Here’s an Idea for Brand Innovation Using Technology

Brand Innovation using Technology

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.

  1. My opin­ion, not a sta­tis­tic []
  2. Another opin­ion, they’re so much eas­ier to use than sta­tis­tics. Though, seri­ously, these are the sorts of things that could be val­i­dated through research if pur­su­ing a strat­egy like I’m out­lin­ing if they’re rel­e­vant. []