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Financial Services

The Added Value of Rewards

1 Aug, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

A new era of financial service products offer benefits and relevance for both merchants and consumers and are also key players in direct response campaigns.


Marketing a Lifestyle


For a lot of companies in the financial industry, making a sale can be directly related to targeting the niche audience for your product. Just as certain rewards on credit cards are draws for different age groups and economic backgrounds, the success of a financial service program can hinge on how well marketers can sell their products as lifestyle necessities.

The Credit Exchange, based in Santa Ana, Calif., was established seven years ago as a consulting firm to match consumers with companies that offer debt solutions. Ron Aglio, vice president of business development at The Credit Exchange, says that what makes the company unique is a tailored solution for each customer. "We take a situation, plug it into our software, and it chooses the correct processor to negotiate down your percentages and get you out of debt," says Aglio.

The Credit Exchange is mostly utilizing DRTV at this time, with some upcoming radio and print ads. Aglio says that DRTV is best for reaching the target demographics — single women 25-35 and people married 30-50 — so they designed a one-minute and a two-minute spot to reach this audience. The approach was to make it sleek and modern using silhouettes and animation. The commercials rolled out June 2, and Aglio says that the test period was successful. A second commercial, using live actors and the CEO, was scheduled to go into production in July. In the campaign's first 14 days, the company received 1,679 leads — 1,367 calls and 312 Web inquiries.

One insurance agency that's tapping into the lifestyle of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s is Esurance, a virtually paperless online auto insurance company that began in 1999 and today partners with Homesite for home and renters insurance. Esurance found a niche from the start by implementing a full-functioning online service option. Not only does the company find it's easier for customers, but it's also part of the company's environmental commitment.

"Lifestyle is very important to understanding our target — online customers," says Darren Howard, media director at Esurance. "These individuals tend to organize themselves around specific interests that they're very serious about — such as gaming, comic books, animation, extreme sports, fantasy sports, the environment, music — which is one way we try to reach them." Therefore, Howard says Esurance often finds that creative marketing treatments, like music videos, work better than a hard sell to the target audience.


Creating a Digital Buzz


The financial services industry is diving headfirst into the digital world. Credit cards, insurance coverage and home equity loans are letting customers sign up online and redeem the benefits both through the Internet and portable devices. Not to mention, DR marketers are embracing this inexpensive medium as a way to create a buzz and explain the ins and outs of complicated membership offers.

Facecard launched almost entirely through online viral means, such as Facebook, MySpace and other communities. edo also used old-fashioned viral marketing, posting team members at high profile events in Nashville and using BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth agency that gets paid for every Facecard it refers. edo is also in the process of setting up street teams of millennials at 50 college campuses around the country.

The digital benefits of Facecard go beyond marketing. Non-card holders, for example parents, can easily go online and add money to the account. The money will be available within 15 minutes and an alert is sent out to the member's mobile phone when access is granted. In the future, text-to-mobile will also be a way for merchants to send out Facecard's pre-rewards.

Another company that is seeing success with a viral campaign is Webster Bank, with branches in Connecticut, New York and western Rhode Island. In order to bring about local brand awareness, Webster teamed up with Horizon Media to wrap an ice cream truck with the Webster logo and pass out free ice cream bars, also wrapped in the company's logo.

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