Financial Brands in a Digital Age: It’s All About Love

We live at a time of constant change and that can lead to stress and fear. That is why it’s never been more important to have a real relationship with consumer — one that inspires or can be built on love.

It might sound trite, but despite the headlines touting the newest latest ad gimmick, to win today a marketer has to do more than entertain.

They have to UNCOVER LOVE.

Today, mobile dominates all conversations and relationships, so it’s never been more important for financial brands to focus on the relationship they have with people — not “targets” or “consumers.”

People. We’re talking about real people, with real human emotions.

This is doubly important for banking brands where trust is an absolute requirement if you have any hope of cultivating a long-term relationship. But, as we have seen in the cross-selling scandal that ensnared Wells Fargo, trust can quickly evaporate.

As individuals, we want to love the brands we choose. If we love the brand, we will tell our friends and family. We will see the brand as our partner. And the relationship will provide deeper meaning and connection.

What Does Brand Love Look Like?

Love can’t always be rationalized. But it is the strongest motivator of all. It’s more than giving people something to buy. It’s giving them something to buy into. A higher purpose or reason for being.

The need for a consumer to have this deep relationship is important to understand: People will always care more about who you are and what you stand for than what you do.

This love can protect a brand when things go bad. Consider Wells Fargo. Those customers who saw their trust betrayed will flee in droves. But those who have a real relationship with the bank – my mother for one – got a reassuring phone call and expressions of service and commitment to the relationship. She cares deeply that her bank cares about her.

Where Did Love Go?

Over the recent past, marketers reliance on KPI’s has interrupted the relationship building necessary to keep love alive.

Love – the relationship, the chemistry – has been replaced by data. And as we all know, data isn’t always right. It doesn’t get into how people feel and why they feel that way.

In addition, we’ve looked at performance driven marketing to see what is working. So while we are out there measuring clicks, we have no context for what the “Likes” or “Loves” mean.

To get back to the relationship, here are several ways for financial services brands to win back the hearts of their consumers.

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How to Create Love: Five Principals for Marketers

1.) Be honest and transparent. Trust is essential to love and more important for brands in the financial sector than in other categories. Marketers have to be mindful of their relationship with the consumer. And if something goes wrong, they have to accept responsibility. Wells Fargo for example needs to reignite its relationship with strong one-to-one outreach giving their customers something tangible to believe in rather than platitudes offered in an advertising campaign.

2.) Be Brave. Financial service brands need to take some risks, try new things and be daring. Consumer facing brands mix things up all the time with surprising campaigns (think: Old Spice). Financial services brands can do this too. Look at this ad for Chase which is not just about the moment, but about being there and showing love.

3.) Make the Consumer *feel* something. Emotion is critical to love. In today’s over sharing culture, studies have shown that the most emotional advertising/marketing is also the most shared. If tech companies like Google can take the top spot in emotionally-driven marketing, why can’t financial brands too?

4.) Find common ground. Communicate on a shared values basis. Great relationships are made when you find common ground. When we talk about shared values we are talking about what is important to you – what do you believe, what do you respect, what do you value? There is a long-running campaign for PEMCO Insurance built on celebrating the unique attributes of people of the Northwest. It works so well because it shows that PEMCO understands what is important to people who live in their market, with headlines that proclaim “We’re a lot like you. A little different.”

5. Keep things fresh and exciting. Any long term relationship is going to have it’s ups and downs. Consumers today are promiscuous. They flirt. New packaging, a new product in a boring category, all these “new” things can draw a wandering consumer’s eyes. Easily.

So how can brands and products make love last? They have to find ways to excite the consumer with their own “something new.” I mean, just think of your own relationship with your significant other.

Closing Thoughts

The subject of “love” can be an uncomfortable, risky word in business. But in an age when consumers hold all the cards — when it’s no longer possible to trick, or beguile, or intrude — this kind of deep and authentic connection becomes even more important. Admittedly, it’s an audaciously high bar. But we’ve managed to clear it, even in the unlikeliest and unlovable of categories.

In our digital world, all of you struggle daily with delivering results, hits, likes, shares, clicks, you name it. But if you start off the process with a little more humanity — a little more thought about the long term relationship — the end product will not only be better. It will have heart.

Whether it’s in one’s professional or personal life, you have to wonder… if you don’t love it, is it really worth it?

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