kadin, a managing director at Novantas.
The bank executives were soon introduced to non-traditional ways of branding by Tom Punch, global chief creative and commercial officer at Vice Media, a New York-based digital and media broadcasting company that is known for creative content that can shock and inspire its audience.
“You have to create your own vernacular, your own tone. What will be your original storytelling point of view?” he asked the audience after showing a series of videos that Vice made with financial institutions. In “Tax Spa,” a four-part playful series that Vice created with insurer Geico, white-coated Eve answers common questions about taxes in a soothing tone and a spa-like setting that is “your relaxation and taxation destination.”
Mr. Punch also noted that companies need to refresh their messaging more frequently than in the past, especially to attract millennial customers who are regularly bombarded with creative and fast-moving types of advertising. “You need to be on this on a more regular basis rather than just checking in once a year,” he said.
Novantas released the latest results of its distinctiveness research at the event, again focusing on the emotional and social benefits that a bank can deliver to its customers rather than just functional attributes that are now table stakes in the industry. (See Why Should Consumers Choose Your Bank? Distinctiveness in the New World of Retail Banking.)
“The CMO is in the right position to rally the bank around distinctiveness,” said Matthew Sharp, head of market research for Novantas.
The forum took place at a time when marketing is becoming even more important in the banking industry. The shift to digital banking means that banks have fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions in a branch, forcing them to reach customers in other ways.
“The brand needs to reflect who you are. There can be aspiration elements, but if it’s not reflecting who you are, it doesn’t come across as authentic,” said David Thuma, chief marketing officer at PNC Financial Services Group.
One executive attending the forum noted that it is difficult for banks to think about significantly changing their approach to customers when it seems like customers aren’t terribly interested in their banks in the first place.
Other attendees also noted that many banks don’t embrace a marketing vision, making it difficult for senior management to appreciate the need to be distinctive to prospective customers. And even when the bank’s other leaders support the marketing efforts, they often resort to a “what have you done for me lately?” or “show me the ROI” way of determining success.
They also noted that it is sometimes difficult to convince senior leaders that marketing investment is an ongoing effort and that “we can’t just ride the brand for a bit.”
The marketing executives at the conference also brainstormed on ways that marketing can help make a bank more distinct to its customers, such as developing automated messaging that makes a customer think about their financial life when, for example, their checking account is higher than normal. Banks can also find ways to create a deeper engagement with their customers by sending fraud messages or even a birthday message.
“It takes courage to be unique,” said Drew Neisser, founder and CEO of Renegade LLC, a marketing firm.
Indeed, effective marketing can tell a story, be empathetic, and contain an element of surprise, he said, citing a commercial for Angel Soft toilet tissue that only showed the product in the background.
Director, New York