Renewing Trust in the Dollar1 Aug, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
The recession inspires DR companies to uncover creative new ways to reach customers in financial services.
While direct mail rates are down a bit from a few years ago, there is no doubt that it's still one of the strongest channels for marketing in the financial services industry. The only difference is mass mailings are decreasing and more targeted DM pieces are up.
In today's fast-paced world, it is incredibly important to implement integrated marketing campaigns that stretch across multiple channels. Mark W. Shafer, the director of Enterprise Creative Solutions, an in-house agency for Bank of America, says that the company is now more deliberate in making the most of a channel's strength and then integrating all mediums so that they can build upon one another.
Bringing relevance to direct mail pieces is important to the marketing staff at Bank of America. This year, the company had a huge success, winning a Benny — the Benjamin Franklin Award for Direct Marketing Excellence from the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association — for the University of Georgia Checking Self Mailer.
"You, of course, need to have a great offer," says Shafer. "But I think in making that offer more powerful what we did on this mailing is grab attention by strongly branding this piece from the University of Georgia."
He goes on to explain that people do not go to a mailbox to look for product offers, but a piece that's relevant and speaks to an alma mater, or some other emotional tie, may gain a second glance.
23K Studios is a recent winner of an honorable mention at the Bennys for its ING Direct Business Savings Account "Buzz" campaign, a direct mailer that told consumers how they could save money with an Orange Savings Account.
What marketers are fighting with, when it comes to direct mail, is that 85 to 90 percent of consumer mail goes directly into the trash. So you have to catch the consumer immediately, says King while he or she is rifling through the mail. According to King, this requires blending DR and branding. The offer needs to be eye catching and easy to grasp — making sure the brand comes across well. For instance, the ING piece utilized the company's well-known orange circle.
Also, the direct mail piece should not only speak to the consumer specifically, but needs to address a problem or a point of pain the customer has. And finally, the piece also needs to reach a consumer during the right time in the buying cycle.
King agrees that direct mail is still a large factor in marketing financial services, but its integration with the Internet is key — for example, using the mailings or television advertisements to drive online traffic to landing pages with more information.
As with other direct response verticals, online social communities are emerging as an important channel for those in financial services. Perhaps because of the seriousness and the regulations associated with the industry, marketing in online social communities has been slower than in some other verticals, such as beauty. But according to Scott Gulbransen, social media is a great tool in 2009. In recent years, Intuit has been able to build business communications around social media for both TurboTax and Quicken. He calls it a new standard of direct response marketing, one in which the customers interact directly with the brand.
"The lines between traditional direct-to-consumer marketing and emerging social media are becoming grey and the need for cross-functional marketing information is really rising," says Scott Gulbransen. While he admits that television remains a stronghold, he acknowledges the struggles in radio, print and even television are forcing marketers to look at new channels.
"The American consumer is changing," he says. "The average customer, compared to five years ago, wants a dialogue, not a one-way conversation. Especially in financial services, they want to have a conversation."
In a time of upheaval, marketers put more thought into where they spend their money. And if you want to get a face behind the brand and to interact with the customer, Scott Gulbransen says Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs and other forms of social marketing are all places to engage with the consumer and offer transparency. Both Turbo Tax and Quicken products are often tested by customers in the company's online inner circle so that the company can respond to customer issues and implement changes within weeks.
After the Recession
When the country comes out of the other side of the recession, hopefully marketers will realize it forced them to focus on getting closer to their customers — getting a better understanding of what the customers want and need.
Andrew Gordon, president of Newton, Mass.-based Direct Impact Group, says that these low media rates won't last forever and marketers need to be ready to move with the times. And what's the future channel of choice? Gordon believes that offline media is declining in its effectiveness and the future is digital.
While he does not believe that television will stop being important, it will need to evolve — especially with the migration of marketers to mobile television and the Internet. Eventually, he predicts a cell phone will be the most important medium in DR. Click-to-call is a great application for direct response marketing and Gordon says that traditional direct response marketers need to wake up and embrace new technology.