Blogs And Banks

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Jupiter Research recently published a report called “Blogs and Banks: Prioritizing Blog-Based Marketing Initiatives to Gain Maximum Effect” ($). In addition to advising banks to advertise on third-party blogs, the report recommends that banks:

  • Create a blog as part of a young consumer-focused marketing initiative.
  • Explore the creation of community-focused blogs.
  • Use blogs to promote products — but to “use care.”

My take: In addition to my objections regarding the imprecise advice (what does it mean to “explore” the creation of blogs or to “use care” when creating product-focused blogs?), I’ve got issues with the recommendations concerning:

1) Advertising. Most banks struggle to determine the ROI of their marketing spend. In an environment where direct mail expenditures are scrutinized for their net (not just gross) return, diverting funds to blogvertise is foolish.

Will large banks drive more traffic to their sites by advertising on third-party blogs? I don’t think so. Will they gain street cred by blogvertising? Doubtful.

And which blogs was Jupiter referring to? My site is a third-party blog — should a bank like Wells Fargo advertise here? I think not. [Note to Ed Terpening @ Wells Fargo: I’d be more than happy to take your money should you disagree and want to advertise on my site. Did you see my Britney Spears post? Young consumers will be flocking to my site].

2) Strategy. Deploying a blog “in support of a marketing initiative” really misses the boat on the blogging opportunity.

Jupiter cited a student contest run by Royal Bank of Canada which generated “over 20 comments” (translation: 21) during the six months the blog was active. Although this hit and run effort might have been considered a successful campaign by the bank, it falls short of the potential to utilize blogs, and is a poor example — not a best practice — for other banks to follow.

Creating strong relationships — whether in our personal lives or between companies and customers — requires interaction and dialogue. This is the power of blogs that didn’t exist in the world of mass marketing — the opportunity to engage customers in a personal dialogue. Subordinating a blog to a marketing initiative (campaign) is exactly what banks should avoid doing.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing blogging efforts on today’s young consumers. But banks have an opportunity to do something with this group that they haven’t been able to do with older generations — build a mutually trusting relationship. It would be a shame to use Boomer- and Senior-like marketing tactics to engage banks’ future customer base.

In addition, Jupiter may be forgetting that seven or eight years ago, when the first wave of online communities popped up, a number of banks tried their hand at creating forums to engage their customers in community-related topics. For the most part, those efforts failed miserably.

You might argue that they were ahead of its time. I would argue that few consumers really wanted to engage in community-related discussions with their big, impersonal bank who was likely to be acquired by some even-larger bank from some city they’ve never been to. And that hasn’t changed.

It really begs a bigger question — can a large bank build trust by establishing a community-focused blog, or must it build trust first, before it can be successful with a community-focused blog?

My money is on the latter.

Technorati Tags: Marketing, Blogging, Banking, Wells Fargo, Jupiter Research

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