2014 State of Bank & Credit Union Marketing


This annual comprehensive scan of the marketing landscape in retail banking reveals financial marketers’ strategies, priorities and challenges in 2014.

2014 marks the fourth year The Financial Brand has fielded its annual “State of Marketing in Retail Banking” study, and the second that research was conducted in partnership with Aité Senior Analyst Ron Shevlin.

Roughly 300 financial institutions from around the world took the annual marketing survey this year — 54% banks and 46% credit unions. Nearly 3 out of every 4 hailed from the United States, but we also saw responses from Canada (8%), Europe (7%), Australia (4%) among other countries.

Those who completed this year’s survey will receive a complimentary copy of the “2014 Retail Bank & Credit Union Marketing Trends Report,” along with a complimentary copy of the Aité Group report based on the mobile strategy section — a bundle of insights worth thousands of dollars.

Also, those who attend The Financial Brand Forum 2014 will receive the “2014 Retail Bank & Credit Union Marketing Trends Report.”

Note: We’ve obscured some charts and tables. These are available only to survey respondents. Why? Because we need more participants in the study. Nearly 1 million people read The Financial Brand, and yet only 300 took this year’s survey — even though the data benefits everyone, and everyone wants to see it. In subsequent years, more and more of the survey’s results will be unreleased. The bottom line? If you don’t take the survey, you’re not going to see the results. But if you take the survey, you’ll get a robust report analyzing the data at a deeper level than what you see here in this article, including year-over-year trends and comparisons.



Financial Marketers Face Regulatory Burdens as Their To-Do List Grows

Every year, marketers say their #1 problem is insufficient budgets and/or manpower. No change there: 33.8% cited this as a “major challenge” in 2013, up ever so slightly to 34.0% this year.

In 2013, financial marketers ranked “regulatory and compliance” issues as their ninth biggest challenge. This year, it’s jumped straight up to #3, with nearly 50% more citing it as a “major challenge” than in the year prior.

Similarly, financial marketers are more concerned that their institution is taking on too many initiatives in 2014. They ranked this as their #7 most significant challenge in 2013, whereas this year it’s the #2 thing that’s troubling them most.

Generally speaking, financial marketers remain comfortable with managing social media and achieving brand clarity. Very few believe that the lack of consumer trust in the banking industry is a serious concern, and almost no one is worried about their rates and fees.

What marketing challenges
will you face in 2014?
Not a
Insufficient budget(s) and/or manpower 34.0% 45.4% 20.6%
We have too many initiatives 32.3% 46.8% 20.9%
Regulation and compliance issues 31.2% 47.7% 21.1%
Difficulty measuring performance
and/or proving results (ROI)
30.8% 57.4% 11.8%
We are risk adverse and/or
slow to adopt new ideas
29.8% 39.2% 31.1%
Limited data analytics tools/capabilities 28.2% 51.7% 20.2%
Our I.T. infrastructure is inflexible and limiting 28.0% 47.5% 24.6%
Takes too long to make decisions internally 25.9% 47.0% 27.1%
Silos 24.3% 41.7% 34.0%
We have inadequate MCIF/CRM database(s) 23.9% 39.3% 36.8%
Getting employee support for
marketing/branding/sales initiatives
18.2% 53.4% 28.4%
Our brand is ill-defined or lacking differentiation 17.0% 43.6% 39.4%
Figuring out social media 16.5% 50.4% 33.1%
Lack of senior management buy-in and/or
support for marketing/branding initiatives
9.3% 33.9% 56.8%
The lack of trust in the financial industry 6.8% 36.3% 57.0%
Our rates/fees/products aren’t competitive 4.6% 42.0% 53.4%

Marketing Budgets Are Increasing, But Not As Much As Last Year

The average increase to marketing budgets in 2013 was 12.7%, dropping significantly to 8.0% this year. Meanwhile, the median increase in marketing budgets also dropped — from 6.7% last year to 4.9% in 2014. Over two thirds of financial institutions increased their budgets in 2013, but only 3 in 5 are doing so in 2014.

% Budget Changes in 2013 Cut
in 2014
No Change
in 2014
in 2014
22.2% Cut in 2013, then… 13.3% 10.0% 76.7%
10.4% No change in 2013, then… 14.3% 35.7% 50.0%
67.4% Increased in 2013, then… 18.7% 23.1% 58.2%


Top 3 Strategic Marketing Priorities

Survey participants were asked to rank their top three marketing priorities over the next 12-24 months. The data in the table signifies the number of respondents who ranked that priority either #1, #2 or #3 on their list. Two years ago, “loan growth” was #2 on the list, but it’s been in the top spot for the last two years. In 2013, no one wanted deposits; this year, everyone wants them. Last year, only 3.1% of financial institutions said their top priority was “expanding/growing new markets,” but that number shot up significantly in 2014, with one in five institution’s ranking now it #1. At the bottom of the list? Reducing customer attrition.


Most Critical Products & Services to Promote in 2014

In the survey, this question presented respondents with a randomized list of financial products and services, asking them to check those that their bank/credit union will concentrate on promoting most heavily in the next 12-24 months.

Even though financial marketers cite “loan growth” as their most important strategic goal this year, they rank “mobile banking solutions” as the most critical thing to push (69% in 2014 vs. 63% in 2013).

Comparing 2014 to last year, auto loans fell two spots in the list, as did credit cards. Fee-based checking accounts, savings accounts and term deposits all rose a couple spots over their 2013 rankings.

For the second year in a row, prepaid cards came in dead last, and PFM is still not a priority for most institutions.

Rank Product or Service %
1 Mobile banking solutions 68.9%
2 Mortgage loans/refinancing 67.3%
3 Home equity loans/lines 50.6%
4 Auto loans/refinancing 50.6%
5 Online banking/bill pay 48.2%
6 Business lending 46.6%
7 Credit cards 43.8%
8 Business banking services 43.8%
9 Free checking accounts 38.3%
10 Financial education 25.5%
11 Checking accounts (fee-based) 20.7%
12 Retirement products 16.7%
13 Interest checking accounts 16.3%
14 Savings accounts 14.7%
15 Youth/kids accounts 14.3%
16 Certificates/term deposits 13.9%
17 Other non-interest income services 13.2%
18 PFM 12.8%
19 Prepaid cards 6.0%


Most of the survey’s participants have modest branch networks. Half have ten or fewer. But many plan on opening more branches in the future. None of the respondents said they would be “closing many branches” in 2014.



Measuring Marketing ROI & Performance

Subscribe TodayNearly all financial institutions use deposit growth and loan volume to gauge the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, although a surprising 7% admit they don’t use that metric. Nearly 9 out of 10 respondents said they monitor growth in their customers (or members). The third most-common metric bank and credit union marketers look at is depth of relationship” (products or services per consumer/household).

Very few financial institutions use third-party studies and ranking systems like JD Power, which is understandable because such systems usually only rate the Big Boys.

Fewer than half of all financial marketers use Net Promoter Scores, conduct internal brand audits/assessments, or monitor their PR efforts (assuming they conduct any public relations activities at all).


Tools Used to Build & Manage the Brand

Yes No Not Yet,
But Plan To
Brand guidelines/manual
or booklet for employees
48.7% 31.1% 20.2%
Design guidelines, brand
standards manual or style guide
62.3% 23.6% 14.1%
New employees receive
brand orientation/training
46.6% 36.0% 17.5%
On-going/regular brand
training for all employees
31.7% 47.3% 21.0%

Online Channels Thrive While Print Dies

When asked which marketing and media channels will be more or less important in the upcoming year, bank and credit union marketers clearly prioritize online and digital. Roughly 3 out of 4 say online and mobile advertising will be more important in 2014. Social media and email marketing are also rising in importance.

Over one-third of survey participants said print advertising would be less important this year. Same thing for brochures and other in-branch sales collateral. One in six respondents said TV and radio advertising would be less important this year, and an equal number flat out dismiss it as “not important” at all.

Financial marketers see billboards and outdoor advertising as the most useless media channel — 27.3% say it is not an important part of their marketing mix.

Guerilla marketing, database/MCIF marketing and the application of a CRM system have the most financial marketers scratching their heads in 2014.

Media Channel More
the Same
Not Sure
Online advertising 77.8% 1.6% 4.1% 15.0% 1.6%
Mobile advertising/marketing 71.9% 1.0% 6.3% 14.6% 6.3%
Social media 65.1% 2.1% 5.6% 23.6% 3.6%
Email marketing 60.8% 6.2% 5.7% 24.7% 2.6%
Onboarding program 59.6% 1.6% 3.6% 29.0% 6.2%
Data analytics, big data 50.8% 4.7% 8.8% 25.9% 9.8%
Database/matrix marketing (MCIF) 46.6% 1.6% 3.7% 33.5% 14.7%
Guerilla/word-of-mouth campaigns 43.5% 4.2% 8.4% 34.0% 10.0%
Public relations, community events 40.8% 5.2% 1.6% 51.3% 1.1%
CRM system 34.4% 4.8% 6.4% 38.6% 15.9%
In-branch video merchandising 28.1% 9.9% 15.6% 38.5% 7.8%
Direct mail 26.6% 15.6% 8.3% 46.4% 3.1%
Incentives/giveaways 24.9% 13.0% 7.8% 50.3% 4.2%
TV/radio advertising 22.8% 16.1% 16.6% 42.0% 2.6%
Outdoor/billboard ads 16.0% 17.0% 27.3% 35.6% 4.1%
Sales collateral and brochures 13.5% 24.4% 2.1% 56.0% 4.2%
Print advertising 8.3% 36.6% 14.4% 39.2% 1.6%

Utilization of Online Marketing Tools


Adoption of Social Media Channels

The overwhelming majority of financial institutions now have a presence on Facebook. More than half use Twitter and Facebook, and roughly two-thirds are using LinkedIn. A quarter of all respondents say they maintain a blog, and an equal number claim to be using Google+. Less than one in 10 are using Pinterest and Foursquare.

Twitter, YouTube and blogs top the list of social channels that financial marketers aren’t currently using but plan to in 2014.



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