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How Can Financial Services Marketing Make the Leap to the Banking Experience of the Future?

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If you look at cutting-edge examples of financial services marketing, the future of the banking experience is crazy cool. You’ll wake up in your minimalist urban apartment and ask your voice assistant for an update on your bank balances while heading over to your French press. Midway through your day, an AI assistant will ping you via a text message to let you know that due to fluctuations in the Asian markets, there’s an opportunity to sell some stocks and make the quick cash you need to fund the vacation that you highlighted in your upcoming financial goals. A chatbot takes you through a script to assess your needs for a new account and automatically enrolls you in a highly personalized high-return fund. And when you stop by your bank branch for that rare touch-base with an actual human, it’s a weird cross between the Apple Store and Times Square thanks to all the technology.

This description is completely insane to the average financial services marketer, but it’s what many of the leading financial brands are delivering now—or aspiring to in the near future. How do we close the gap between this image of the seamless bank of the (immediate) future and waiting in line fifteen minutes at our nearby co-op to deposit a check?

An Aspiration Gap: The Reality of the Financial Services Marketer

Few industries have been as impacted by the recent amazing developments in technology as financial services. Whether it’s simple (but extremely convenient) things like depositing a check through a mobile app or the reality that an algorithm can manage your retirement, a lot is going on. Translating this effectively to the market is a challenge. Do millennials want the staid dependability of a brand like J.P. Morgan or the fresh opportunity behind a brand like Simple? And how do you balance that with the realities of financial services regulations, the mixed trust signals sought by customers with different demographics like age and location, and different needs for high-touch human experience? It’s also fundamentally important to acknowledge that all of this happens in the context of one of the most sensitive subjects we confront: money.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with a financial services marketer. She had just attended a major marketing conference that promised the ability to create interactive experiences, use chatbots to speed up and personalize marketing without adding to headcount, and much more. Yet, when she returned to the office, she felt deflated. “I see what other brands are doing and I know we need to catch up,” she said. “We definitely aspire to get people excited about our robo-advisory and our voice-activated compatible services. But I’m also trying to bring it all together for different generations, with the reality that we’re still doing a lot with human-powered banking, and ever cognizant of lengthy compliance discussions with our lawyers.”

Yet, in order to appeal to an emerging generation of bankers, financial services need to make the leap toward branches of the future, digital experiences, and more.

marketing to millennials

Image attribution: Christine Roy

Taking Financial Services Marketing to the Next Level

If you’re a financial services marketing pro who has seen the campaigns that other brands are doing, or you’re trying to adopt cutting-edge practices for marketing to millennials and struggling to make the leap, you’re not alone. Here are five ways that you can take your financial services marketing to the next level.

Focus on the story

Storytelling is powerful—and it helps connect the industry’s innovation at your brand to consumers’ individual financial goals in a meaningful way. For example, my husband and I keep our finances largely separate. Yet I remain interested in how different couples approach finances, and a series of interviews on Simple’s blog provided insights into models that I hadn’t considered. However, the stories aren’t just interesting because they provide how-to insights. They play into the reality that the way we manage money as couples says a lot about our relationships and how we tackle challenges; indeed, it reflects who we aspire to be. When a brand tells a story about how they can help us achieve our goals and puts those innovations into the right context (for example, offering new tools that put a spin on merging finances), that’s powerful marketing—whether it’s a simple blog post or a full interactive experience.

Embrace sophisticated segmentation

The first generation Z customers are opening credit cards, getting jobs, and becoming target customers. What works when marketing to millennials won’t necessarily work for them. Financial brands that are working on how to tell the story about the bank branches of the future and the latest innovations and technology in the space need to take a look through the lens of segmentation. Gen X-ers or baby boomers may need education on how a new technology will expedite or simplify certain banking tasks; gen Z might need to be educated on services vis-à-vis the fundamentals of banking; and millennials might require simple messaging on how a specific service or product is more efficient than its competitors. If you’re unsure where to start with your messaging, think about what different segments require and build your campaigns from there.

It’s an evolving experience

Marketing financial services requires really honing in on the experience that you want to deliver. For example, interactive content is helping brands like Mint.com more effectively market to millennials. Seeing how much you’re spending in an easy-to-visualize dashboard and mapping your spending habits to progress in other areas, like paying off debt or saving for retirement, provides a basis for engagement. Focus on how marketing can extend the positive aspects of the experience—so that every interaction a customer has with a financial services brand from end to end reinforces the believability of that seamlessness.

Take an experiment-and-measure approach

If you’re currently working with an older marketing model for a regional bank, the idea of migrating to a fully chatbot-powered signup experience can be daunting. The aspiration gap gets closed one step at a time. When an innovative campaign moves you, break down the different elements. Perhaps the brand moved away from traditional features and benefits and really embraced storytelling for emotional impact. How can your brand accomplish the same? Or maybe an interactive experience, such as a mobile app or questionnaire, is drawing in younger customers. How could you pilot one new app and see how it resonates with your audience? Innovative marketing is often the result of experimenting, measuring, testing, and refining over time.

It’s an exciting time for the financial services industry. A new generation is coming into their financial prime, representing a major market. New technologies are solving customer problems, offering the potential for exciting campaign hooks, and making new levels of service possible. As marketers work to bridge the gap between the current financial services experience and the branch of the future, strong segmentation, storytelling, and focusing on the customer experience will pave the way to successful marketing.

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Featured image attribution: Philip Brewer

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She's worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.

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