A Look at Marketing Spend Recalibrated: Where Are the Green Shoots?

We are well into Q2, and the pandemic is having a detrimental impact on U.S. marketing spend. How much so? Firm principal Bruce Biegel recently updated some parts of The Winterberry Group’s Annual Outlook report as COVID19 took hold, citing various sources — and the updated data is worth a look.

We are well into Q2, and the pandemic is having a detrimental impact on U.S. marketing spend. How much so?

That’s where we turn to The Winterberry Group which tracks data, digital, and direct marketing spend vs. general advertising, and releases its Annual Outlook each year in January. As COVID19 took hold, firm principal Bruce Biegel recently updated some of its numbers, citing various sources — and they are worth a look:

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

Green Shoots in Media

Hey, I see a green shoot here. In digital, while display, search, and social are taking the greatest hits, digital video’s loss is less pronounced — and we might guess why. Consumers are consuming digital media in record numbers. In fact, OTT (connected TV) and podcast ad spend is out of sync with the number of consumers migrating to these media, even before the pandemic took hold.

As reported in Digiday:

“According to Magna Global, OTT accounts for 29% of TV viewing but so far has only captured 3% of TV ad budgets. And as consumers increasingly flock to internet-connected TV devices, a wide range of players — from tech giants, to device sellers to TV networks and more — are building services to capture a share of the ad dollars that will inevitably flow into the OTT ecosystem.”

So if anything, advertisers may need to get their tech stacks ready to enable OTT and podcast engagement. But this is not a linear TV buy based on cost-per-thousand (CPM). This is an opportunity to personalize, target, and attribute on a 1:1 level.

Another green shoot: Email remains a staple. Again, as we stay at home, whether as consumers or as business people, it’s been email that is sustaining connections for many brands. So “flat spending” is a positive, even as price compression is underway.

Offline is not a pretty picture — right now.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

My last post sought to document U.S. Postal Service’s woes. I still believe direct mail is a brand differentiator, particularly right now — as I watch my own household pause from the sameness of screens, and take our “print” moment with each day’s incoming mail and catalogs. We’ve dog-eared pages, placed our DTC (direct to consumer) orders, and even some B2B purchases for home office supplies. (Thankfully, all but one of us are still working.)

Green Shoots in Verticals

The Winterberry Group also examined some primary verticals — which ones will lead our economic recovery?

One green shoot is identified as financial services. After the Great Recession (2008-2009), the financial sector — which prompted the Recession beginning with subprime mortgages — recapitalized and strengthened reserves. Banks had to do it, by law. As a result, they are better positioned to weather the pandemic storm; though there may be pressure to lend to less-than-stellar-credit customers, the Winterberry Group reports. We shall see. As of May 7, the NASDAQ had completely erased its 2020 year-to-date market loss.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

In the Media & Entertainment sector, live events are effectively gone — except where they can go virtual, but that’s hardly a dollar-for-dollar exchange. The good news is that media subscriptions (for on-demand media) are rapidly increasing, and ad-supported on-demand media also is increasing — pertinent to the aforementioned OTT discussion.

And another green shoot candidate, Healthcare & Pharma, is actually on neutral ground. Some trends, such as telemedicine, online prescription fulfillment, and anything COVID-related — are booming, but elective surgeries are on hold, and 33+ million laid-off Americans may wind up uninsured.

Source: Winterberry Group, April 2020.

Ingenuity — The Greatest Green Shoot of All

And my last green shoot is this — our own innovation, agility, and creativity. I leave you with this one anecdote heard last week on National Public Radio.

Can you imagine being a member of the Graduating Class of 2020? These students will go down in history perhaps as a model of resiliency. Time will tell. But next door in North Salem, NY, the town and school system landed on a novel idea: The faculty, students and families will drive one hour north to a one of the state’s few remaining drive-in theaters. The commencement address will be projected — and the diplomas handed out vehicle by vehicle.

Who knows, maybe Summer 2020 will be the Great American Comeback of the drive-in theater. Maybe Bruce will need to update his out-of-home and cinematic spending accordingly. (You can learn more from Bruce at this upcoming June 17 Direct Marketing Club of New York virtual briefing on your laptop. Registration here.)

I love such ingenuity. If you know of other examples, please share them in the comments section. Stay safe — and keep America innovating.

 

 

Financial Institutions Can Put Artificial Intelligence to Much Better Use

I’ll start with a potentially controversial statement. Banks are misallocating their investment in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics by putting it into consumer-facing chatbots, rather than using it internally to empower their staff to understand and better serve the customer.

I’ll start with a potentially controversial statement. Banks are misallocating their investment in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics by putting it into consumer-facing chatbots, rather than using it internally to empower their staff to understand and better serve the customer.

Most customers don’t like speaking with bots and usually call their bank when they have an issue that requires processing that’s beyond what artificial intelligence can currently offer. In fact, AI’s reputation has been damaged virtually beyond recovery by the endless loop most customers encounter when they call the bank, not able to get to where they want to go.

Moreover, you don’t see pictures of chatbots pinned up in banks with “Employee of the Month” emblazoned across the bottom. Nor was any new business won on the strength of a chatbot’s performance. Finally, customers don’t stay with banks because they developed a great working relationship with a chatbot. Truth of the matter, chat hasn’t reached the level where it’s consistently reliable for addressing the customer concerns that rise to the level of making a call to a financial institution.

All that said, artificial intelligence is a highly powerful tool. How it’s being used is simply being misallocated. So the question becomes, is there a way banks can use it to enhance human engagement with clients? The answer is, “Yes.” Although banks and other financial institutions are in a completely different line of business than, say, a luxury retailer or car dealership, what they have in common is that critical need to engage customers at various points in a given transaction. This applies to banks and other financial institutions at least as much as it applies to other businesses. Reaching out to, connecting with and maintaining relationships with customers, and doing it well, is a key consideration. Done well, banks have a better chance of securing a higher lifetime value from their clients when they get it right. And it’s much harder for bankers or advisers to know about the hundreds of products that are available to them; far more so than, say, a car salesman at a dealership, or an associate in the dress department at Saks. AI’s best use is providing them — the customer-facing bank advisers — with the tools to have the right information for the right client, so they can spend more time on the customer relationship.

There are ways in which the power of predictive analytics can be brought to bear immediately, creating a more substantial and recognizable benefit for both financial services providers and their customers. A knowledge-driven approach to cross-selling and upselling is one such strategy.

There’s a vast range of training, tools and processes that can positively influence engagement efforts. But predictive analytics can push these initiatives into a much higher gear, providing a uniquely powerful impact when it comes to solidifying those all-important bonds with customers. Through better analysis and use of data that’s already available to most financial institutions in petabytes, it’s possible to learn more about customers, and consequently offer them more relevant service, support and product options. The right, internal approach to applying predictive analytics, therefore, results in benefits for both customers and the financial services providers they work with — a true win-win situation.

Historically, banks — especially large ones — tend to lean more toward conservative, careful approaches to new strategies and technology than quick movement and adoption. Given the mound of compliance mandates that govern their every engagement, this is understandable. But it but can be a significant drawback. This is where predictive analytics can sharpen their game. Many institutions have demonstrated a resistance to adopting this specific tool, or have used it in a very limited way. But they’re missing out on the benefits. And understanding the inherent pitfalls in predictive analytics is key to achieving success in deploying it.

How Financial Institutions Can Effectively Deploy Predictive Analytics

It’s a given that cross-selling and upselling help create more lifetime value from customers. But finding strong connections between products and clients is still a complicated process; particularly when you have to juggle moving parts, such as customer credit scores, income, credit utilization, and the like. Figuring out what products you can sell to whom, and predicting what those outcomes will be, constitutes a successful cross-sell. When done correctly and ethically, cross-selling can ultimately strengthen the customer relationship into a lifetime value — read, profitability — for the bank. This is because they’re able to match a product that was needed with a demand that they’ve identified.

It’s 20/20 hindsight, but we all know about the debacle of Wells Fargo’s unethical cross-selling and upselling, and how much trouble it got into as a result. With upselling, predictive analytics can really make a difference in the campaign to upsell. And unlike the Wells Fargo situation, this approach is sustainable. Looking through vast amounts of consumer data can help banks to understand how relationships have historically evolved between the bank and its consumer over time. On the consumer side, the spotlight is on how their data is being used. Only by robust analysis of customer behavior — ideally where multiple products are being offered — can banks regain their customers’ trust that their data is being used to benefit them.

Predictive analytics platforms can conduct this type of analysis, leaning on demographic information, as well as purchasing and financial data that institutions already have from past customer activity. All in real-time. Such an analysis would be prohibitive in terms of time, were trained experts to do the crunching. The predictive analytics tool can then offer sharply defined, personalized, relevant recommendations for staff members to share, while they continue to provide the critical human element in the cross-selling and upselling processes.

Where does this data come from? The sheer volume of payments data that banks gather, whether credit card, utilities, rent or many more — can inform what financial product the customer might be looking for and can afford, creating a sharper, more relevant offering. And that’s where artificial intelligence and predictive analytics can play a role that helps bankers sharpen their game and engage more successfully with their customers, without throwing them on the mercy of the bots. Incidentally, it also proves the notion that artificial intelligence is less about displacing humans and more about helping them perform higher-value work.

Securing profitable customers — back to the lifetime value concept — is job No. 1 for banks, whether small or large. Successfully cross-selling — truly matching a product with an identified need — goes a long way to strengthen that customer relationship. The current financial services landscape is ripe for improvement through the use of predictive analytics. Many institutions are already using advanced analytics, tied to marketing and basic interactions — but few have developed strong processes that focus on understanding customer habits and preferences. From there, they can use predictive tools to become more relevant, valuable — and humanly available — to their clients. The institutions that manage to do so will have an advantage in building stronger, longer-lasting relationships and will enjoy the increased value that comes from them.

With thanks to Carol Sabransky, SVP of Business Development, AArete, who made substantial and insightful contributions to this article.

Financial Services Companies Focus on Delivering a Better Customer Experience

As I conduct more interviews with IT professionals, it’s clear financial services companies (banks, brokers and insurance) are investing a lot of money and resources into leveraging data to provide a better customer experience.

As I conduct more interviews with IT professionals, it’s clear financial services companies (banks, brokers and insurance) are investing a lot of money and resources into leveraging data to provide a better customer experience.

Better late than never. Banks have long had a plethora of information about clients; whereby, they should have been able to suggest products and anticipate needs based on life events (college, first job, marriage, home, children, job change, retirement, etc.). Unfortunately, the data was in silos and they were not taking a holistic view of their customers.

Slowly but surely, this is changing as:

  • Rocket Mortgage enables customers to get approval for a mortgage or an equity line of credit in minutes.
  • Square enables sellers to process credit card transactions via smartphones or tablets.
  • Mint provides free, web-based financial management software.
  • Robinhood provides zero-fee stock trading.
  • Personal Capital provides online financial advice, personal wealth management and algorithmic trading, for much less than a traditional broker.

These companies are providing a seamless user experience (UX) across a multi-platform and multi-device landscape. They’re providing real-time information of value to educate customers and prospects. In a recent study, Oracle found that 80% of consumers are accessing their financial institution digitally.

Several banks have automated their loan processing so they are able to get more accurate and complete information upfront and provide loan approval the same day, rather than in 30 or 45 days. The process is better for the financial institution, as well as the customer.

But Are Traditional Financial Institutions Too Late?

After having moved half of my investment portfolio to the algorithmic trading arm of Edward Jones, I decided to move it all to Personal Capital, the algorithmic trading arm of Pershing.

As with most things, I believe we will see a range of activity and acceptance based on the people I interview in the big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) space.

I’m still waiting for the first FinTech, using AI/ML, to guarantee the security of my personally identifiable information (PII) and my money. The first FinTech to do this will quickly become a market leader for more conservative consumers and investors.

We will continue to have FinTechs using AI/ML to make customers’ lives simpler, easier, saving them money and giving them incentives to share their information. Consumers who are less concerned with the security of PII and more concerned with “deals” and CX will be attracted to these FinTechs.

It will be fun to watch it shake out over the next couple of decades. I believe companies that remove friction, eliminate pain, make customers’ lives simpler and easier, and do so securely will ultimately win share of wallet.

What do you think?

The FinTech Revolution That Wasn’t: How Financial Institutions Co-Opted Their Disruptors

It’s the disruption that wasn’t. According to a World Economic Forum report released this month, FinTech firms have not found the traction to overthrow incumbent large financial services institutions. In fact, these technologies have actually strengthened them. Here’s how.

How Financial Institutions Co-Opted FinTech

It’s the disruption that wasn’t. According to a World Economic Forum report released this month, FinTech firms have not found the traction to overthrow incumbent large financial services institutions. In fact, these technologies have actually strengthened them. Here’s how.

Too Big to Disrupt?

We often think of start-up companies as the most dangerous things to existing institutions. You only have to look as far as Amazon and Uber to see the impact lean, tech-centirc entrepreneurs can have on legacy industries. But the new report “Beyond Fintech: A Pragmatic Assessment of Disruptive Potential in Financial Services,” finds this has not been the case in financial services.

The research team, — lead by World Economic Forum’s project lead on disruptive innovation in financial services, R. Jesse McWaters — examined the technologies that could potentially impact the financial services industry as we know it.

Their findings point to a financial services environment in which the large institutional players have so much customer inertia that the smaller FinTechs have had a hard time capturing market share. Meanwhile, the report says, “The rapid growth of the fintech ecosystem allows firms to externalize parts of their innovation function,” and, “The proliferation of fintechs provides financial institutions with a ‘supermarket’ for capabilities, allowing them to use acquisitions and partnerships to rapidly deploy new offerings.”

Where FinTech Succeeds and Fails

In summary, the report finds that FinTechs have succeeded and failed in different ways.

FinTechs have succeeded in:

  • Setting the pace, shape and direction of innovation.
  • Reshaping consumer expectations for service and the customer experience.

FinTechs have failed to:

  • Convince customers to switch away from their incumbent financial services providers.
  • Establish a new financial services ecosystem or lay the infrastructure that could support them in the future.

The net effect of FinTech thus far has not been to show consumers new ways they’d rather do things, but to show the existing institutions how they can provide new services for their clients. That’s a huge difference from how similar movements have impacted other industries. Looking market to market, you have to give financial services firms credit for getting on the bus before it runs them over.

Big Tech May Succeed Where FinTech Falls Short

While adding FinTech capabilities makes existing firms stronger, the report does not let them off the hook yet. In fact, it identifies ight major factors that could lead to disruption in the future.

Chief among those threats is the commoditizing impact of large tech companies taking over the plumbing work of financial institutions. While this will drive down overhead and improve the customer experience, thus enhancing customer loyalty, the report sees the shift as something that could eliminate market advantage and differentiation created by companies that do those things well already.

As data and processes become commoditized by “Big Tech,” and customers become more accustomed to the Amazon-like customer experience that could offer, financial services institutions could become more vulnerable to smaller companies and alternative platforms that allow for customized services and higher customer satisfaction.

In other words, the easier it becomes for customers to access equivalent or better services across a variety of platforms, the closer large financial institutions come to the book stores and taxi companies of yesterday.

Back-to-School Shopping Season Is Here, Marketers

Welcome to the second biggest shopping season of the year: It’s Back-to-School season and it’s promising to be a good one. According to a survey conducted by Synchrony Financial of parents of K-12 students, parents of college students, and college students themselves, parents are pretty upbeat about the economy and their own financial situation this year.

Welcome to the second biggest shopping season of the year: It’s Back-to-School season and it’s promising to be a good one. According to a survey conducted by Synchrony Financial of parents of K-12 students, parents of college students, and college students themselves, parents are pretty upbeat about the economy and their own financial situation this year. More than half (53 percent) of parents of K-12 kids expect to spend more this year than last year.

This is good news, and is driving an expected increase of back-to-school spending between 3.7 percent and 4.1 percent (This growth forecast for the three-month Back-to-School shopping period of July-Sept. 2017 is based on analysis of macroeconomic variables and trends).

Credit: Synchrony Financial

What is driving this increase? One reason could be that parents of K-12 kids are feeling confident about their jobs and pretty good about their financial situation. Sixty three percent of parents say their financial situation has improved this year, and three quarters feel confident about their jobs. That’s a 10 point jump from last year, when only 53 percent of parents felt this level of confidence.

So, parents are feeling like they can spend more on deserving offspring who have done Vulcan mind-melds with the pool and video games over the long summer. What will they spend money on? Clothing is the number one item. Kids tend to grow, and clothes that fit them last year won’t work — and older siblings’ clothes only go so far. Ninety-four percent of parents of K-12 youngsters are expecting to spend money on everyday clothes, totaling about $183 on average.

But that’s not the big growth item. The biggest growth category is electronics. Forty-five percent of parents are expecting to spend more money than last year on computers and electronics. Also, 46 percent of them say the supply list from schools have gone up, leading to spending more on notebooks, markers and other supplies.

How about parents of college kids and college kids themselves? They are not as optimistic about the economy and their own financial situations because, well, they’re paying for college. That takes quite a bite out of the family nest egg. Only 40 percent of college students say they feel confident about their overall financial situation, and only 15 percent are confident in the strength of the economy. That does put a damper on spending on discretionary items.

But, at least they’re done growing, right? No need to spend a ton of money on clothes and shoes, but college kids and their parents are spending a good amount of money on other items. The data shows that parents of college age students spend about $205 on average on electronics, but less on clothing and shoes for back-to-school. Forty-five percent of college parents are expecting to spend more on computers than last year, similar to K-12 parents.

So, when is all this spending happening? If you think college students procrastinate in shopping, similar to how they do their college papers, you would be absolutely right. About 70 percent of parents of kids K-12 are done spending by the end of July. But half of college students don’t start until after August. Almost 30 percent of them wait until after Aug. 15. Hey, at least it gets done, right?

Will this level of confidence and spend extend to the holiday season as well? It’s too early to tell at this point, but this is a beacon of hope, in a sea of bleak news in the current retail marketing landscape.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents.

Free Dinner and Intelligent Discussion? Sign Me Up!

We all know networking events are either spot on, or well, you get cornered by some dude who wants to tell you his life story. What if I told you Target Marketing was hosting something that’s a solid leap above your typical networking event, pairing an insightful panel discussion from some of the brightest in the industry with a mega-classy happy hour and delicious sit-down dinner?

We all know networking events are either spot on, or well, you get cornered by some dude who wants to tell you his life story.

networking_napdynoWhat if I told you Target Marketing was hosting something that’s a solid leap above your typical networking event, pairing an insightful panel discussion from some of the brightest in the industry with a mega-classy happy hour (trust me, I’ve attended) and delicious sit-down dinner?

You’d start asking me for dates, times, locations … and how much.

Well, if you’re in the world of financial services and insurance, then you’re in luck! On Feb. 7, we’re hosting our first roundtable event of 2017. These exclusive industry events are designed with marketing executives in a specific vertical in mind.

Oh, and they’re free to attend for qualified marketers. Because we’re cool like that.

We understand that when it comes to customer engagement, finserv marketers have access to more pertinent customer data than their counterparts in most businesses, yet also face more regulations on using that data. And when it comes to technology, fintech is exploding; but selecting the right tools and staff to oversee them can be not only overwhelming, but also a source of conflict between marketing and IT.

So what are you waiting for? Click on over and get registered for this VIP event now while we still have seats left. I’ll even be there!

 

2017’s First Roundtable: For Financial Services Marketers in NYC

A handful of you may have made it to one of our roundtable dinners in the past, but not many. We’ve never done that many. Well this year is your chance! Starting with financial services in NYC.

A handful of you may have made it to one of our Target Marketing Roundtable dinners in the past, but not many. We’ve never done that many.

Well this year is your chance! Starting with financial services in NYC.

On Feb. 7, we’re hosting our first roundtable dinner of 2017. These are exclusive industry events for marketing executives in a specific vertical. We provide free drinks, a fine dinner and a panel discussion of top executives in the industry. It’s a peerless opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other marketers in your industry, as well as the panelists, moderator and even a few of our editors.

Lewis Goldman, CMO, Global Life Distribution, U.S.
Lewis Goldman, CMO, Global Life Distribution, U.S.
Raghu Vasa, Director - Digital Marketing and Transformation Barclays
Raghu Vasa, Director — Digital Marketing and Transformation, Barclays
Ginger Conlon, Target Marketing Group Special Events Advisor
Ginger Conlon, Target Marketing Group Special Events Advisor
Headshots2015_Thorin_SQ-smaller
This guy.
Taylor Knight
@TaylorKNews will be there shooting video interviews with a few lucky attendees who would like to go on the record.
WWTT Social Media Fails
And yes, Melissa Ward from Sass Marketing will be there, too.

We get such great feedback from people who come out to these dinners. The conversations are off the record, but you always hear attendees say they learned a lot from it and want to come back (which means you should hurry if you’re going to register, because seats will run out quickly).

So if you’re a marketing executive in financial services, and you can get to New York on Feb. 7, come on out! Just visit finservrt.targetmarketingmag.com to register.

You’ll have a good time, you’ll meet interesting people, and you just might hear something that changes everything about how you do business.

I hope to see you there!

5 Ways to Get SEO Traffic in a Hard Niche

Good SEO never comes easy, but some niches require more work than others. That’s painfully obvious if you do business in banking, insurance, healthcare or other fields where each lead is extremely valuable. These highly competitive niches are known in SEO circles as “hard niches,” and marketers who wade into these waters with the same-old tricks will struggle to stay afloat.

Power Targeting: Segmentation Strategies That Raise More MoneyGood SEO never comes easy, but some niches require more work than others. That’s painfully obvious if you do business in banking, insurance, healthcare or other fields where each lead is extremely valuable.

These highly competitive niches are known in SEO circles as “hard niches,” and marketers who wade into these waters with the same-old tricks will struggle to stay afloat.

But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Even the hardest of niches can be mined for visitors and conversions that add value to your business and your website. Here we’ll review the top five ways to get SEO traffic in a hard niche environment. And if you don’t do business in a hard niche, then keep reading anyway — these tips could make life even easier.

1. Focus on Long-Tail Keywords in Hard Niches

Forget about getting loads of traffic from the most obvious keywords if you’re marketing in a hard niche. Sure, given enough time you might overtake some competitors, but that’s a long-term project compared to your shorter-term need to bring visitors to your website. How can your site show up on Google when other highly skilled marketers are already fighting for Page 1 rankings for the most common searches?

Long-tail keywords are your answer. A long-tail keyword is a longer and more specific phrase that will often point to a specific product, service or question. Imagine you owned a furniture store and were having trouble getting traffic from keyword searches such as “furniture store,” “buy furniture” or “new couches.” You might get significantly more traction by focusing your website’s content on long-tail keywords such as “art-deco sofa and chair sets,” “mid-century modern living room furniture” or “how to repair 1960s vintage furniture.”

The downside to long-tail keywords is they have significantly lower search volume. However, building content around these keywords will also reward you with traffic from similar long-tail keywords. Remember that Google’s search engine algorithm has evolved to be more human — it’s designed to evaluate websites and return relevant results based not only on keywords, but on content. All that traffic can pile up if you do a good enough job mining long-tail keywords.

Finding long-trail keywords is easy. Find online forums, guides and comments sections within your area of expertise and record the possible keyword terms that stand out. Another tactic is to search common keyword terms on sites such as Reddit, then scour the search results for ideas.

2. Get Creative About Building Links

Getting links to your website from blogs, social media and other sources is a core component of good SEO. Building a network of quality links establishes your website as trustworthy and authoritative in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm.

But unlike the keyword issue where competition might be too fierce, sometimes there just aren’t enough places to get external links. Say you work as a framer, a plumber or a roof cleaner; the Internet isn’t necessarily teeming with blogs with people clamoring to read about these topics.

The work-around is to think about related fields and over-arching topics where you might find link-worthy blogs and websites. If you’re a roof cleaner, you might seek out home repair websites where roof cleaning would be relevant; you can also contact real estate blogs and suggest a link in exchange for a guest blog post about how cleaning your roof can boost a home’s curb value. The possibilities are endless, but they’re outside the box.

3. Craft Compelling Content

We touched on this above, but your long-term game plan must include creating compelling content for your website. Unique and relevant content is more likely to rank high in Google, and you’ll have an easier time building links and repeat visitors if people genuinely find your content interesting.

Unfortunately, some niches are tough to crack because they’re just not much fun to talk about. Some niches have it easy — content about new cars, how to save money and new tricks to lose weight basically writes itself. During pockets of free time, how often do you honestly surf the Web and read articles about plumbing, TV repair and window installation?

Why MetLife Firing Snoopy Makes Sense

I got a work anniversary card in the mail a few weeks ago. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I ever received one of these before. Bright envelope, handwriting font and a greeting card inside. And, best of all, it has Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

I got a work anniversary card in the mail a few weeks ago. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I ever received one of these before. Bright envelope, handwriting font and a greeting card inside. And, best of all, it has Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

metlifecard_01It brought me back to when I was a kid. One of my relatives would send me a “Peanuts” card for my birthday, or some other special occasion. And, like lots of my friends, I loved reading that comic strip every day in the paper.

So, I was a little shocked the other day when I heard that MetLife, the insurance giant, was ending its partnership with the Peanuts characters after 30 years. Although the current contract runs through 2019, the company will roll out new branding starting next year.

MetLife plans to focus more on its corporate clients, like the benefits company that sent me the card.

Consumers? Not so much. That part of the business is getting spun off into a new company.

This all means no more Snoopy One blimp at big golf events, no more hearing Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” during the TV commercials. No more of the Peanuts gang in MetLife’s direct marketing.

It makes sense. A different audience may call for a different face. A new logo and slogan, too.

At the time the company began its partnership back in the 1980s, insurance companies were not seen in the same light they are today. As MetLife CMO Esther Lee said, Snoopy “make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant.”

So maybe it’s the right time.

insurancespokes_01Everyone has their opinions on how much the insurance industry has changed over the years. I’ll acknowledge that it’s not as stuffy and conservative as it once seemed. Maybe the GEICO gecko, Progressive’s Flo, and Farmers’ Professor Burke have something to do with that as well.

Each character in their own way reinforces the brand messaging of their company and how its products are positioned. And ultimately, each has to help explain in more detail, regardless of the channel, how the prospect gains from becoming a customer.

So, how about it, marketers? Is MetLife making a big mistake? Please share your thoughts below.

Dinner Next Week in NYC for Financial Services Marketers

I’m hosting a dinner in New York next week for financial services marketers. This is something we’re working on doing more often. A chance for our readers to meet up with people in similar jobs and companies, have dinner, hear from an expert panel, and get some of their questions answered by peers in the field.

Brent Reinhard, Chief Marketing Officer - Chase Business Banking, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Brent Reinhard,
Chief Marketing Officer – Chase Business Banking,
JPMorgan Chase & Co.

I’m hosting a dinner in New York next week for financial services marketers. This is something we’re working on doing more often. A chance for our readers to meet up with people in similar jobs and companies, have  dinner, hear from an expert panel, and get some of their questions answered by peers in the field.

We have a great lineup for that panel discussion, too: Brent Reinhard, CMO of Chase Business Banking; Lizzie Massey, SVP, Marketing Products, Synchrony Financial; and Cortney Klein VP, Director of Advertising and Communications, WSFS Bank.

Lizzie Massey, SVP, Marketing Products, Synchrony Financial
Lizzie Massey,
SVP, Marketing Products,
Synchrony Financial

The actual discussion will be off the record, so don’t expect to read about it here afterwards. But what I hope we can accomplish is for the marketers in that room to be from fairly similar businesses — large banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, etc. — and be able to talk about the similar issues and opportunities they face, as well as benefit from each others’ expertise.

I hope they’ll make connections, both personal and in their ideas.

Cortney Klein, VP, Director of Advertising and Communications, WSFS Bank
Cortney Klein,
VP, Director of Advertising and Communications,
WSFS Bank

If that sounds like you, check out the website and register!

If you’re not in enterprise financial services, don’t worry, we’re going to be doing more of these in the future for different industry verticals.

When we do yours, what would you like to see from it?