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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.

 

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BNPL. The High Cost of Low-Cost Lending.

Granted, I’m not an economist. I’m a marketing guy. So, to a certain extent, when it comes to the economy and predicting what the future holds, I pretty much have to rely on those folks who at least seem to know what they’re doing. But, you needn’t have a PhD in Economics to see that, well, we’re headed for tough times. Whether the fed raises interest rates two times or three times, or even four times next year is up for debate. And, as for the size of those rate increases, that is, too. Where am I going with this? BNPL, or Buy Now, Pay Later.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about BNPL lately. It’s a hot topic. In fact, the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry is booming, having generated nearly $100 billion in 2020, and projected to reach $3.98 trillion by 2030. I’m wondering, though… is getting into BNPL a good thing for community banks? Especially at a time when the economy seems just a bit less than robust.

On the upside, I understand that BNPL is convenient and low-cost — at least compared to credit cards — and consumers, especially younger ones, seem to love it. And heck, it appears to be awfully profitable for providers. Lots of non-bank, BNPL service providers such as PayPal, Klarna, and Affirm seem to be making a lot of money. On the consumer side, there’s the benefit, or so I’ve read, that “when used responsibly,” that BNPL can actually help consumers manage their budgets. But I’ve read the same about “responsible use” when it comes to credit cards and alcohol. And so, it goes.

On the downside, I gather that lenders make more money with traditional installment loans than they do with BNPL transactions. In addition, with its fees and administrative costs, BNPL can be expensive for merchants. Yet another downside is “regulatory scrutiny.” The Financial Brand points out, in The Dark Side of Buy Now, Pay Later, “compared to the heavily regulated credit card industry, BNPL providers have operated with relatively limited oversight. This is a risk to BNPL firms, especially as regulatory scrutiny has been on the rise.” FinTech AfterPay, for example, paid a roughly $1 million settlement to California’s Department of Business Oversight, which found that the company structured products to evade otherwise applicable consumer protections and made loans to California residents without a valid license.

Then there’s the potential for fraud. According to the Payments Journal’s article BNPL and Fraud: Riskier than Credit Cards, “It is tough enough to fight fraud when you have sound credit underwriting. Regulatory standards to ensure you “know your customer” (KYC) and that they have the “ability to repay” (ATR) help vet out many criminals. But certainly not every crook gets caught.” With lighter credit standards, BNPL experiences higher risk, and BPNL fraud is on the rise. From CNBC’s Criminals love BNPL, “Buy now, pay later services aren’t just popular among consumers. They’re also proving to be a hit with criminals. Criminal gangs are exploiting weaknesses in the application process experts say, using clever tactics to slip through undetected and steal items ranging from pizza and booze to video game consoles. One of the vulnerabilities is BNPL firms’ reliance on data for approving new clients. Many companies in the industry don’t conduct formal credit checks, instead using internal algorithms to determine creditworthiness based on the information they have available to them.”

Then there’s the risk of default. While BNPL options are becoming increasingly popular, analysts warn of default risks given the lack of credit checks and “opaque” debt reporting. Not checking a consumers’ credit history could lead to underestimating a borrowers’ debt levels when assessing new loan applications. There’s also the risk, some analysts warn, of consumers chalking up more credit card debt in order to pay off their BNPL obligations. According to a study by Credit Karma, 40% of U.S. consumers who used BNPL missed more than one payment, and 72% of those saw their credit score decline. And The Financial Brand goes on to point out that “16% of users admit to having had regrets over BNPL purchases. Among the reasons: the purchase was ultimately too expensive; late fees were high; easy credit led to buying something not needed; and finding that some lenders’ policy of not putting BNPL deals through credit bureaus meant the debt did not build credit.”

Finally, as we are clearly headed toward more economic uncertainty, along with a rise in both the cost of goods and of credit, is making it easier for consumers to borrow money a good idea?

What do you think?

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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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.

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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.