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A considered ad strategy will ensure heritage bank brands stay relevant

iStock 644191738 - Global Banking | Finance

A considered ad strategy will ensure heritage bank brands stay relevant

Matt Forrester - Global Banking | FinanceMatt Forrester, Senior Manager at Snapchat

There are few sectors of industry that escaped disruption from the advancement of technology and changing consumer behaviour, but banking is possibly the one where there is the biggest division between the old guard and the new. 

With the rise of digital-first challenger banks – the ‘heritage’ brands that have existed as bricks and mortar on our high streets for decades, should consider their customer-facing approach in order to stay relevant with the younger generation. 

Studies show that a significant number of people stay with their first bank for more than 20 years (a surprisingly high number of people have a longer relationship with their bank than their spouse) so signing up new customers can mean more than a short term win for banks.

The banks that people my age grew up with have a longstanding foothold in culture – for example, Barclays sponsored the Premier League for years, Natwest the cricket and now Team GB at this year’s Olympics – but when it comes to engaging with young people, ways in which banks can get involved in cultural moments have grown and evolved, which is why digital-first banks with smaller budgets are gaining a market share. 

So what do banks need to do to reach the next generation who are looking to open a current account, start saving, apply for a loan or credit card and even, in a few cases, start thinking about a mortgage? 

Choose the right channel

Consumer behaviour is unrecognisable from 30 years ago when banks could lure young savers in with piggy banks and football stickers. Then, when TV was the primary advertising channel it was all so simple. Today, digital platforms have made word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family a very credible route for pre-purchase advice.

When making a financial decision we are considerably more likely to seek advice from close friends and family, and to demonstrate just how active this type of conversation is in group chats on Snapchat, our insight tools tell us the terms referencing ‘financial services’ comes up five times more than the term ‘Taylor Swift’.

Banks who have an ad presence in this type of online community will be in the right place at the right time. Then add in the digital advertising capabilities such as clicking through for more information (for 18+) or applying for a loan / account / mortgage on the same screen, and you are removing every single barrier to action, something no other advertising medium can deliver.

Opt for age appropriate messaging

This seems obvious but for too long banks have spent a disproportionate amount of their budget marketing to over 40s, when most of our big first financial decisions – from opening savings accounts and credit cards to taking out mortgages and loans – are made before we’re 30. If you want to reach younger audiences, digital advertising through online communities is the most obvious place to start. 

The highly targetable parameters on offer mean that ads promoting specific, age-appropriate products can be tailored to the precise target audience with incredible accuracy, ensuring your ad spend works as hard as possible. 

Be consistent with your creative output

Tailoring your messages to different audiences is something that is eminently possible but not implemented as much as you might think, but keeping your visual look and feel consistent across every message and touchpoint, with content that looks and feels like the brand, will have maximum impact.

As for the message itself, it’s a misnomer that young people need to be constantly amused with brand messaging, and funny is so subjective I’d never advise it as a priority particularly for something as important as financial services marketing. However, entertaining is definitely something to strive for, in order to engage and be memorable. Oh, and offers. Everyone loves an offer. 

Be helpful and interesting

We all know financial education in schools is not as strong as it could be, so any bank that can join the conversation in an authentic and unpatronising way to offer actionable, nonpartisan, qualified advice about financial matters will create an important connection with the audience. 

EE does this very well in the telco space, offering an online tool for people to use whether they’re customers or not, including a free course to help prepare children for the digital world, as well as countless videos designed to help young people navigate school and life, covering everything from STEM to self-care.

A bank that offers this level of education – explaining interest rates and how they affect us, for example – in an informative and useful way would gain traction easily. 

Take care when using finfluencers

However, while online communities are synonymous with influencers and creators,  I would  advise caution when seeking the right fit when it comes to working with ‘finfluencers’. According to McCann Relationship Marketing, 62% of 18 to 29-year-olds follow finfluencers and 74% said they trusted their advice. But financial decisions and financial matters are of the utmost importance and so it’s extremely important to work with influencers who really know what they are talking about and who are qualified to speak on the topic, and as a result, the Financial Conduct Authority recently announced that they are cracking down on this.

Competition to heritage bank brands has been around for a long time but thriving through this will come down to their approach to marketing, specifically the way they utilise the wealth of possibilities that online communities offer when it comes to building awareness, confidence, trust and, ultimately, loyalty. 

Global Banking & Finance Review


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