Inclusive Marketing. Fact or Fashion?

It’s time for another installment of “What is Marketing, exactly?” That’s because we need to talk about a topic that has basically commandeered any marketing department’s discussion of strategy: And that’s Inclusive Marketing.

I’m sure you’ve been hearing and reading about it. In fact, it’s almost impossible to avoid the attempts at inclusive marketing that now permeate the broadcast airwaves. From dating apps to detergents, brands galore are jumping on the inclusivity bandwagon. So much so that I’ve begun asking myself… does it work? Am I really believing what I’m seeing? And then, of course, to write about it.

What exactly is inclusive marketing, anyway? Deloitte’s "Authentically Inclusive Marketing" describes it thusly: “On a given day, up to 10,000 discrete advertisements bombard consumers during their waking hours. Consumers—especially the youngest generations—are expecting more from these messages than just details about the latest seasonal sale. Rather, they are questioning whether a brand supports diversity and inclusion both publicly and behind the camera—and this focus is becoming increasingly important to brands, as well.” Some companies are even creating “departments,” if you will, who monitor their inclusion efforts. Scotiabank, for instance, is one. According to their global chief marketing officer, “we have someone whose actual job title is around managing the inclusion-by-design mandate.”

Now, if you’re NOT being inclusive in your marketing, you could be called “tone deaf”. Tone deaf marketing is… well, here’s a good example courtesy of the magazine Ad Age: KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” campaign. For the most part, pretty innocuous, but not during the height of a deadly pandemic, right? In short, tone deaf marketing describes messaging that is insensitive to what’s going on in the world. And, right now, portraying your brand as sensitive to issues relating to social justice is, according to many anyway, imperative.

How critical? Again, Deloitte: “New U.S. Census data shows that in the past decade, the white population has declined for the first time in history, and people who identify as multiracial, Hispanic, and Asian are driving much of the population growth. A 2021 Gallup poll highlights that LGBTQ identity has risen from 3.5% in 2012 to 5.6% in 2020.” It’s pretty clear that here in the U.S., our consumer population is growing increasingly diverse, whether we’re talking race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or even physical differences in ability. With that growth is an ever-increasing expectation—on the part of these consumers—that brands respond accordingly.

KPMG’s article, “The Power of Inclusive Marketing and Why It Works” makes, what I see, as the essential point here: “Inclusive marketing isn’t a tick-box exercise. Images of white people can’t be just switched with those of ethnic minorities, coloring packaging to pink won’t attract more female buyers, and rainbow flags pinned to a glossy campaign message won’t make them inclusive. So, what actions should brands take?” Here’s my answer to that question based on my own personal, brand building experience at a couple of fairly well-known ad agencies.

One, know your audience. Do the research. Understand to whom you’re speaking. I remember very well the focus groups, the 50-page consumer research decks, the commercial concept testing… There are a lot of ways to create and maintain a brand that is inclusive, as opposed to tone deaf, and understanding your audience is a foundational step. I do think that, in some ways, “inclusivity” has almost become an approach to branding that is more fashion than fact. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in marketing to your audience. which is, perhaps, why I sometimes—when viewing a commercial, for instance—question the necessity of an inclusivity subtext. It all goes back to research and “the numbers.” It’s almost as if some marketers have forsaken the principle of targeted messaging in order to accommodate the “trend appeal,” if you will, of inclusivity. Don’t get lured into appealing to everyone—all ages, all races, all genders, for instance—just so that you can be viewed as inclusive… unless your audience truly is everyone. Is it? I doubt it.

Two, staff accordingly. Sure, the women in the shop could have been assigned to the motor oil account and the men assigned to women’s apparel, but that was never the case. When you see tone deaf advertising, it can very likely be traced back to the folks who created it not “being in touch.” Could you effectively convince a stranger, or even a friend, to purchase a product that you yourself never used? Probably not. At least, I wouldn’t put money on it.

Three, be authentic. This is critical and, of course, the most challenging. And that’s because in the end, (and we would see this when concept testing a commercial before it aired) people know when you’re not being authentic. Consumers can sense the difference between something you truly believe in and something that is merely an attempt at lip service.

So, as more and more consumers are looking to align where they spend their money with the brands that fit their values, remember to put an inclusive lens on your marketing. And don’t just leave it at your messaging. Make sure that your “product,” your in-branch and online banking experiences, align and reinforce what your messaging proclaims. Because in order to be genuine and successful with inclusive marketing, it’s not merely what you’re saying: It’s who you are.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


Is the banking industry warming up to global warming?

Financial industry regulators have been warning about the climate change threat for years. Recently, however, the Biden administration’s view on how climate risk will affect regulators’ oversight of the U.S. financial system has come into much clearer focus.

In May, with an Executive Order, President Biden directed federal agencies to put in place the mechanisms that could assess the country’s economic vulnerabilities related to climate change and to begin crafting policies to address them. Then, according to The Economist’s “Could climate change trigger a financial crisis?” the White House issued a fact sheet detailing “six core pillars of its approach to combating climate risk. Those pillars include boosting the financial system’s resilience, protecting citizens’ savings and pensions, making the government’s procurement practices greener, incorporating climate risk in underwriting of government-backed mortgages, and building more resilient infrastructure.”

Many bankers, including those at many of the country’s largest institutions, have acknowledged that extreme weather events, a societal transition to cleaner energy, and other consequences of a warming planet pose significant business risks. At the same time, just how significant these risks are is up for debate, and many are concerned that climate regulations could burden their institutions with a number of new disclosure requirements, tie their hands when lending to certain industries, and even increase their capital requirements.

Back in early November, Board Governor Lael Brainard told American Banker that the Federal Reserve will subject financial institutions to “scenario analysis” of their climate-related risks. “Scenario analysis,” she said, “should help with risk identification and management as firms account for the physical risk of global warming, such as severe weather events, and the transition risk that will come from changing consumer behaviors and government policies. Although we should be humble about what the first generation of climate scenario analysis is likely to deliver, the challenges we face should not deter us from building the foundations now.”

Back on May 20th, the President issued Executive Order 14030, Climate-related Financial Risk. One of the main assignments given to financial regulators was a major report from the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). Led by agency heads across the government — a 15-member body of federal financial regulators, state regulators, an independent, President-appointed insurance expert, and chaired by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — FSOC was tasked with assessing the “climate-related financial risk to the U.S. economy.” 

In response, the Council released its report, which as you can view here, focuses on the options that regulators have in incorporating climate risk into their supervision of the financial system. In it, Yellen says, “financial regulators, financial institutions, and investors need to have access to the best information and data to measure climate-related financial risks.” In it, are the Council’s recommended steps to be taken by member agencies, such as utilizing scenario analysis to evaluate the need for new regulations in assessing climate-related financial risk; enhancing climate-related disclosures for investors; improving the gathering of climate-related data for better risk management; and developing both the capacity and the expertise to ensure that climate-related financial risks are identified and managed. “These measures,” says Yellen, “will support the Administration’s urgent, whole-of-government effort on climate change and help the financial system support an orderly, economy-wide transition toward the goal of net-zero emissions.”

Some FSOC members have already taken action. The SEC has begun to develop more robust climate disclosures for publicly traded companies, including many of the nation’s largest banks. The Federal Reserve Board is focusing on developing a better understanding of climate-related risks and incorporating them into its supervision of financial firms. And, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, working alongside the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agriculture Department, and Treasury, are working to modify their federal underwriting and lending program standards in order to better address climate-related financial risks to their loan portfolios.

Taking on the challenges that climate change poses to our financial security will take time and commitment. Climate change, and climate risk, present important implications (and opportunities) for banks who can get it right. According to Forbes, 73% of U.S. banks surveyed are already committed to managing climate risk and promoting the transition to a green economy. This, they believe, will help them attract both talent and customers.

So, where does this leave banks? Seems like a lot is being asked here; to do the job, at least in part, of agencies such as the IRS, the EPA, and the USPS.  The climate is changing all right.  The question is, are financial institutions warming up to the changes?

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.



A blog about… blogging!

Time flies, doesn’t it?  It’s been almost two years to the day that we posted a blog about the importance of getting into the social game.  Now, we’re back with a similar discussion. This time we’re posting a blog about, you guessed it, posting a blog!  Why? Social media marketing has taken on an even greater importance over the last two years and, well, blogging has become an even more important component of social media marketing. 

As we discussed back in January of 2020, the key to growing deposits, customers, and revenues is growing relationships. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the way consumers behave, and at the heart of it, a watershed shift from in line to online.

Take customer service, for example. Customer service has always been an important component of a bank’s offerings, right? According to tech consulting firm CapTech, in their 2021 Innovations Study, communication with a company using online chat has increased 18%, from 28% in 2020 to 46% in 2021. Another statistic? 54% said they would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service rep if it saved them 10 minutes. Goodbye human being, hello chatbot. I’ve found that online chat customer service has come a long way over the last couple of years and I guess we have advancements in technologies such as AI and Machine Learning to thank for that.  This is just one example of how critical your “digital presentation” is.

So, it’s no surprise that banks have been working hard over the last 2 years to execute against strategies that make social media marketing an integral part of their overall marketing.  And blogging should be a major focus. Not only can blogging connect with your customers, build relationships, increase brand awareness, and generate sales leads, it’s efficient, effective, and measurable. Blogging facilitates interaction, interaction equals engagement, engagement equals relationship, and relationship equals loyalty and (ideally) increased revenue. 

Blogging can put a face on your digital presence.

A website isn’t exactly the most personalized consumer touch point, is it?  And we all know how important a personalized experience is to our customers.  A blog can put a human face on your bank which, while it can’t take the place of a face-to-face, in-branch encounter, helps make your bank feel more personal, and more accessible.

Blogging helps people find you.

Start by thinking about the size of your website. How many pages are there?  Probably not that many, right? And think about how often you refresh/update the content on those pages. Probably not that often. This is where your blog comes in. Every time you create and publish a blog post, search engines consider that yet another indexed page on your website.  This means that with each blog, you’re creating one more opportunity for your site, through that blog post, to show up on the search engine results page (SERP) and drive traffic to your website in a prospect’s organic search. 

Blog content can take many forms.

Obviously, your social media marketing consists of, well, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Every time you create and post a blog, you’re creating content that 1) you can share across your social platforms and 2) people who see it can share with each other. So, with blogging, you’re not only strengthening your social reach with the blog itself.  You’re also creating a web of engagement points that connect with each other and ultimately lead everyone you’ve engaged right to your website.

Blogs can drive long-term results.

Hubspot says: “Imagine you sit down for an hour on Sunday to write and publish a blog post. Let’s say that blog post gets you 100 views and ten leads on Monday. You get another 50 views and five leads on Tuesday as a few more people find it through social media. But after a couple of days, most of the fanfare from that post dies down, and you've netted 150 views and 15 leads. It's not over.” Since that post is now ranking, it means that for days, weeks, months, and years to come, you can continue to get traffic from that blog post. That’s because a blog post can bring traffic to your site long after its first posted. In fact, according to Hubspot, “about 90% of the leads we generate every month come from blog posts published in previous months. Sometimes years ago.”

Is this a comprehensive treatise on blog posting?  No. There are a number of additional benefits to blogging that we haven’t discussed here. And, there are a number of companies out there that can advise you on how to get the most of your blogging, from software and templates to guidance on creating a blogging editorial calendar. My hope here is that you’ve learned just enough about blogging “to be dangerous,” as the saying goes.  It’s a terrific tool for engaging customers and generating leads, so get out there and give it a try!  Oh, and by the way.  We’ve been taking our own advice. By blogging and posting regularly, we now find ourselves on the first page in a “bank marketing” organic search. So, yes, it works!

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.



/blog/image.axd?picture=/Photos/mass mutual blog 20211203125617289.png

Financial Industry Messaging that Hits it Out of the Park.

In our last blog, we talked a bit about marketing messaging and some of the art and science that goes into creating a compelling, relevant, message.  Since then, I had the opportunity to catch an ad campaign that, for once in a long time, (in my own humble opinion, anyway) puts some of that art and science to work in a beautiful way.

First, remember Abe Maslow? If you recall, Maslow was the psychologist who figured out that each person has about five levels of needs. He called this his “hierarchy of needs” and to visualize it, he built a triangle. At the bottom of the triangle was the need for basics such as food and clothing. In the middle were safety and friendship. At the top was self-actualization.

If you recall from our last post, this is important because when we are developing the marketing messaging around our products, we want to talk to our audience at the very highest level of the triangle. And that’s because the higher up you go in the triangle, the more important (and emotional), that level of need becomes. I used the example of the hitchhiker and their sign. Which one gets the ride faster?  “Miami” or “Home for Thanksgiving with Mom”? The latter of the two, of course: The one that appealed to the emotions of the driver who stopped to provide the ride.

Backing up a bit, I’m probably one of the harshest critics of marketing creative within several hundred miles of Atlanta. That’s because I grew up in the industry. Case in point: Friends over for football. Come commercial break, everyone finds a reason to get up and leave, to get something to eat or take a “bio break.” I’m the one who stays. This is probably because every spot takes me back to my ad agency days, when my writer partner and I sweated over a creative brief, put our hearts and souls into a concept, storyboarded it and then, presenting it to the layers and layers of agency and client-side decision-makers, hoped it would actually become a commercial. Sometimes, those concepts made the air, more often than not however, they contributed to my “file” of commercial ideas that never saw the light of day… a pile of 20 x 30 foam core boards in the corner of my office.

So, what is this campaign of commercials that I enjoyed (and appreciated for both its creative and strategic brilliance) so much that I felt compelled to write about it? It’s a campaign created on behalf of Mass Mutual. If you haven’t seen it, please click on the link and check it out: thirty-second spot for Mass Mutual. In it, the parents of a Little Leaguer “cheer him on” (sort of) while he’s at bat. I don’t want to give too much away here.  I’ll only tell you that the announcer comes in with just a few seconds remaining: “98% of kids won’t be getting an athletic scholarship,” he says. “Talk to us about college planning today. Feel comfortable about tomorrow.” Back to Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Mass Mutual isn't just selling a college fund. After all, where's the high-level, emotional need in that? Instead, they’re selling the comfort, security, and peace of mind that comes with NOT having to rely on your child's athletic ability to pay for college. 

In a second commercial, the partner to this college planning spot, a couple ponders the question: Which one of our children will take care of us in our old age? The answer, which they discover by observing their children at play, is a bit concerning. According to the announcer, “55% of parents expect financial assistance from their kids during retirement years. Talk to us about retirement today and feel comfortable about tomorrow.” Should you rely on your kids to take care of you as you get older? Probably not.

This is what we, as an industry, need to be doing. Don’t focus merely on what your products and services do, but what they mean, as well. This is a great example of what we talked about in that last blog.  You could say that a checking account meets the need of having to pay bills from a distance. Or, that a savings account is a way to put money where you won’t be tempted to spend it. Instead, we need to talk about how these products meet those “higher” needs, such as comfort, security, and peace of mind.  Mass Mutual does this beautifully, in a message that blends humor with just enough discomfort.  

Again, that’s why we do what we do here at Bank Marketing Center. We apply the art and science of messaging to help you to get the absolute most out of your marketing dollars.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.