In recent years, financial services organizations have taken a hit in their brand reputation. Some bank brands didn’t help themselves when they ignored customers’ changing needs and technology environment in which those needs could be satisfied. The result was the emergence of new types of banking and financial organizations that understood today’s new customer.
However, Bank of America has taken a different approach that proves marketers don’t have to complicate their job even if they add a cadre of marketing technology.
As Meredith Verdone, CMO of Bank of America, says, “Know who you are as a brand, explain what you believe in, and say what you do for customers. That’s all we need to do as marketers. It’s simple and it works.”
This strategy has delivered results. The bank has gone from enacting organizational, functional, and technological changes to leveraging its current growth mode.
I recently spoke to Verdone about the changes the bank has made in its branding approach over the last 20 years.
Building Brand Momentum
Bank of America didn’t hit the highest levels of brand favorability and customer satisfaction overnight. Nor did it achieve 26 million app users in one year. Instead, all this took years of work.
Verdone noted that 2013 signaled a change in focus for the bank. After diligently revamping its inner workings, it was time to focus on the goal to become customer-centric in all its offerings.
To successfully achieve that aim, “We established a purpose that said Bank of America will make financial lives better through the power of every connection,” says Verdone. “Those connections involve platforms, channels, and interactions that customers have with us throughout the 90 different markets we serve.”
Understanding the Customer is in Control
And, although banks were once “large and in charge,” those that have remained leading brands now acknowledge that customers determine where they entrust their money, and interact with banks on their terms. “It’s our responsibility as a brand they trust to enable them to achieve what they want and guide them toward being financially successful,” notes Verdone.
Brands also need to be aware of opportunities where it makes sense to share their expertise with customers.
“With the overall environment of mistrust in the media over fake information, we’ve seen consumers start to turn back to companies to get the information they need,” Verdone explains. “This changing dynamic is evident in the increase we’ve seen in visitors to our websites and social media channels as well as the engagement levels related to signing up for information and downloading reports we offer.”
Leverage Technology, But Deliver
While technology has been integral to advancing the brand relationship with customers, this audience still wants a human connection. For Bank of America, that has meant seeking out situations where it can do fundamental good. “We don’t see ourselves as doing cause marketing or social good activities,” says Verdone. “Instead, it’s about finding opportunities that align with our core values.”
She cites Bank of America’s 30-year relationship with the Special Olympics as a prime example of enacting the value of diversity. Additionally, more than 400 employees around the world have some type of physical disability but have been specifically hired by the bank because of their talent and the desire of the organization to help all types of people achieve financial success.
Other examples of the financial brand’s values in action include the Better Money Habits Program, which engages younger demographics by providing tools to help them make better money decisions. Also, the bank partners with fashion brand Tory Burch to offer more micro-lending options to female entrepreneurs.
Less is More
Perhaps one of the most refreshing insights was Verdone’s conclusion that when the company advocated for customers and aligned messaging with values, less marketing was necessary. Since many brands have over-marketed and created fatigue with their audiences, it was encouraging to see a global brand prove that less marketing is more -- if you do it correctly.
Lessons For Brands
Regardless of your industry, there are lessons from Bank of America for your own marketing initiatives. As Verdone concludes, “The core of what we do that has made us so successful is to stay in our own lane and align everything with our values. Regardless of technology, platform, or connection, this approach has elevated customer satisfaction to new heights for us.”