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Salem Five Bank Wants To Simplify Money With An ‘Uncomplicated’ Brand

A $4.1 billion bank is trying to differentiate its brand and stand out from the competition with a "simple" message: uncomplicate money.

Subscribe TodayWhen research revealed a pervasive anxiety among consumers surrounding money, Salem Five Bank decided it would ambitiously position itself as a knowledgeable partner who could help remove the headache and hassle from banking. And hopefully simplify life in general.

But Salem Five’s first aim is to get people to spend less time worrying about finances and more time enjoying life. In short, they want to “uncomplicate” money.

That’s why the Boston-based bank launched its revamped brand campaign “Let’s Uncomplicate Money” back in the fall of 2016.

Developed by Salem Five’s advertising agency Connelly Partners, the message has been crafted to reflect the realities of managing one’s finances in today’s hectic, fast paced world, delivered with a tone that’s both sincere and approachable.

Given that the bank’s last branding effort — “Keep Talking. We’re Listening” — was back in the height of the financial crisis of 2008, a refresh was in order.

“It’s not that listening is out of vogue now, but the world is different than it was back when consumers had lots to say about big banks,” says Martha Acworth, Salem Five’s CMO. Now it’s more about what we can provide customers to make their lives better, advances in digital conveniences and improving the overall banking experience.”

The bank’s ad agency led a research effort to help understand attitudes and behaviors using a mix of techniques — from social media scraping to its proprietary “friendship groups.” The agency didn’t feel traditional focus groups would yield credible insights, as people tend to say what they think other participants and facilitators want to hear. A circle of friends, however, will keep everyone honest because they wouldn’t hesitate to call each other out. For example, in a focus group on healthy eating you might say you only feed your kids healthy breakfasts, but in a room with friends they’ll confess that they have Cocoa Puffs in the cabinet.

To provide the research findings that would underpin Salem Five’s campaign, Connelly Partners tapped a network with scores of these “friendship groups,” encompassing people from various counties, ages, incomes and demographic backgrounds.

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Mobile + Money = Stress

Acworth says she was surprised at the tremendous anxiety that exists around money.

“It didn’t matter how much or how little they had or what life stage they were at, though it manifested differently, there was a pervasive anxiety around money,” Acworth said. “With mobile apps, there’s a constant real-time hyper connectivity to your money. Combine that with the complexity of money movement across different payment streams and people are stressing out.”

Salem Five quickly realized that they need to at least be “net neutral” when it came to the amount of strain the bank would add to people’s already chaotic financial lives, but hopefully they could become “net positive” by removing friction and simplifying things.

This insight served as the springboard for the new “Uncomplicate” brand positioning.

“It’s all about money, banking is just one dimension,” explains Acworth. “We get it, managing money is challenging, especially with all that daily life demands. So we committed to simplifying things and making our customers’ financial lives as easy as possible.”

That’s a message that will likely resonate with consumers who are craving a clearer understanding of their money and what goes where.

“Consider all that consumers need to manage today,” Acworth says. “Direct payments from checking accounts and credit cards, financial apps, mobile payment platforms, insurance policies, a mortgage, auto loans and saving for the future. People are overwhelmed. They are  faced with the same kind of demands that it takes to essentially run a small business.”

Personas: Building Buyer Profiles to Target Messages

Salem Five built a series of consumer personas to help them target their messages with greater precision and resonance. They used a combination of demographic, psychographic and technographic information to construct amalgamated portraits with names like “Eyes to the Horizon,” “Backpedaling Forward” and “Pragmatic Adventurer.”

PRAGMATIC ADVENTURER. Dual-income parents who don’t make much money now, but feel like they are at the cusp where their hard work and sacrifices might start to pay off. They have big dreams, but plenty of obstacles stand in their way. Their career demands enough of their time so they are cautious with how and where they spend their hours elsewhere. But they feel like they got as far as they have by following their passion and sense of adventure, and that inner entrepreneur is still alive and well — many run their own business. Running a business has forced them to be better versed in technology than they probably otherwise would have been. It’s integral to business, but it’s not a point of passion or pride.

EYES TO THE HORIZON. Consumers with a median age around 43 years old, married with two kids and a household income between $100,000 and $150,000. These folks feel more settled — that they have their feet squarely under them, and it’s time to make sure their money is working as hard as they do. They are open to taking action, but if they are going to make an important decision, they need reassurance that what they are doing is a tested and proven financial solution. Technologically, they try to keep up with the curve with digital tools to make life better — stuck between the younger, more savvy on one side and the older, less savvy on the other.

BACKPEDALING FORWARD. Divorced homeowners around the age of 50. These consumers feel like they are reeling as they try to adjust to life’s many (and constant) changes, but there are so many moving pieces that they are often overwhelmed. They feel like they are spread so thin that a single misstep of any significance could be absolutely devastating. Technologically, they don’t feel like they have any other option but to keep working hard. Technology is by no means their forte. But their baseline understanding of new forms of communication has provided a much needed outlet for them to address their various emotional needs and support.


An example of the type of personas Salem Five Bank worked with when developing its brand strategy — rich with insight and backed by research.

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An ‘Uncomplicated’ Launch

When Salem Five first rolled out its “Uncomplicate” campaign, they used a mix of media that excluded TV, focusing instead on digital, print, radio and outdoor channels to reach people as they went about their busy lives. They also leveraged some guerrilla tactics, tapping Salem Five employees to surprise commuters with granola bars, bank swag and pastries from local bakeries.

“When your money’s flying every which way and life is pulling you in all directions, a bank of the right size with the right intentions can help you stay on top of it all,” reads one ad. “Let’s uncomplicate money.”

Their first video, “Bank to Live,” was the primary creative tool used to illustrate and communicate the bank’s new brand positioning. The spot follows parents dealing with life’s real moments — debating when to apply the 5-second rule, or a rock-paper-scissors match to determine who goes to the crying baby.

The bank also created a series of “Seconds To Simple” videos as part of a social media campaign. The purpose of each 15-second video was to show that it’s not just mega banks with all the latest mobile tools. The instructional shorts highlighted simple, easy steps of how to use the bank’s mobile tools.

“We want to emphasize our technology offerings — specifically mobile tools — to reinforce the notion that a bank our size can provide sophisticated technology solutions,” Acworth explains. “We also wanted to use humor in order to bring a sense of enjoyment to a category so often treated as heavy and serious.”

Finally, the bank shot a third set of videos highlighting real customer experiences. Salem Five wanted to back-up its brand promise with real examples from various areas in the bank — retail, business, mortgage, insurance, and the contact center.

According to Acworth, these videos do more than provide credibility to their brand. They also serve as blueprints for staff behavior, helping codify internal beliefs and create the culture needed to deliver an experience that aligns with the way Salem Five positions itself.

“These videos are a rallying cry for our employees,” Acworth says. “They could see and believe how we were uncomplicating money for customers long before we went out with this brand platform. It was already in our DNA.”

The second wave of the brand launch kicked off in January 2017, with a major promotional contest that reinforced the platform in a fun way, speaking directly to various elements of the target persona’s lifestyle. Acworth says they thought about how hard it is for everyone to cook healthy dinners, care about style, and keep their home organized. This afforded an opportunity to feature “Uncomplicators”, experts in various categories who could be featured in how-to sessions at branch events focused on ways in which people can make their busy daily lives less complicated.

Experts were locally sourced through Salem Five’s own network of customers and contacts. The bank teamed with folks like Anna Rossi, “MasterChef” finalist and food blogger, Lindsey Foley, a personal stylist, and Sarah Buckwalter, a certified professional organizer. Each specialist would host demonstrations at Salem Five locations on Sunday afternoons, the best day — according to Acworth — for busy families to have time to take care of personal matters.

The events helped cross-promote three digital contests: “Uncomplicate My Dinner,” “Uncomplicate My Closet,” and “Uncomplicate My Home.” Customers uploaded photos or videos of their complicated lives then voted for the winners among finalists on Salem Five’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Winners received prizes like three in-home cooking demonstrations with Rossi and 12 pre-prepared meals for a family of four.

“Money management is often something that’s squeezed in,” Acworth says. “Taking time to do things for yourself — like eating healthy, refreshing your wardrobe or getting organized — often falls through the cracks. Just as we offer a team of accessible experts and convenient tech tools to help customers manage all aspects of their finances, we’re providing consumers with expert resources to help simplify and improve their lives.”

Acworth says customer reaction to the brand has been universally positive. “People love that it’s different, and we hear that we really ‘get it’,” Acworth explains. “And internally, it’s become a North Star of sorts for employees in everything they do,” she added.

“You wouldn’t believe how often it comes up around here now,” adds Acworth. “Every day you hear someone on the staff say ‘Can’t we just uncomplicate this guys?’ with a wink toward the brand.”

Myriam DiGiovanniJoin over 1,500 of the brightest minds in banking at The Financial Brand Forum 2017 for three days loaded with the big ideas, strategic insights and latest innovations that are transforming the industry today. Hurry, the countdown is on! The conference kicks off May 17th. Don't wait, register now!

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