Promotional Products  » Education Center  »  Branding

On the Money

If you’re in the market to develop profitable client relationships, take a cue from marketers in the financial sector, many of whom have developed highly clever promotions. Will their ideas work for you? You can bank on it.

A mortgage company participates in a financial-sector trade show each year where it targets credit unions. To draw in prospects, the mortgage company always has three tiers of giveaways. This year, high-end customers received a keytag business card holder in an elegant gift box. Other visitors to the booth who seemed like serious leads received high-quality engraved pens. And those who just walked by to see what free loot they could score received a folding yardstick with the slogan, “For mortgages that are the ‘Right Fit.'”

Such seemingly elaborate promotions have become commonplace in the financial industry, where competition for customers is fierce. As a result, banks and other financial firms are getting more and more clever with their marketing campaigns. “Bank marketers are looking for promotional items which clients find valuable and are likely to keep,” says Maggie Kelly, director of marketing for the American Bankers Association, “and items that help to develop ongoing client relationships.”

Read on for a look at five recent creative campaigns in the financial industry. Perhaps one will become the catalyst for your next promotion.

Campaign #1: Web Banking Wows ‘Em

It’s no secret that people enjoy the convenience of online banking. Sharon recently helped Wells Fargo hit it big with promotions for its online banking service. One campaign encouraged customers to use online statements.

The bank sent out a postcard with an image of full-grown plants, along with a package of tree seeds, imprinted with, “Online statements from Wells Fargo. Cultivating convenience in banking.” About 100,000 pieces were sent by mail to customers to get them to come into the branches to talk about online banking, says Sharon. The message was, “Sign up for online statements; you’ll save a lot more than time” (as opposed to waiting for your seeds to grow).

It appealed to environmentally conscious consumers, because the attached literature noted that they’d save countless trees through online banking, because they wouldn’t be piling up paper files.

Along with the consumer promotion, an incentive program for the bank tellers was put into place. “Each individual branch has the challenge of getting the tellers to promote their product,” says Sharon. “A lot of financial institutions aren’t marketing to the end-user, they’re marketing to the inside people to get them motivated to sell their product.” In 2004, the banking industry employed about 1.8 million workers, according to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s quite a few employees that need motivation.

For this particular promotion, however, for every customer who signed up for online statements, the bank teller was entered into a drawing. The tellers who racked up the most customers won bonsai trees in imprinted planters. “The campaign was hugely successful,” says Sharon.

In another of the bank’s incentive programs, tellers received a personalized wooden box when they reached their five-millionth customer for online banking. The box was custom-designed with a number five and “Thank You” and was filled with a customized chocolate bar, a thank-you letter and a liquid mouse featuring the Wells Fargo mascot, Jack the Dog, inside.

“Online banking is a huge cost savings for the bank,” says Sharon. “Therefore, they’ve put a lot of money behind marketing it.”

Campaign #2: This Little Piggy

Alpine Bank in Colorado recently organized the Alpine Swines campaign that involved giant pig statues and matching piggy banks. The bank commissioned an artist from each one of its 35 regional locations to create a special (and very large) fiberglass pig that matched that region. “They wanted to do a program that would bring awareness to the bank,” says Keith, who helped the bank create the campaign. “And they’re very community-involved.”

Each of the super-sized swines was unique. One, named the Pigarri, was a bright red pig with flames painted on its sides. Another, the Coal Swiner, was the mascot for the bank’s branch in a coal mining region. There was even an Alpine pig wearing lederhosen and carrying its baby pig in a backpack. And all the pigs were mounted on wheels so they could make their local rounds. They appeared in various community events like parades, and their overall purpose was to raise money for a literacy campaign called Spellbinders.

But how do giant pigs on parade bring in cash? That’s where the promotional products come in. “To help support the campaign, the bank needed something it could sell,” says Keith. “So we created piggy banks that matched the large pigs.” Keeping with the theme that the pigs were unique pieces of art, only 250 of each piggy bank were produced. At each branch location, customers could buy the bank version of their favorite statue, collect coloring sheets, books, calendars and trading cards featuring fun facts like the pigs’ favorite foods. “It definitely drove a lot of traffic to the banks,” he says. “It made Alpine Bank the warm-and-fuzzy bank in town.”

At the end of the program, the big pigs were auctioned off. “The entire program raised $100,000, and all money went to the literacy program,” says Keith. “In the meantime, the bank got a huge amount of local publicity and won two national marketing awards.”

Campaign #3: Going Local

The Alpine pigs certainly became a well-known symbol for Colorado residents. And marketers know how important it is to use products that people identify with. Recently, as AmSouth opened new branches in Mississippi, the bank used a promotion that truly spoke to the locals. “Smart marketers know that you look at what’s going on in the community around you and you mold to that community,” says Michele Gels, head of advertising for AmSouth.

The bank turned to local Mississippi artist Gail Pittman, who is well-known for her style of hand-painted pottery. It commissioned pieces from her to give away to customers who opened accounts at the new branches. “It’s an example of knowing the community and what matters to them,” says Gels.

To hit close to home at their new branches in Florida, the bank has some promotions in mind that will be oriented to hurricane preparedness. Everyone was impacted by the hurricanes in the south this past year, says Valerie Ramsbacher, internal communications manager for AmSouth. “We’ll look at items like crank radios, flashlights, generators and safety kits,” she says. And, as is par for the course with any AmSouth promotion, there will also be a street parade or a community picnic, complete with food, drinks and giveaways. “We turn it into a mini community event when we open a branch,” says Gels.

The bank also uses advertising and direct mail to lead up to the grand opening. And bank representatives wear branded apparel at all the events. “The promotional items are something to make it fun, but there are solid product offers at the very core,” says Gels.

Campaign #4: Brand Positioning

Ron Mendoza, vice president of merchandise for Commerce Bank, shares Gels’ view. “People bank with Commerce because of the service. Our products are there to reinforce that,” he says. The bank has three goals for its merchandise: extend the brand, surprise and delight, and be packed with personality.

For example, the Commerce mascot, Mr. C, represents a happy, smiling Commerce employee. The mascot comes in T-shirt, plush and keychain form – all useful items, says Mendoza. Besides Mr. C, the bank has an assortment of more than 3,800 ad specialty items, including collapsible Frisbees, light-up yo-yos, vacuum-sealed tumblers, kids’ magic wallets, tissue packs, sunscreens, caps and beach balls.

Commerce has a strong presence in the community, so any of these products can be found at races, concerts, art exhibits and grand openings. In fact, the bank spends 10% of its marketing budget ($5 million) on ad specialties. And it always relies on a traditional favorite – pens. More than 20 million Commerce pens will be given out this year, says Mendoza. He’s heard stories of customers finding Commerce pens as far away as Thailand and of people using the pens to fill out their deposit slips at a competing bank.

Now that’s great marketing.

Campaign #5: Mugging It Up

Not all promotions in the financial industry are over elaborate. Some financial firms use tried-and-true products to promote their brands. For example, Hillary recently organized a marketing campaign targeting people who opened accounts at a new branch. Its ammunition? A basic red mug. “The bank positioned itself as having exceptional customer service,” she says. So it adopted the theme, “Wake up to exceptional service.” The mugs were packed with a 1.5-oz. pack of Colombian coffee. They were bright red, white on the inside and imprinted on both sides.

Sounds simple enough. But the mugs are now so well-known that they’ve really become part of the bank’s brand. “They are such a hit that people are starting to equate the red mug with the bank,” Hillary says. About 2,000 mugs have been given out to new accounts, employees and anyone who asks for one.

Though mugs are quite visible and useful promotional products, sometimes its what’s inside them that counts. Some suppliers offer single-serve hot tea, cocoa and coffee packets that have been used by financial institutions for trade shows, street handouts and in mailings. A single-serve pack with customized directions recently helped with a campaign to encourage customers to bank online.

The bank creatively rewrote the directions for the cocoa to read, “Add our instant cocoa to a cup of hot water, stir and relax in your easy chair while clicking through our new online banking service.” The packet was included along with other literature depicting a person drinking hot cocoa while working online from a computer. “There’s nothing better than sitting at home and doing your banking online,” says Mike Shulkin, president of A La Carte. The mailing reinforced this idea, and the customer response was phenomenal, he says.

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2006

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