Thursday, February 26, 2009

Incenting bloggers to spread your message.

Dairy Queen is treating bloggers like royalty. They’re trading $5 gift cards for blog posts. Why am I bringing up DQ in a Bank Marketing blog? Because bank marketers need to look beyond their industry for inspiration. . . especially if it’s a great idea that can be transferred to their financial arena.

The corporation claims to have over 200,000 mentions in the blogosphere and they want to sweeten that number with this promotion. DQ launched its own blog, Creating Smiles and Stories, only this month. The blog, which will be written by employees, will include “stories, news, products, events, promotions, DQ in the News, advertising, fun stuff, DQ people in the community, and around the world.” In a Feb. 25th post headlined “We Got A Sweet Deal for You!”, the DQ folks asked the question of bloggers,“what deal you’d make with us to try our Sweet Deals for free?´ The blogger is asked to send an email to DQ with a link to their post. The first 250 bloggers to do so received the gift card. In a matter of hours, DQ had surpassed their goal. In addition, the writer of the best blog post will receive DQ Sweet Deals every week for a year.

This is a very inexpensive promotion for a company the size of DQ. The value of the cards was only $1,250. And, I can guarantee you that their message about their Sweet Deals meals will spread faster than melting soft serve. Their word of mouse was a quick and effective way to launch their blog, too. In upcoming weeks, I’ll examine how bank marketing departments can harness the power of the social media. And, how a little promotion just like DQ’s could get you some positive press.

The company also launched a Twitter account just two days ago. It’s sure to follow the success of their year-old Facebook presence with its almost 85,000 fans.

(Do you suppose this post qualifies me for a DQ treat?)

Monday, February 23, 2009

There’s humor in the Etiquette Guide for Banks. . . and a message, too.

I know it's totally inappropriate, irreverent and edgy, but I found a blog piece entitled, "A Bailout Etiquette Guide for Banks Looking to Survive 2009". The post in the blog, Wrecking Ball Report, takes a few shots of the cannonball variety at the state of bank marketing. I know their viewpoint is shared by many consumers today. While there's a lot of sarcasm in the piece, there are some nuggets that bank marketers could take to heart. If you are a fan of political satirists such as Bill Maher, then take a look at this colorful piece. If not, stay clear - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED! For me, I saw humor in the post. But, there’s a real message behind the facetious remarks. Just look a little deeper and I hope you’ll see it, too.

Here's some sample rhetoric some the post:
  • Try not to talk about anything that actually has to do with banking. If you have to mention something, talk about the thickness of the vault's door.
  • If you’re meeting with anyone in D.C., ride a bike or a unicycle, or . . .
  • Wear a nametag that says "Bob the Banker" no matter what your name is.
  • Consider an architectural makeover - perhaps a two-story mattress or coffee can circa 1931 Maxwell House.
  • "David" from Bangalore will be right with you to assist you with your bailout - a look at outsourced customer service.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Valentine’s promotion
that will steal your heart!

As promised, here’s an update on a heartwarming bank promotion I covered earlier. In my February 12th post, I introduced you to Cash, First Arkansas Bank & Trust’s (FAB&T) new mascot. He was rescued from a local humane association by this 29-branch community bank. In the true spirit of a family-owned bank, Cash has literally become part of the “family”. He resides with the bank’s compliance officer. And, the idea for the rescued dog was an inside job as well, after several bank employees had a brainstorming session.

In a personal interview with Roger Sundermeier, FAB&T’s vice president-marketing officer, said, “We started out simply wanting a new face for our Kids’ Savings Account, and it has blossomed into a full-blown face for our brand!” The bank had a “Cash is Coming Soon!” teaser campaign which caught the attention of the community. “And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the excitement we have generated among our employees,” noted Sundermeier. “We’re hoping that soon people will see a yellow lab in public and say, ‘Hey! That looks like the First Arkansas Bank and Trust dog!’”

Partnering with Build-A-Bear Workshop
In a heartfelt banking promotion, FAB&T partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop to create 300 miniature plush Cash replicas wearing logoed T-shirts. The bank marketing promotion carried the theme, “Give a little Cash 2 the one U love!” Cash replicas were available during a short 1 ½ week window just before Valentine’s Day. The net proceeds of over $2,000 from the sold-out sale of these stuffed animals are being donated to local animal shelters. Sundermeier explained, “With the situation of our economy now, pets are sometimes the first thing a family will let go.” FAB&T said the bank wanted to draw attention to overcrowding in animal shelter due to the economic downturn.

Cash will soon have kennel mates (of the plush variety). With the success of the Valentine’s promotion, FAB&T's is rolling out “Cash’s Crew” in early March. Up for “adoption” will be five additional pups. Their names, Farley, Austin, Barksley, Andy and Tiffany, spell out the bank’s acronym FAB&T.

More dog-gone good promotions!
FAB&T’s upcoming customer appreciation events will revolve around Cash and be billed as “Dog Daze.” Some of the bank marketing events will include a mobile pet grooming service giving free baths and haircuts to dogs, free pet photos using a local photographer, a basic obedience class and mobile pet adoptions sponsored by local animal shelters.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a sap for animals! Just wish some of those banks who are currently in the dog house with negative press could create more heartwarming promotions. They need it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Studies contradict online banking activity?

Two recently released studies seem to be contradicting one another when it comes to online banking stats.

One study was conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Fiserv, Inc., an information technology services provider for the financial industry. In a Fiserv news release dated February 12th, Fiserv said
“U.S. consumers are paying more attention to their finances and using the online banking channel more frequently to access their accounts during the current global financial crisis.”

The release went on to say that. . .
“Online banking usage increased far more than any other banking channel, with 28 percent of consumers indicating they are using online banking more than they did a year ago.”

“In these difficult times, financial institutions are looking for new ways to reach out to consumers and provide value,” said Todd Lesher, division president, Fiserv Electronic Banking Services. “This survey indicates that online banking is still a great opportunity for financial institutions looking to strengthen their ties with consumers. Consumers are using online banking more frequently to monitor their cash flow, manage their finances more actively and save money on stamps.”

In contrast, a report from another researcher, comScore, seems to see the situation differently.

According to a comScore news release on January 22nd, consumers are spending less time on their bank’s website due to the poor economy. Marc Trudeau, senior director of comScore’s Finanial services commented in the release. . .

“We’re seeing shifts in the way consumers manage their finances online, such as less frequent and shorter visits to their banking Web site. . .”

The Reston, Va.-based digital marketing research firm noted that. . .
“Engagement at many of the top banking sites declined in Q3 2008 versus a year ago. Four out of the top 5 online banking sites experienced declines in the average number of minutes spent per visitor in the third quarter of 2008 versus year ago.”

comScore studied the top 10 online U.S. banking sites which included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase.

My interpretation of these studies? To me they seem like a contraction with the Forrester/Fiserv study claiming an increase in online banking, while comScore’s research sees a decrease in activity. The discrepancy could be that comScore only looked at the top 10 online banks. Do others view the research in the same vein?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First Arkansas Bank & Trust has gone to
the dogs, but we love’em!!!

With all the bad banking news, here’s one financial you’ve got to love and and love! Or, maybe you could claim that First Arkansas Bank & Trust has gone to the dogs. . . literally! The bank has headed straight for their local animal shelter and found “Cash”, yellow lab who had apparently been hit by a car and has a bum leg. The dog will be the mascot of the kids’ savings account program which will be renamed the Cash Account. The dog left the Jacksonville Animal Shelter for FAB&T on Jan. 29th.

Cash will accompany bank personnel when they visit schools, senior centers, and nursing homes, as well as attending community events. The bank is family-owned and based in Jacksonville, AR with 29 offices.

Larry Wilson, Chairman, President and CEO of FAB&T stated on the bank’s website,
“We have chosen a dog for several reasons. A dog personifies everything that we want our bank to stand for: Trust, Loyalty, Protection and Compassion. These qualities are the same qualities that we want our employees to exude, and that we have lived by for 60 years, and we’re excited to have Cash around as a reminder of our core values.”

Mr. Wilson also went on to say,
“By choosing a shelter animal, we are drawing attention to the overcrowding of animal shelters across not only the state, but across the country. It is during difficult economic times like these that many shelters see an increase in animals turned over to them, as pets are one of the first “non-essentials” that are let go."

Can anyone top this bank marketing story? In fact, this story is too good to let go. I’ll have a follow-up. (Read updated post on 2/22/09 "A Valentine's promotion that will steal your heart."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bank marketers, take note of Australia’s Individuum. They’re individual, irreverent and marketing to Gen X & Y.

I like these guys. I like their look. . . and I’m not even in their target market – geographically or age-wise! I like their message. While they are not a bank or credit union, Individuum has something to teach bank marketing departments. Individuum is a financial services firm targeting what Australians call superannuation. That’s a compulsory pension plan whereby employers are required to pay a percentage of an employee’s salary into a superannuation fund.

The firm is young, barely a year old. Here’s how their website characterizes Individuum. . .

“Individuum was conceived at the end of 2007, when a group of us agreed that younger investors weren't being 'looked after' by many of the big banks, fund managers or superannuation providers. Sadly, most of the financial products on the market are still being targeted towards Baby Boomers who are on the brink of retirement. But hello, that's not right!!! What about younger investors???

As one of Australia's few young investor focused superannuation providers, we've set out to create an offering that is relevant, easy-to-understand and more in line with the needs of people in the early stages of the investment life cycle.”

Their website is as individual as a fingerprint. In fact, it literally bears that imprint. Besides three different website blogs, a Facebook page and Twitter followers, the firm has launched an Academy of Dreams, a sponsorship program that hopes to uncover musical artists, athletes and educational causes that require, as Individuum says, “a little. . . .well. . .ummm. . . help (if you know what we mean).” And, Individuum promises to educate its customers. . . a favorite goal of mine.

Even their behind-the scenes look at their “team” is ingenious with irreverent profiles of “The Boss”, “The Strategy Guru”, “The Marketing Check”, “Desk Jockey”. . .

Surf their website. I hope you’ll be impressed as I was. And, hopefully, you’ll take away some ideas on how to connect with your younger banking customers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fifth Third "dreams" of
quelling consumers concerns.

Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati, has launched a program called Dream Guard. The program is intended to help quell consumers concerns about the economy. In-branch brochures and website tips and tools explore ideas on talking to kids about the economy, dealing with stress, following a budget and selling a home in a buyer’s market. According to a press release, the bank wants to “help consumers save more, spend less and guard their dreams.”

In the release, Terry Zink, executive vice president and head of Retail and Affiliate Administration, noted that

“we wanted to take this opportunity to be more proactive and enhance our planning tools to help our customers stay true to their long-term goals and dreams. Now is the time to act, and the Dream Guard initiative provides us with the opportunity to remind consumers that Fifth Third Bank is here to help.”

This is the second campaign of this nature for Fifth Third. Earlier last year the bank initiated “You Have Options”, a campaign to educate and communicate with customers who may be having difficulty making mortgage, credit card or other loan payments.

Having developed and written kids’ savings newsletters, I do like the 10 points listed in the bank’s Talking to Your Kids About Finances. It’s probably the best and strongest of the Dream Guard features on the Fifth Third website.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Readers & employees respond to
Wells Fargo “Las Vegas” blog post.

I have been counseling my clients on the power of the blog and how customers & prospects can campaign for and against their services using the electronic word. While blogs like the Moleskinerie can be a love fest for the product (in that case a simple notebook), other blogs can spew venom about a company. I tell clients that, in either case, they need to be aware of what is being said about them. . . whether it’s from customers or employees.

Wells Fargo has been proactive in the blogging department. And, yesterday’s post in The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog, carried the headline “Wells Fargo Responds To Misleading Reports About Team Member Recognition Events.” They issued a very corporately-worded news release defending the bank’s position on the Las Vegas recognition event. And, what followed were a number of comments from readers, including some employees. In fact, some of the employees began arguing with respondents. This unfortunate exchange only compounds the PR nightmare for the bank and further angers the public. One respondent remarked to an employee, “shouldn't you be thankful you have the job and not like one of your fellow co-workers that have been laid off?”

blog.Truebridge picked up on the same Wells Fargo post and had this reaction, “Wells should be careful that their employees are not arguing with the customers who are responding.”

Wells Fargo does request that employees identify themselves in the interest of full disclosure. With the exchange that took place on the Wells Fargo blog, should bank marketing departments forbid or control employees’ access to commenting on the blog? Or, are employees foolish for even posting a comment, especially if it's negative? Is it similar to high school students posting photos of themselves engaged in illegal activities in which they're asking for trouble?

But back to the bank’s handling of the initial response to the event. I’m in the unusual position of having planned incentive programs with vacation awards to even more exotic places than Las Vegas (although not for Wells Fargo and not in the current economic environment). I understand the pros and cons of sponsoring such events for employees. But in this case, with the negative press (whether right or wrong), my PR brain tells me I would have issued a simple statement. A three word statement just as President Obama did concerning his problem with cabinet appointments. . . “I screwed up.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ING Direct promotes savers’ pledge on microsite, YouTube & Facebook.

ING Direct wants citizens to step up and be counted as a saver! In fact, they’ve literally installed a counter on their “We, the Savers” microsite which tallies the number of visitors who have signed their online “Declaration of Financial Independence.”

The 10-point declaration asks savers to pledge that they’ll adopt good savings and borrowing habits, remember what matters, take care of possessions, and finally, be heard by government representatives. Visitors can also check who are their fellow signees and the states in which they reside. The site also includes a poll, forum, video and other interactive options. We, the Savers campaign was launched the day after Thanksgiving, along with visibility on YouTube and a Facebook page.

Arkadi Kuhlmann, CEO of ING Direct USA, commented that "with ING Direct's online tools, savers can see the real advantages of saving and pass along the knowledge to people in their online networks. Since reversing long-term spending habits can be difficult, ING Direct has made saving as straightforward and informative as possible for new savers and investors."

I applaud ING for their efforts to promote savings, albeit the approach advances their primary business. It’s definitely a step that a lot of financial institutions haven’t followed in the past. . . encouraging and educating their customers about good financial habits. Hopefully, more CEOs and bank marketing departments will follow ING’s lead and take their own pledge to consumers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bank considers recession when producing
TV commercial.

Central Pacific Bank launched a new TV campaign yesterday, February 1st, in its home state of Hawaii. Rather than flashy video, the bank marketing department chose to features nostalgic black and white scenes which depict the dreams of the bank’s first customers. According to a statement in Pacific Business News by Andrew Rosen, Central Pacific’s chief marketing officer,
“In this economy, while we’re in a recession, it’s even more important to emphasize the ways we help people in the community.”
A news release from the financial institution noted that “the message reflects our roots — founded by World War II veterans to serve working folks.”

Incidentally, the bank has a very unique history. The bank was founded by WWII vets (second generation Japanese American war heroes) who found themselves with limited opportunities in Hawaii after the war. They met over fifty-cent plate lunches and founded the bank.

The launch coincides with a unique exhibit of rare World War II memorabilia to be on display in March at Central Pacific Bank’s Main Branch in downtown Honolulu. The display of artifacts and photos honor the legacy of Hawaii’s veterans; some of whom were founders of Central Pacific Bank.

Central Pacific Bank has adopted the marketing tag line. . . “Work. For You.”

Will other bank marketing departments take the economic downturn into consideration when producing campaigns. . . or will it be business as usual? This was considered in a former post, "How do you combat negative headlines?"