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Steering your Bank in the Right Direction?

 

I unearthed this photo  just recently (yes, it’s yours truly!) and it got me thinking… about a time when we really did enjoy a sense of community and when a community bank was truly a community bank. Just for the heck of it,  I thought I’d do a bit of research. I went out on the web and did a bit of community bank website surfing.  Here are some examples of what I found:

"At (Bank name here), building relationships with customers is at the center of all we do.” 

“At (Bank name here), we only have two goals. To help you meet your financial goals and to be a valued member of the communities we serve.

“For over a century, (Bank name here)’s mission has not wavered…total commitment to our customers and our communities.”

“Community is our middle name.”

“What’s wrong with that?” you say. After all, they’re community banks, right? Well, yes and no.

Other than what seemed like a perfunctory tip of the hat to the idea of community, I could not find anything on their websites to support their claim of “being a valued member of the community,” or “striving to develop personal, hometown relationships.” What I did see was a lot of products, services, and claims about great service and great rates. Granted, I certainly didn’t view every community bank website on the world wide web, but of those that I did, they were all very similar in the way they presented themselves and their level of commitment to the community.  Now, that’s not to say that there’s not a single bank out there that’s living up to its promise of being a community bank.  I think Citizens Bank of Edmond is one of those that does a great job of it.

Now, I don’t pretend to have the answer. I wish I did. Greater banking industry minds than mine have been working on this for a long time. They’ve stepped up their efforts recently, of course, because of technologies (ie the “digital transformation''), the changes in the ways that people bank, and the expectations they now have of service providers. Whether you’re selling apparel, detergent, soft drinks, automobiles, or car loans, you’re in a tough spot; especially if you’re a brick and mortar business. And, yes, although we can thank COVID for hastening the transition, the consumer switch “from in line to online” has been in the making since the internet was invented. 

While I may not have a silver bullet when it comes to how brick-and-mortar community banks can thrive in a digital age, I do know this; simply saying something doesn’t make it so. I’ve learned this not only after many years in the branding business, but also after many years as a plain old consumer. It is one of the basic tenets of brand marketing. You’ve got to “walk the walk, talk the talk” as we say in the marketing world. Another age-old adage that applies?  “Always underpromise and overdeliver.” And I just don’t see community banks making that happen.

“So, what can they do, instead?” you’re probably asking. Again, I wish I had the answer. I do know that simply paying lip service to being a true community bank, isn’t it. 

Here’s a thought and you’re welcome to throw rocks at it: Make your website more than just a banking services brochure that slips in a mention or two of “community.” Make it a resource for the community that goes beyond what you do as a bank. Be more than a bank.

Remember those days when you could count on your local paper to report on the latest goings-on in your community?  You’d get the high school football game scores, the dates and locations of upcoming Rotary Club meetings, tips from local folks on cooking and gardening… maybe even an article about the recent 4H livestock show and how one of the local young men was lucky enough to take home some blue ribbons in the cattle showmanship competition. Perhaps the article might even include a photo of the boy showing off his ribbons and his award-winning, 1000-pound steer!

Okay, well, back to the present… The reality is that you can buy a CD or open a checking account at a lot of places. It’s relatively easy to get good financial advice, too. If I were a bank, there are a couple of things I might put on my site. First, I’d make a point of not just claiming to be involved in my community; I’d be involved. I’d sponsor charity events, support local causes, and do these in a big way. I’d make it a point to be as visible outside the branch as in. Maybe get with Junior Achievement and teach a money management course at the local elementary school.  

Then I’d be asking myself, “what goes on in this community that people are interested in?” I’d find out what those are and engage people with them. Is your branch by the ocean?  Incorporate weather and tide info. What’s biting, when, and where? Where can I get the best rigs? Then, somewhere on the site, I’d mention that I have financial service stuff that people might be interested in. Sound crazy? Maybe it is. But would trying something as crazy as this be better than watching your customers go elsewhere? I think so. 

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.

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The Problem with Bank Brand Loyalty is Also the Solution.

Since the very beginning of community banking, these home-grown institutions have enjoyed a distinct advantage over a vast number of financial institutions. Historically, community bank customers have lived near their branch locations and felt a strong personal connection to the bank and its brand. Not anymore.

How financial institutions rely on brand value

Like any product or service category, bank brands rely on brand loyalty; now more than ever. Today, choosing a bank seems hardly different from walking down a supermarket aisle and choosing a cereal, toothpaste, or detergent. As far as banks go, there’s little to no difference between the products nor the ingredients that go into them. The one viable difference between them though, is feeling. This feeling is what drives brand loyalty, and it’s all made made possible by branding. 

Why branding is particularly challenging in 2022

For starters, technology has all but eliminated the word “community” from “community bank.” Cultivating an attractive brand experience was easy back in the days when that brand experience was almost exclusively in-branch. Those days are gone, but thanks to technology, banking customers not only enjoy a greater number of choices, but the expectations now rest on the banks for a better and more personalized customer experience. 

More Choices

More choices, of course, are the result of increased mobility and online banking, where the customer is no longer limited to the institutions nearest them. Mobile apps for financial products and services are going live almost weekly and are extremely attractive to time-pressed customers who can research options with little to no effort. Everything they need is readily available and it’s easier than ever to select a bank without ever stepping into a branch. 

Greater Expectations

With this increased mobility thanks to online banking, brand loyalty has taken on a greater importance, as well as a greater challenge, for many community banks; a challenge that was intensified by the 2020 pandemic and persists today. Due to the drastic improvement and application of technological features and functionality, driven by machine learning and AI and apparent in other sectors such as healthcare (i.e. telemedicine and online appointment scheduling), customers now have heightened expectations when it comes to personalized service. 

Address them both with a more personalized experience

Jill Castilla, CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, OK, had this to say last July in How Community Banks Can Stay Relevant in the Face of a Digital Assault. Consumer banks must “strive to maintain a personal touch with those they serve,” she said. “As a community bank, we know our customers and make ourselves available when they need us,” she says. “One of our values at Citizens is to be authentic and accessible.”  During the pandemic, she recalls the community suffering. “We could truly empathize with our neighbors and respond quickly to assist them in challenging times. This kind of response just doesn’t happen at the larger banks. Our customers trust us to have their best interest in mind.”

That “best interest” is the feeling we talked about earlier, the one you might get from an otherwise just-like-every-other product in the detergent aisle. Some call it a brand pillar, which we can perhaps talk about in a later blog. For now, suffice to say that it’s one of the aspects of your brand that, potentially, sets you apart from that sea of competitors. And it’s much more than just a personalized digital banking experience. It’s a personalized experience across every channel.

“Don’t change that channel!”  Well, perhaps you should.

First came multichannel marketing, then, omnichannel. What’s the difference? The multichannel approach focused on sharing a brand's message with customers across multiple channels, or media, with the goal of a customer call-to-action. An omnichannel approach had a slightly different goal, one to create a more personalized message by using data to better understand the consumer and integrating all of the channels to communicate the message. Now, there’s microchannel.

The microchannel approach to building a brand takes omnichannel a step further by slicing consumer touch points into smaller pieces... micro pieces. In the ever-evolving digital world, in order to truly communicate your brand effectively demands a focus on creating an experience “fabric”, one that enables you to meet the consumer wherever they are. With this fabric, you can create a cohesive experience across all of your brand touch points; from community events and traditional media such as print and broadcast to web presence and social media. Using data and analytics, you can make this fabric seamless, so that the consumer moves through the journey without interruption; there’s no “starting over.” Think of microchannel marketing as the digital doors through which the consumer can enter and experience your brand.

If you’re thinking of branding and a personalized banking experience only in terms of online services and mobile apps, you’re missing the bigger picture. Today’s technology can, yes, create a feeling of alienation. But, utilized properly, it can also build connections and relationships. That’s what community banks must continue to do, especially when they can no longer rely on building those relationships in traditional ways.

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.

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The Ducks are There. Take the Shot.

Ad agency folks are famous for their metaphors. When we came up with a campaign idea, for instance, and were curious to know whether it would pass muster or not, we’d say, “lets run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it,” or “we’ll put it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.” When we were working on a campaign and felt that, from a strategic point of view, our messaging was not being directed to the appropriate target audience, we’d call that “shooting at ducks that aren’t really there.”

I just recently saw some statistics around financial industry marketing budgets. Now, I guess I’m reminiscing a bit because any mention of “budget” brings me back to those ad agency days, when your survival hinged on a client’s budget. Every one of us assigned to the account was either working or worrying; working to grow the brand or worrying that the client might find a reason to cut their budget. We never lost a client to another agency, but I remember the host of downturns that sent shockwaves through the agencies where I worked. As soon as the client got a whiff of an economic slowdown, the marketing budget was always the first to go and with it, the agency personnel who worked on that account. (Often, unfortunately, it included agency personnel who WEREN'T working on that account, which was even more frightening.) When the economy turned around, we were always the last to see the benefit of the rebound. I suppose it was because clients tended to feel a bit “once bitten twice shy”. They wanted to be certain, before recommitting to the agency and spending more money, that the recovery was real and long lasting.  We’re in one of those downturns right now, and we’re seeing the same response: Reduced spending on marketing.

The Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2021-2022 revealed that the cuts in the financial industry are pretty dramatic; “marketing budgets as a percent of overall company revenue dropped to their lowest levels in history — to 6% in 2021 from 11% in 2020. Despite facing in-year budget cuts in 2020 due to the pandemic,” says the survey, “most CMOs expected budgets to bounce back in 2021. This budgetary optimism was misplaced, as marketing budgets have fallen to their lowest level in the history of the survey.” Forbes says that “these findings reflect not only an ongoing downward pressure on marketing spend caused by the pandemic, but also a strategic shift in enterprise resource allocation decisions.” According to Gartner, the marketing budget dollars are shifting from marketing to martech solutions; that banks are redirecting the dollars they would ordinarily dedicate to building brand and promoting products/services toward their “digital transformation.” 

In response, those in charge of marketing (the CMO if your bank is large enough and fortunate enough to have one) “are reimagining the capabilities that can be supported by their internal teams.” In other words, bringing the work in house. Nearly 30% of the work previously done by outside agencies, in fact, has been moved to in-house resources in the last 12 months.

So, in summation, what we now have are smaller marketing budgets managed in house, and more often than not, by staff members who have suddenly found themselves with added responsibilities. In other words, a stretched staff, that frankly has neither the funding or the time, to continue to do what banks must do: Sell themselves. Not just “even” during tough times but “because” of tough times.

What I mean is this: The ducks are out there. Simply because banks are compelled to race to the best digital experience doesn’t mean that they can take a vacation from building their brand, differentiating themselves, building trust and relationships… 

ON24’s “2021 B2B Marketing Trends Report: How to Augment the Marketing Organization for a Digital-First Future” speaks to the damage that cuts in a marketing budget can do: “If companies stay flat, freeze, or dramatically reduce their spend in marketing and sales now, they are less likely to recover fast enough against their market competition when the time arises.”

Traditionally, brand awareness has been the ultimate goal of every marketing strategy. With digital transformation we’ve seen a massive shift toward performance marketing — metrics-driven, online marketing campaigns in search of clicks or conversions — and away from brand/relationship building.  There’s a clear danger in this. ON24 has this to say about it: “The truth is, performance marketing may create a jump in short term sales, but it won’t keep your customers coming back again and again. You can sustain performance only with a concurrent brand campaign.”

Are banks running that “concurrent brand campaign”? I can tell you this: The successful ones, the ones that will come out of this downturn stronger, are. There’s no better time for your marketing messaging to stand out in your crowd of competitors than those times when your competitors are silent.

Like I said, those ducks are out there. Take the shot. Especially now, when you can be the only one in the blind.

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.

 

 

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Why we all need a Wall of Failures.

 Photo courtesy of PR Week Magazine

I’m somewhat ashamed to say this, since I’m such a fan of P&G, but until just recently, I had no idea that Procter & Gamble had a ”Wall of Failures” at their headquarters. I’d been there in the 90’s, when I was working for an agency that handled several of their brands. Unfortunately, the idea to create a tribute to “the one that bombed” didn’t arrive until around 2018. It’s a great idea and I regret having missed it during my visits.

The reason I mention P&G and their wall is because this is a company that I truly admire. A while back, we talked about the 5 Ps of the Marketing Mix and, along what that, the importance of positioning and branding. Now, here is a company, in my opinion, that knows a thing or two on the subject... and even they have had spectacular failures!

Let's face it, we all make mistakes and when it comes to marketing, which is an extremely complex discipline, those mistakes are bound to happen... even when you're putting in your best efforts. P&G is a company that loves research and testing. Even then, they've had products that didn't make it.  And, they've had a lot of time to learn, as well. Remember the brand that launched this packaged goods giant, Ivory Soap? The soap that floats because it's "99 and 44/100ths percent pure?  That was the late 19th Century!

Now, I may be a bit biased — having spent nearly a decade of my agency days contributing to the messaging that would launch more than a handful of P&G brands — but in my humble opinion, no one does it better than they do. The agency never collaborated with them on a launch that didn't involve in-depth research, both qualitative and quantitative. Constant concept testing, as well. Which is why "99 and 44/100ths percent" of their new product launches are successful. And for that reason, I think there’s something to be learned from the fact that they feel the need for a "Wall of Failures."

Here’s a company that currently manages somewhere around 70 brands.  And, sure, they’ve had some notable “missteps” (to be kind), like Fabreze Scentstories, Clairol Touch of Yogurt Shampoo, and their Charmin Spacemaker, but their batting average is still pretty extraordinary.

Adobe Workfront, in an article, “8 Reasons why your marketing campaign failed,”  pretty much sums up my point here: “ After weeks of planning, strategizing, and creating your marketing campaign, it falls flat after it launches. What do you do now? Throw in the towel? Look for a new career path? Of course not. Failure is a reality of content marketing and we’re all bound to experience it at some point. What’s important is how you respond. Figure out what went wrong so you can make necessary adjustments.” According to Workfront, there are eight reasons for failure:

  1. You Didn’t Identify the Proper Persona
  2. You Had Insufficient Research
  3. You Didn’t Have Correct or Realistic Success Metrics
  4. You Created the Wrong Message for Your Audience
  5. You Delivered Content at the Wrong Time of the Buyer’s Journey
  6. You Didn’t Give the Campaign Enough Time
  7. You Failed to Meet Regulatory or Brand Compliance Guidelines
  8. Your Product Fell Short of Your Claims

That’s a pretty good list. After all, we marketers now live in an age where, thanks to marketing automation and technologies, making mistakes is, frankly, getting increasingly difficult. Numbers 1-8 above are, well, easy. In fact, it's getting to where not identifying your persona, creating the wrong message at the wrong time, and targeting the wrong individual is nearly impossible. So, given all of the resources available to ensure that you DON'T fail, why does it still happen? Maybe the reason why is also the reason why we all need a Wall of Failures. As Henry Ford is quoted on the wall as saying, “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

And maybe that needs to be 9. You didn’t learn from your mistakes.

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.

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The Fossil Fuel Industry. A Good Bet for Banks?

Back in the first week of January, President Biden picked Sarah Bloom Raskin to be the Federal Reserve’s top banking regulator, a selection that keeps a Biden promise to improve diversity at the Fed. This week, in a letter published on January 27th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sending the Biden administration the message that it is taking an increasingly visible (and vocal) role in Raskin’s confirmation process.

One of the nation’s oldest and most prominent advocates for the business sector, the Chamber has historically maintained a solid distance from Senate confirmations, particularly when bank regulatory nominees are involved. The chamber’s stance on Raskin makes it clear that the organization sees how Raskin-led reform in banking policy could very well have significantly deleterious effects across the business community.

This relationship-gone-South between the US Chamber of Commerce and the Biden administration is not new news.  The break-up can be traced back, most publicly to this past September when it jumped on the anti-Omarova bandwagon with a letter to members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee outlining Omarova’s shortcomings.. .the notion of “FedAccounts,” in particular. Omarova, of course, withdrew her nomination for leadership of the Office of the Controller of the Currency after considerable opposition from, to be fair, both sides of the aisle, as well as the banking industry.

Just recently, the US Chamber of Commerce penned another letter to the Senate Banking Committee, this one in part criticizing Raskin for advocating that federal regulators “transition financing away from the fossil fuel industry.” The letter went on to provide, frankly, more questions than answers and I found this question, in particular, thought provoking: “Is it the role of the Federal Reserve to direct capital away from certain industries that are politically disfavored or direct capital towards industries that are politically favored?”

A rhetorical question at best, right?  Another question: Is the chamber missing the point?  Ms. Raskin is not singling out the fossil fuel industry simply because it is “politically disfavored.” She’s singling it out because in her opinion — and, as she points out in her May 2020 NY Times Opinion piece, “Why Is the Fed Spending So Much Money on a Dying Industry?” — it’s a bad investment.

Let’s back up a bit. It wasn’t that long ago that 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.”

At the time it seemed that the banking industry was warming up a bit to the idea of addressing the challenges posed by global warming.  In one of our 2021 blogs, we talked about how “climate change, and climate risk, present important implications (and opportunities) for banks who can get it right.” And, how 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, “says the article, “will help them attract both talent and customers.”

So, what happened? Raskin makes the point that we simply cannot ignore “clear warning signs about the economic repercussions of the impending climate crisis by taking action that will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment. Parts of the industry are awash in hundreds of billions in risky debt. Many fossil fuel companies spent the past decade recklessly expanding production even as they failed to turn a profit. Oil and gas companies now hold $744 billion in bonds and debt, much of it below investment grade or close to it. For taxpayers, shouldering these liabilities is a bad deal. Buying this bad debt is not likely to support the creation of jobs or even ensure that existing jobs survive.”

Should Raskin be thoroughly vetted? Absolutely. It seems, however, that this isn’t about political favor or disfavor. The question here isn’t the one the chamber is asking, that being, “is it the role of the Federal Reserve to direct capital away from certain industries that are politically disfavored or direct capital towards industries that are politically favored?” No, the real question is this: Is the fossil fuel industry a bad investment for banks... and Americans?  Well, we’ll all find out soon enough, won’t we?

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.

 

 

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Marketing “Mixology.” What Specialty Drinks Can Teach Us.

The marketing mix. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s an essential part of developing your marketing strategy. And an essential part of that mix are the 5 Pillars or “5 Ps.” Think of your marketing strategy — which guides the approach you’ll take to positioning and promoting your products/services in the marketplace — as a cocktail. The 5 Ps of the marketing mix are the ingredients you’ll use to make that cocktail. So, what are they and what questions should you ask yourself to address them?

Pillar #1: Product

When you think about your product or service, consider exactly what you're selling. What does the customer want/expect from the product/service? What needs does it satisfy? What features does it possess that meet these needs? Is there a current perception of the product in the marketplace? Is it different from competitor products?  If so, how?

Pillar #2: Price

What is the value of the product or service to the buyer? Are there established price points for products or services in this market? Is the customer price sensitive? Will a small decrease in price gain you extra market share? Or will a small increase be indiscernible, and so gain you extra profit margin? How will your price compare with your competitors?

Pillar #3: Place

It doesn’t seem that long ago that “place” meant a brick-and-mortar location. That’s obviously no longer the case.  So, the place pillar in marketing now refers not only to physical location, but to any access or touch point that the consumer can experience.

Pillar #4: Promotion

The focus here is on telling consumers about the availability of your products, their benefits, and why those benefits are important to them. Effective promotion reaches potential customers at the right place, at the right time, and with the right message through a combination of media channels. Simple question here. Where and when can you get your marketing messages across to your target market? But, promotion doesn’t just inform consumers about your new products — it also helps to achieve brand positioning. Your promotional style, the visuals and the language that you choose, and even the medium that you use for advertising, all help to establish a clear brand voice.

Pillar #5: People

People become a factor when we’re talking service organizations such as retailers, healthcare providers, and you guessed it, financial institutions. In any setting where a service is delivered by a person, the actions of that person become a critical part of a company’s marketing and branding. The people pillar reflects how the actions and attitudes of staff members can create either positive or negative experiences for consumers.

Is that drink any good?

Now, back to our bartending analogy. Anyone who’s ever crafted a specialty drink knows how important it is to have the right ingredients and to make use of them in the proper proportions. If you don’t get the ingredients and proportions right, well, you could end up with something you’d rather pour down the drain than drink.

It’s a simple truism in the world of marketing, that like bartending, in order to get it right, all of the ingredients need to work together. Getting just one of them wrong can lead to less desirable results. When we’re talking cocktails, you simply start over with little consequence. In marketing, the consequences can be a bit more devastating, i.e., mis-spent dollars, loss of revenue and market share, disgruntled consumers, and more. In banking, for instance, you may have a superior retirement product that offers real competitive benefits, done your homework, and identified your bullseye prospect as the 25–54-year-old male, HHI of $75k+, college educated, and married with one child. You’ve developed your marketing messaging for the product based on research, tested it, and feel confident that it’s both relevant and compelling to this individual. Then, you choose Tik Tok as a channel. Like that not-so-palatable cocktail, you may as well pour your money down the drain. Not the most efficient allocation of marketing dollars.

Unfortunately, and another reason why the 5 Ps are so critical, is that marketing missteps are seldom this obvious in nature and, unfortunately, can be extremely costly. That’s why missteps such as the launch of New Coke in the ‘80s often make their way into marketing textbooks. What happened? Coke blew it right at Pillar #1: Product. The positioning for New Coke product was this: “The great taste of Coke with the sweetness of Pepsi.” Sounds unobjectionable, right? Well, not to loyal Coke drinkers. First, that audience wasn’t interested in a sweeter soft drink. If it were, those consumers would already be Pepsi drinkers and two, Coca-Cola underestimated the loyalty in the soft drink category. There was nothing more unforgivable to the incredibly loyal Coke drinker than “switching sides” to a Pepsi product.

On the flip side, there’s Procter & Gamble, an omnipresent manufacturer and marketer of CPGs (consumer packaged goods) that hits just about product launch out of the park.  Take Tide with Bleach. Here was a product that got Pillar #1 right.  Through research they learned that 1) their bullseye consumer was “mom,” who they also learned took great pride in sending her family out into the world looking their best, i.e., in spotless clothing; 2) they learned that moms had faced some pretty significant pain points in the process; that they could never seem to get whites white enough and that, in order to address this, always had to add bleach to the wash separately. They further discovered through research that moms weren’t particularly fond of handling a caustic liquid like bleach. The company so effectively defined the positioning of the product and its competitive benefits, that Pillars 1-5 almost didn’t matter. Of course, they did pay attention to the remaining four and with that, enjoyed one of the most successful new product launches in the company’s history.

Of course, developing a successful marketing strategy using the 5 Pillars is not as simple as described here. There’s lots more to creating effective marketing messaging than a 900-word blog. And that’s why we do what we do here at Bank Marketing Center; help you to navigate this very complex and critical discipline.

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.

 

 

 

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Hey Community Bank! Should you Jump on the Kidfluencer bandwagon?

Community banks may be missing out on a big opportunity here: Kidfluencer marketing!

I can see it now; some 10-year-old kidfluencer getting paid tens of thousands of dollars to show himself opening a community bank checking account on his YouTube channel. Sound wrong?  I’m not surprised. In fact, just about everything I’ve read about kidfluencer marketing is not only wrong; it's disturbing.

Sure, there are some drawbacks to exploiting children in a cottage industry that is believed to contribute to potentially harmful psychological behavior — not to mention the possibility of hefty fines — but why not take advantage while nothing is being done to stop it?  Everyone else is… taking advantage, that is. tracckr says that last year the global kids’ digital ad market (dollars spent on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram… with perhaps a few lesser well-known platforms sprinkled in) was worth $1.8B.

So, why not take advantage?  I’ll tell you why not. It’s not often that I’m offended by something I see or read, but I’m making an exception here:

And the parents of these kids think this is ok.  And why shouldn’t they? They’re making unbelievable money off their kids. If you’ve been following this at all, you’ve probably seen this startling (and disturbing) factoid: There are 17-year-olds out there earning more than the CEOs of Exxon, Starbucks, McDonald's, and Delta. And then there’s the 10-year-old who, granted, isn’t doing quite as well, but as the star of his toy-themed YouTube channel, clears $25M a year.  What does he do to earn that comp? He opens boxes of toys and talks about them.

So, how and why do they do it?  The “why” part is easy. There’s big money in it.  As for how, well, there are a couple of ways to go about becoming a multi-millionaire kidfluencer.  First, there's growing your following organically, which sadly (if you have high hopes of being a billionaire before you can vote), can take a few years. If you simply can’t wait, however, you do have options… like Kicksta! For the low, low price of just $7.27/day, Kicksta will make you an Instagram star. They "provide Instagram growth service to over 100k Instagram accounts of influencers, social media managers, business owners, and agencies, growing followers organically through our proprietary AI-powered technology. No spam, no fake followers, no bots. Just pure organic growth powered by our cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence technology.” There you go; overnight kidfluencer.

According to The Hill and “Instagram sparks new concerns over kidfluencer culture,” experts say that while YouTube has largely been the main vehicle for influencer marketing aimed at children — with videos from so-called kidfluencers garnering millions of views —Facebook’s plans for a kid-centered Instagram platform are sparking backlash from lawmakers and advocates who view kidfluencer marketing as a deceptive tactic to reach kids.”

Facebook, justifiably so, has been facing pretty stiff opposition to its plans to create an Instagram for kids. Thankfully, this is fueling new calls to crack down on marketing to children masked as "entertainment." In my opinion, kidfluencer marketing exploits both its online stars (although the parents of these multi-millionaire kids would certainly have you believe otherwise) and the vulnerable pre-teens it targets. In their defense, and in typical Facebook fashion, spokesperson Stephanie Otway said the company “will not show ads in any Instagram experience” it develops for kids but “doesn’t have more specifics to share about ad policies as it is in the early days” of exploring the platform.  Early days… right.

The damage that this type of marketing can do is pretty well chronicled. “The 2020 Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight,” report shows that children under the age of 8 consume digital media for almost two and a half hours a day, on average; over two-thirds of 5- to 8-year-olds have their own tablet or smartphone, and three-in-ten parents of children aged 9 to 11 report their children use TikTok. While kids are increasingly living their lives online, new reports have highlighted the variety of threats to young people online, including algorithms that serve dangerous and inappropriate content to young users, the damaging mental health effects of influencer content, and platform designs that keep kids on social media platforms for lengthy periods of time. The report analyzed 1,639 YouTube videos watched by children 8 and younger during a one-week period last year and found that advertising occurred in 95 percent of early childhood videos. Moreover, the report found 45 percent of videos viewed by children 8 and under featured or promoted products for children to buy.

Yes, Congress is taking action, but we all know how quickly that stuff happens. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is involved and Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have sponsored the KIDS Act, which would prohibit websites from recommending content that includes influencer marketing, such as unboxing videos, to children and young teens.

In past blogs, we’ve talked about inclusion, diversity, and social responsibility.  For me, I’m going to think twice about doing business with some of the companies that are bankrolling the endorsement deals that fuel this disgusting cottage industry: Mattel, Staples, and Walmart, to name just a few. It may not make a huge impact, but if it makes any at all, I’ll feel good about it.

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.

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Should a CMO Know How to Post Cat Videos?

I always find The Financial Brand blogs worth reading and this one was no exception: The CMO Role in Banking is Being Disrupted. “With change happening faster, and the marketplace becoming increasingly volatile,” says the blog, “top marketing executives need to deploy advanced technologies, support innovation, and be more adaptable to change than ever before.” I agree.

Here’s where we parted ways: “Unfortunately, most financial marketers are not yet prepared for this massive paradigm shift. Many of the modern marketing tools available are not fully understood by current CMOs, with the potential impact of these tools even less understood. Many CMOs also do not fully understand the definition or power of innovation within a digital ecosystem.”

If I’m a CMO reading this, I might be thinking that I need to polish up the old resume.

A majority of CMOs (80%) surveyed by Gartner said that they feel they are solely responsible for, or play a leading role in, setting their company’s digital business transformation strategy. This, too, makes sense. The CMO should “play a significant role” in setting their bank’s digital strategy. So, just who is this CMO? Zippia's data science team found that of the approximately 69,000 Chief Marketing Officers currently employed in the United States, 31% are women, 64.7% are men, and the average age is 38. 

Now, remember, we’re talking digital ecosystem here. Holding a CMO — no matter what the industry — “solely responsible” for a company’s digital transformation and expecting him or her to “fully understand the definition or power of innovation within a digital ecosystem” is like asking Grandpa to tell you how to use TikTok. 

There’s no doubt that the digital experience is a critical touchpoint in a consumer’s experience of a product or brand. There probably isn’t a CMO on the planet who doesn’t know this. And there’s no doubt that to develop that experience takes significant expertise. Does that mean that, as a CMO you need to know how to write Java Script or update a WordPress site?  I can see that job posting now:  Looking for CMO with a working knowledge of UX design, back-end web and SEO content development, Instagram, TikTok, and Microsoft Excel. I remember when as an ad agency art director we were introduced to the idea of “digital design.”  For years, we’d worked with photography and type by hand.  The ads we created were built on pieces of art board, not computers, and every step was manual. When computers entered the world of art direction and graphic design, yes, the way we did the work changed, but the thinking behind that work didn’t. That’s because technology is simply a tool. And knowing how to use a computer didn’t make me a better designer.

What, exactly, are organizations looking to their CMO for? According to the executive search firm Paladin, “the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is responsible for overseeing the planning, development and execution of an organization's marketing and advertising initiatives. Reporting directly to the chief executive officer, the CMO's primary responsibility is to generate revenue by increasing sales through successful marketing for the entire organization, using market research, pricing, product marketing, marketing communications, advertising, and public relations.”

So, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. CMO, relax. No need to update that resume. At least not because you’re not a web dev wizard. Your job is safe, I think… provided you’re doing what can be reasonably expected of a CMO. As we all know, no one knows everything.  That’s why CMOs generally lead large, well-populated marketing departments that include, yes, a significant number of digital ecosystem experts:  Content strategists, UI and UX designers, visual designers, SEO content development specialists, front and back-end web developers, social media marketing managers… and the list goes on. A smart CMO surrounds himself or herself with individuals who, for instance, know way more about TikTok than Grandpa ever could.

Lastly, of the roughly 6,000 financial institutions in the United States, over 5,000 of those are community banks. Now, because we work with several hundred community banks, I do tend to put a community bank lens to the industry news and pundit guidance that I read. Most of these banks don’t employ CMOs. In fact, many don’t have dedicated marketing departments. How, then, do they make the best of “modern marketing tools”?  Well, that’s where we try to help.

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.

 

 

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The Continuing Saga of Banking's Battle with Uncle Sam.

It was a few months ago that this story came to light and we wrote about it; here was Uncle Sam once again using its giant governmental mitt to meddle with the banking system. First, with making the postal service a financial services provider, and then with this notion that it’s a good idea to take banks out of the lending business.

At the time, Alex Sanchez, President and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association said that legislation approved by the House Small Business Committee “included an option for the SBA to originate and disburse direct loans” and that this was yet "another zany idea” that’s been floated out by the current administration.

Well, the saga continues. In a recent Center Square article, “Kennedy warns against proposed SBA direct lending program, Louisiana’s Senator Kennedy talks about sensible efforts to put this to bed once and for all. He, along with several other Republican lawmakers and multiple banking associations, warn against crowding out private lending entities in favor of a government agency. Kennedy and others have sent a letter to Senate leadership, focusing on a critical piece of the story: past abuses regarding singular SBA direct loan initiatives. Just a few weeks ago, Kennedy along with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and 18 cosponsors, including Louisiana Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, introduced legislation to block the proposed 7(a) practice outright. In a nutshell, their letter leveled this criticism: “The report (referring to the Office of the Inspector General’s report),) estimates that the government-run lending initiative advanced $79 billion in potentially fraudulent loans.”

 When this conversation started, Ian McKendry, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association, was quoted in “Proposed SBA expansion into direct lending irks banks, credit unions,” as saying that his group “wants to better understand why it makes sense to create a direct lending program to compete with banks that are already meeting demand for 7(a) loans. This could have the unintended effect of making it more difficult for some lenders to continue participation in the 7(a) program.”

Well, a few months have passed now and Mr. McKendry is really no closer to getting a “better understanding.” It just doesn’t make sense for the SBA to make direct loans. Unless, of course, we’re willing to see billions of dollars go out to fraudulent loan applicants.  And unless, of course, we’re also unwilling to believe what’s in the Office of the Inspector General’s report, which states: “Additionally, we have found indications of deficiencies with internal controls related to disaster assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic. Our review of SBA’s initial disaster assistance response has identified $250 million in economic injury loans and advance grants given to potentially ineligible recipients. We have also found approximately $45.6 million in potentially duplicate payments.”

Proponents of the provision, known as Section 100502, or the Funding for Credit Enhancement and Small Dollar Loan Funding, are still adamant about not leaving lending with banks. Just a few days ago, on January 12, Hon. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, wrote on The Committee on Small Business website:

“Since 2020, SBA has distributed nearly $1 trillion in economic relief to small firms. This figure surpasses the amount of money distributed in all other years of SBA’s existence combined. This is an enormous achievement and helped keep millions of small businesses afloat during the pandemic. However, with any emergency effort of this magnitude, problems will inevitably occur. According to investigations, the COVID-EIDL and Paycheck Protection Programs have been vulnerable to fraud. Much of this potential fraud can be traced back to the early days of the pandemic when programs were new, loan volume was high, and the need to get the loans out quickly was the priority. Your report also notes that in 2020, the previous administration “relaxed internal controls,” adding significant stress to the system and creating an environment ripe for fraud.”

Ah, so it was the previous administration’s fault. Isn’t it always? It is, at worst, an interesting story to follow and I can’t wait to see how it ends. Or, should I say IF it ends?

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.

 

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The Power, and Importance, of Positioning.

A week or so ago, we talked about inclusivity and the importance of defining your target audience. Today, we’ll talk a bit about the very important role that the target audience plays in another crucial component of marketing: Positioning.

What is it? There was a great book published back in 2001 called “Positioning: The Battle for your Mind,” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. It emphasized the importance and impact of companies taking a unique position in the market, and at the risk of over-simplifying things a bit here, it's "the process of defining the position held by a product or brand in the mind of consumers, in comparison to its competitors.” Trout and Ries went onto say that positioning “is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.”

According to HubSpot, and I agree wholeheartedly, “positioning influences everything your business presents and shares about your product and brand with your target audience. Your internal teams benefit greatly from effective positioning, too — it helps sales reps, marketers, and service and support teams create more delightful and on-brand experiences for customers.” For banks, for instance, positioning defines and drives the consumer touch/engagement points across your target’s entire experience, from print ad, website, and Twitter feed to both your online/mobile and in-branch banking experiences.

So, now what? We develop a “positioning statement,” which will ensure that our marketing messaging stands out, resonates with target consumers, and compels them to take action. And, we’ll articulate this in the simplest terms possible; by answering four simple questions:

  1.         Target Market: What target audience are you attempting to attract?
  2.         Market Definition: In what category is your brand competing?
  3.         Brand Promise: What main benefit distinguishes you from your competition?
  4.         Reason to Believe: What compelling evidence supports your brand promise?

 I found what can serve as a pretty good illustration of the positioning process, courtesy of Element7 Digital. 

Now let’s see how this template can be used to build a brand positioning statement for a make-believe brand called GRAYS Cookies:

 

The Result - A Positioning Statement for GRAY'S Cookies

For the healthy proactive preventers, who want to do more for their health, Gray’s is a guilt-free cookie that tastes good yet allows you to stay in control of your health. That’s because in blind taste tests, Gray’s matched the leaders on taste, but with only 100 calories and 3g of carbs. In fact, in a 12-week study, consumers using Gray’s once a night as a desert were able to lose 5-10 pounds.

Now, go. Write that Positioning Statement!

Here’s the thing — or one of the things, anyway — about positioning... and it's very important. Whether you develop a positioning for your brand or not, you have one. And that’s because it will just “happen” on its own, if you don’t wrangle it. Don’t let that happen. It may not be what you want it to be.

As always, this is not intended to be an MBA level marketing course.  Honestly, a truly thorough discussion of positioning alone could constitute a 3-credit college course. The intent here is to introduce you to the concept, some of the principles and, hopefully, enough inspiration that you’re motivated to take on this challenge. If you do devote the time and energy required, you will quickly find that you now have a roadmap that can take your business far into the future. 

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.