It’s exciting to think about the brand innovation possible as technology spreads through every aspect of our lives.
While watching TV last night I saw a Charles Schwab commercial. The commercial talked about all sorts of “regular people” who trade and invest with them.
The commercial triggered an “eh” response in me, followed by a “why don’t they do this…” moment.
I’d like to share.
There’s nothing like personal finance. We know so little about managing our money, or investing. Banks are no help. Their education materials are thinly veiled sales pitches that don’t do anything to raise the level of overall customer competency.
Most information seems to be a rehash of a small number of topics — like how much should I save for retirement, or which mutual fund is best, or how to minimize my tax burden. I’m given answers, but not enough information to make discerning and actionable decisions for my personal situation.
In the end, most people create a personal financial plan based on fear, or based on what their friends tell them that they do. People do more research before spending a couple of hundred dollars on clothing or electronics than they do before investing thousands1.
Maybe I’m overly influenced by American Greed (the TV show). On American Greed I regularly watch people (yes, even “smart” ones) invest in schemes they can’t possibly understand simply on the recommendation of someone they trust. Invariably, what sounds too good to be true is, and they lose tons of money.
Here’s the insight:
We have all this formal education but most never learn anything other than the basics about personal finance (and some don’t even get the basics).
Why not educate people to build loyalty? Why not educate to build the customer habits you want to create?
And, it’s not just loyalty, it’s stickiness. A company that uses its online trading platform as the basis for the training, creates trained users of that platform while they educate customers about trading. Same for online banking or bill payment.
And, this brand innovation strategy is one that can be executed broadly which should excite creative teams.
This becomes a very sticky endeavor. People will be comfortable with the bank’s trading/banking software and they’ll have the opportunity to create new habits that are associated with the brand. With all the Macs around, why haven’t people adopted Apple’s iWork suite? In large part2 it’s because we know how to use Powerpoint and Excel. Apple’s versions are different enough that it’s too hard to change.
And, by the way, with the right approach the bank would learn tons of invaluable information about their customers financial behaviors. (See this Forbes article for how Intuit is using “big data” to deeply understand their customer behaviors and to share for the benefit of all their customers.)
And here’s the punchline.
Why not create online training and reward consumers who complete the training with free services? Or with extra personal assistance and advice? Banks have the opportunity to educate consumers on their platform, build personal relationships, and teach customers how to interact with the bank in a constructive and confident way.
Even less obvious, let’s say a bank educates customers on how to not bounce checks (and how to use the bank’s tools to avoid bouncing checks). Then, as a reward for the training, they get a few fee-free-check-bounces… my thinking is that now that the customer knows how to avoid bouncing checks, the free ones are because the bank realizes that it must be a mistake or a real need in a particular month. So, in exchange for taking responsibility to be more careful about bouncing checks, we (the bank) will work with you to forgive a couple of mistakes, or give you some leeway when it’s a tight month. Banking would become a more positive experience with both sides working towards the same goal, instead of the current highly adversarial model.
Capitalizing on Emerging Technology Trends
Many people have heard of “big data” these days, but what about online learning?
I bet non-technical people don’t realize the newly emerging trend around online learning.
Companies are interested in applying branding innovation by capitalizing on the latest technology trends… why not online learning? Maybe it’s not as sexy as social media, or mobile (though in truth, an online learning solution should leverage both) but when a technology can drive user engagement and satisfaction while increasing stickiness it’s a sure thing.
Take a look at emerging distance learning technology like Udacity to deliver a high end course with a real curriculum. It’s not about more “marketing materials” but about a structured education and curriculum just like you’d get in university.
For the banks, I’d even create different levels of education, and create a benefits platform that rewards customers at different levels (similar to the way Frequent Flier programs have multiple tiers of benefits). Then, it’s easier to create education targeted at different experience levels.
Why Udacity? They’re not the only ones, but check out this interesting article on how Udacity was launched out of Stanford.
When it comes to “big data” — remember earlier how I said “people do financial planning based on what their friends tell them they do”. Yeah, people often “say” and “do” different things. Imagine knowing that all of a bank’s customers with salaries in a particular range, in a particular geography, behave a certain way? That’s powerful insight, and can be used to educate households on how to better manage their finances. Really, read the Intuit article and you’ll see what I mean. In the article they’re talking about small business financials, not household financials. I believe the same conclusions can be reached despite the different target audience.
Technology is making a lot of brand innovation possible, but I think it’s the minds that can bring it together that are really holding us back now. I hope brands can get a little more innovative in how they think about their brands, and the possibilities that technology brings for brand engagement.