By Rich Palatini and Martha Marchesi
Banks need to establish close working partnerships with the agencies they choose to help them launch new financial products. Good agencies can help banks differentiate themselves in the marketplace, if bank marketers take the time to understand the goals of a new product launch strategy.
Consumers today increasingly are looking for relationships with companies where they do business. Banks are no longer bricks and mortar or “clicks.” It used to be about going to an ATM and not interacting with people.
A good agency wants to understand your bank’s brand image, because that will help them build a relationship between you with this product and the people you have as your customers. The stronger that relationship is, the better.
People are not going to come to your bank because you have a new six-month CD. They will come to you because of the way they feel about your bank, the relationship you have established with them.
It’s important for the agency to understand your market, your organizational structure and operations. You will want to learn how their resources can combine with yours to produce results. It’s also critical that your agency understands how to execute new product launches, not just how to market new products.
When the teams are assembled for a new product launch, you will need to be prepared with some information. The agency will want to know who they are going to interact with at the bank, where will they go to get information, and to whom will they give feedback. You will need to put together very specific product information for the agency team, so they can educate themselves about the product and the bank. You and your agency will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the product. The agency will help identify unique or proprietary features that can be differentiators when you launch the product. Banks, in turn, should have specific goals for the product that can be shared with the agency from the earliest conversations. For example, does the bank want to expand an existing customer base or reach new customers? It’s also important to establish some measurement goals to evaluate the effectiveness of the product launch media campaign.
The product launch budget will be a major factor in determining the agency’s recommendations about the product introduction. A good agency should be able to tailor a product launch plan to fit the budget with appropriate strategies and media buys.
Agencies should learn as much as they can about the bank’s target audience for a product. The agency should be looking at the competitive landscape for the bank, including what other banks are doing. The agency will think about the kinds of media and advertising that will work best for the particular institution and target audience.
In building the action plan, the key step will be for bank and agency to work together to define the target audience. Your agency should be asking about things like age and gender demographics of the target market. Are we targeting families, singles, homeowners or renters? What’s their income? A family with four or five children might be going to dance recitals or sports events, and your conversation with them might be different than if the target audience is mainly retirees who travel a lot.
While marketers frequently focus on identifying the key decision-maker for a product, in many family units, we also need to know about the “gate-keeper,” the person who often gathers and organizes information for the decision-maker. Sometimes the gate-keeper may be more important for a particular product message.
Agencies also look at psychographics. We want to know not only what activities the target audience is engaging in, but what they are thinking about while they are taking part in those activities. We want to know preferences: old vs. young, male vs. female, emotion vs. logic. Someone might say, “I don’t want to go to that bank because I can never find a parking space.” This issue could be very important to people who are time-starved, but less important to retirees who might have a little more time to drive around looking for a parking space.
We also look at connects and disconnects, especially with wording, to make sure we aren’t creating a negative reaction unintentionally. In a study we did recently for a supermarket, focus groups expressed dislike for a slogan that suggested the store “lets” customers “take care of [their] families.” Based on the negative reaction of customers who said “I take care of my family; you don’t ‘let’ me take care of them,” the slogan was changed to say the store “helps” customers complete that activity, and the new slogan met with consumer approval.
You have a small window of opportunity to get the customer’s attention and motivate them to act. So it’s important for the agency and bank to distill everything into something targeted and focused. In today’s marketplace, if it takes the customer more than two seconds to understand what you have to say, they’re gone, off to soccer practice, off to dance, you’ve lost them.
Ultimately, all of the creative work has to be judged against the single-most important message we want people to take away from the messaging. If an element doesn’t connect with that message, it doesn’t make it to the printed page.
Once we’ve developed the creative connection, we start to develop five or six concepts, and we always ask if they achieve what the client is trying to accomplish. We’ll look for brand synergy to make sure the messages about the new product fits with the bank’s existing image.
Financial products are generally functional. They help you with investments, they are designed to secure your future, but a successful launch means getting the customer to make an emotional as well as intellectual connection. It’s the agency’s job to come to you with several different approaches to make that connection.
Once we agree on the creative work, we develop a media plan, making sure that it focuses on the key audiences. We need to determine the best media to reach audiences multiple times throughout their day. We need to understand the right mix of traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers, magazines), but we also need to understand the Internet, and the powerful forces of emerging media like interactive billboards, text messaging, and so on.
The good news is there are innovative ways to reach people, but this makes it all the more important to be smart about the media choices.
Rich Palatini is senior vice president and creative director of Gianettino & Meredith Advertising Inc. Martha Marchesi is vice president and associate creative director of copy at the agency.