In terms of 2018 attention grabbers, few in any bank marketing campaigns could match the appeal and impact of Ally Bank’s “It’s Payback Time”: equal parts feel good and get even.
Ally took a shot at conventional banks in this video, which begins with bank heist footage from the Al Capone era and this voiceover: “The biggest bank heist in history is taking place right under your nose. But it’s not robbers: It’s these guys” (cut to clips of smiling bank tellers in cringe-worthy ’70s attire).
Why the word “heist”? “Banks keeping billions of dollars in your interest.” And then the kicker, sealed with a screechy synthesizer note: “THAT’S. NOT. RIGHT.”
On the brighter side, this two-plus minute “Ally Man on the Street” video features an Ally interviewer (imagine a bespectacled, millennial Jerry Seinfeld) chatting up random New Yorkers. All of them said they had no idea they were losing money with their current bank—and would rather collect higher interest rates than access physical branches.
The campaign was born from “the frustration consumers felt over their banking relationship,” says Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally Financial. “We know that the majority of consumers are not satisfied with their bank but few actually do something about it.”
It’s also easier to concoct a campaign when the ad team members themselves can relate. Brimmer recalls: “We had a meeting with our new agency partners and while they all knew where they banked none knew the rates they got on their savings-accounts.”
To top it off, Ally “took over” billboards for two hours at New York’s Fulton Street subway station (where much of the “street” video was shot) and took out “Letter to America” ads in major newspapers.
The secret sauce of the campaign’s success, then, was not such a secret at all. “We merely echoed the sentiment of consumers,” Brimmer said. “That’s why it was so powerful and resonated so well.”
Here are three more examples of bank marketing campaigns that were a hit in 2018:
Legacy Bank, Southern Colorado: hyperlocal heroes
While it serves roughly a half million residents in Colorado Springs, Legacy Bank also has branches in rural towns as small as Lamar (population 7,000) and Wiley (with just 400 residents). Foregoing the typical media buys, Legacy starts or sponsors programs that fit the unique needs of each community, says regional president Andrew Trainor, regional president of Legacy.
Partnering with the Colorado State University Extension Office, Legacy hosted “Protect Your Family/Protect Your Farm.” True to the bank’s name, the workshop focused on succession planning for Wiley and Lamar farmers.
“It’s a serious issue,” Trainor says. “The average age of U.S. farmers is 58. Seventy percent of U.S. farmland likely will change hands during the next two decades. … The need for succession planning is nationwide and we believe our workshop can serve as a program model for other community banks.”
Here’s another unusual service you won’t find at the overwhelming majority of banks: Wiley residents facing sudden illness or severe injury can now be airlifted to major medical center a hundred miles away at no charge—as Legacy covers the cost.
The bank also supports Pueblo Community College’s “Return to Earn” initiative, which gives scholarships for students who had to leave the school before graduation but want to re-enroll. “PCC students in this program had a 97 percent retention rate and in two years, 113 students graduated from PCC as a result of the program,” Trainor says. Now that’s an investment.
Renasant Bank, Tupelo, Mississippi: a different kind of multichannel
With $12.7 billion in assets and more than 190 banking, lending, wealth management and financial services offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, Renasant Bank went the route of homespun original programming.
It set itself apart in 2018 by producing “high-end production web shows that are informative, interesting, and entertaining,” says John Oxford, the bank’s vice president and marketing content director.
The shows live on the bank's "Renasant Nation" site and are distributed through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, the bank’s webpage and its client email list, as well as geo-fencing and geo-conquesting with native placement. They include:
- “Crafted,” which spotlights local small businesses including a handmade guitar company in East Nashville and a bespoke jeans company in north Mississippi
- “Building Us with Tera and Wes,” an HGTV-style show where a couple remodels an old home, and
- “Bootstrappers,” featuring outdoor start-up lifestyle products like the Doggie Camel Pack and a fishing tool to help people catch more fish.
“Although we still do traditional media, creating our own shows and owning the medium cuts out commercial buying,” he said, “and it allows us to really focus on a target-rich audience with much less expensive placement.”
Or, if you prefer: People who shut out ads watch shows.
“Over the past 10 months, our shows have pushed more than 10 million views, created many co-marketing opportunities with the influencers and have set us apart as a marketing content provider that gives value beyond just bank product interruptive marketing,” he says. The goal, of course, is to “convert these viewers to clients.”
Meanwhile, expect Renasant to do even more programming in 2019. Says Oxford: “We’ll keep the focus on small biz stories but we’re adding a lot more humorous and sports related content.”
Veridian Credit Union, Waterloo, Iowa: Your own student loan help
To get the word out on its student loan refinance pre-approval program, Veridian Credit Union deployed a three-prong, omnichannel marketing distribution strategy that embraced social media, email and member outreach.
“This strategy let Veridian use response data to analyze what message and channel resonated most with members,” says Lewis Goldman, chief marketing officer at LendKey, which partnered with Veridian on the campaign.
LendKey, which uses cloud technology to help community banks and credit unions enter online lending, identified existing members with outstanding federal and/or private student loan debt. Enter Veridian with a direct mail pre-approval campaign—with invitations that offered a better deal customized to each recipient.
“Each pre-approved member received personalized letter with [their own] tracking URL and value-add content that highlighted the members’ potential savings through refinancing,” Goldman says. “In addition to a strong response rate, the pre-approval mailing garnered a 1.18 percent application rate.”
Putting it all together: Personalization matters in 2019
For 2019, Goldman expects to see more hyperlocal focus and data-driven marketing across the board—as well as more personalization. Brimmer, of Ally Bank, agrees with the personalization theme. She also expects banks to continue with a major marketing trend of 2018: the “purpose-driven” conversation, in which banks demonstrate their values.
To close out 2018, “We just launched an effort called Banksgiving,” Brimmer says. The bank asked callers to say what Ally could do beyond their banking needs—and fulfilled those requests, “ranging from help with fall yard cleanup and a holiday visit to see family to larger requests that could touch the lives of many people.”
Except, of course, for bank robbers. After all: That’s. Not. Right.
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Jeanne Pinder is the founder of ClearHealthCosts.com, an award-winning startup bringing transparency to the health care marketplace.