Say “experiential” and many marketers will think of events and other in-person experiences. A prime example is Mastercard’s long-running “Priceless” campaign. Many banks and credit unions have successfully employed in-person experiential marketing, often combining it with social media capabilities to extend the reach and impact.
Experiential content, however, is another matter.
“The bulk of content that any brand — particularly financial brands — are creating for the digital space now is not designed to be experiential,” says Ryan Brown, Head of Brand Strategy at Ceros. “It’s designed in formats that have a legacy in print, whether that be blogs, articles, PDF reports, or e-books.”
Some of that may be a function of regulatory compliance concerns, but some is simply habit or lack of awareness that the means to implement such marketing is now within reach of institutions beyond the top ten.
Brown says that in Ceros’ client experience it’s common to hear how a marketer will “toss a request over the fence to a designer” and ask, “Can you make this look better?” But Brown believes a closer collaboration between Marketing and Design/Creative in the content creation process would produce results that are less formulaic and more experiential for any financial institution.
PDFs aren’t the only example of dull and predictable marketing content. Brown believes there is a sameness to what consumers experience on many financial institution websites.
Here’s a test. Pull up your institution’s website alongside a competitor’s site. Viewing them both, if you stripped off the brand colors and logos, would you be able to distinguish them?
“There’s typically not a lot of differentiation beyond colors and logos,” maintains Brown, who suggested the test during a conversation with The Financial Brand.
Some sites use strong images, some use videos or have rate calculators, but overall many financial institution sites are still text-heavy and static, in Brown’s view, especially when you click through for more information.
The 5 Levels of Digital Content Creation
Experiential content has no standardized parameters. Interactivity is part of it, Brown notes, but typically it includes integrated elements that trigger animations or other effects when a consumer clicks or rolls over the element. In more sophisticated iterations, “it knows where you are, which allows you to do and see things using animation and interactivity,” he states. In other words, the software crafts an experience as you engage with the content itself.
BBVA used experiential content to produce this interactive quiz targeting working mothers. Moms would get their parenting style classified based on their answers — a playful way of treating a serious subject. Click on the image to see an animation with an abbreviated clip.
BBVA’s “Mom” campaign (shown above) was more “top-of-funnel,” but Brown says that experiential content can be used at any point in the customer journey. It might be someone wanting to learn more about a bank or credit union’s loyalty program, or someone who needs to know how to use, say, mobile check deposit.
Brown describes five levels of digital content creation.
- Straight-up narrative copy — e.g. a blog post on mobile banking.
- Incorporating visual elements such as videos or infographics.
- Integration of automation such as dropping Google Maps into a post.
- Interactive elements such as gamification, maps you can click on, calculators, etc.
- Immersive elements — things that trigger something to happen when the person is at a certain point on a page.
“Most marketers are doing levels one through three,” Brown notes. “Levels four and five are the new frontier for content marketers.”
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Getting Started with Experiential Content
A good way for financial marketers to get their feet wet with experiential content is to take something they produce regularly that is traditional static content and reimagine it as a piece of experiential content, Brown advises. This isn’t always easy, he observes. “Even people who have done digital marketing for ten years need to rethink the process a little bit differently.”
With a text-heavy document, says Brown, it’s typical to create an executive summary distilling the major points. Experiential takes this further, making the summary more visual and interactive — perhaps with a quiz — all of which will guide the user to the larger text document if they need it.
” Everyone is human. They go home and watch HBO and Netflix after work. So they appreciate information being presented in a way that is more creative and engaging.”
— Ryan Brown, Ceros
To those in banking who take themselves (or their customers) too seriously to try out experiential content, Brown advises: “Everyone is human. They go home and watch HBO and Netflix after work. So they appreciate information being presented in a way that is more creative and engaging.”
Once committed to trying a simple conversion from static to experiential, bank and credit union marketers should monitor how consumers react and respond. One of the great advantages of experiential content, Brown notes, is that it is eminently trackable, whereas with PDFs, beyond the fact that someone downloaded it, you can’t tell how they used it or if they shared it.
Creating experiential content used to require having coders on staff, or paying outsider developers to do that work. However, the cloud-based platforms that are now available can do that work, according to Brown, allowing small and midsize financial institutions to step up their participation.
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Does it Move the Needle?
When asked by The Financial Brand what results Ceros had seen when brands it worked with used experiential content in their marketing, Brown declined to give specifics since the use cases are so varied. But because experiential content is so trackable, he notes, it shouldn’t take marketers long to see whether it’s improving engagement or other KPIs.
Every user isn’t necessarily going to get 30% more time spent on page, Brown acknowledged, “but what we do find is when people replace a traditional static approach with a creative experiential approach it consistently outperforms the previous solution. They see a big lift in engagement, time spent on the page and people sharing the page.”