Mergers and Acquisitions: A Challenge to Brand Loyalty

In the late 1990’s, I discovered ShareBuilder—an easy way to buy stocks (and even fractions of a single stock) through regular, automatic purchases online. Far from being a savvy investor, I found ShareBuilder to be the easiest and least stressful way to get involved in the stock market because, after all, how risky could a $5 or $10 weekly investment be to a neophyte like me?

In the late 1990’s, I discovered ShareBuilder—an easy way to buy stocks (and even fractions of a single stock) through regular, automatic purchases online. Far from being a savvy investor, I found ShareBuilder to be the easiest and least stressful way to get involved in the stock market because, after all, how risky could a $5 or $10 weekly investment be to a neophyte like me?

I set up an automatic transfer from my checking account to my ShareBuilder account, and picked out a few popular brand names to invest in. It took a few years, but eventually, I had built up a pretty nice little portfolio of stocks and started learning more about P/E ratios and dividends. I loved how easy it was to invest, and felt like the brand really understood my needs with easy-to-understand online content. I became a ShareBuilder evangelist—encouraged my friends and family to open accounts, started a small investment club for other neophytes, and even joined Motley Fool (another “keep it simple” brand) to gain insights into stock ideas.

ShareBuilder and ING Get Married
In 2007, ShareBuilder was purchased by ING Direct and I got even more excited. I already loved the ING brand (I had opened an account with them a few years earlier) because in my mind, they were the poster child for “financial services made easy.” It seemed to be the brand match made in heaven—the blending of two brands that truly “get it.” I could log in once, and easily click back and forth between my ING and ShareBuilder accounts.

One day, a banner ad on ING caught my eye. It basically pointed out that if I loved ING, I’d love having an “Easy Mortgage” with them… So I called, and within 30 days I had refinanced with ING. That process alone made me an ING customer for life as it was so simple and so stress-free, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t switched to them sooner! I continued to brag about the simplicity of doing business with ING in addition to my stock portfolio-building behavior with ShareBuilder.

But in 2012, everything started to change.

Capital One Joins the Party
Capital One purchased ING and its subsidiary, ShareBuilder. What happened next left me shaking my head …

First, CapOne changed the location of the ING Direct website. I know it sounds simple to those of us in marketing, but when I memorize a URL/have a link in the nav bar, it’s difficult to get me to change my behavior.

Then, I couldn’t access my account through the Capital One site, there’s no way to log into your ING mortgage, as it had been rebranded as Capital One 360 (oh yeah, I can easily remember that new brand … Not).

Next, with interest rates at an all-time low, I decided I should refinance. I reached out to ING since they had been so good to me, but the CapOne experience was less than ING-like. The online site didn’t let me upload documents easily; I was passed from one mortgage specialist to another; I went days without knowing the status of my loan; the loan doc requirements were far greater than the first time around. Net-net, the brand change was also a corporate culture change.

Funnily enough, I had assumed all along that the ING brand had ceased to exist, however, I continued to see TV spots promoting ING. And more recently, an announcement that ING had become Voya Financial. Huh?

Yet Even More Change
The final straw came just this week. An email announced that Capital One ShareBuilder is becoming Capital One Investing. I must admit, I wanted to weep. Was nothing sacred?

Thank God the announcement reassured me that they will still refer to their online business as ShareBuilder (somebody must have recognized the value of the brand name), so I can only pray that it will be business as usual.

But take this as a marketing lesson… When one company gobbles up another, customers feel a sense of loss, and the new management doesn’t always successfully replicate the brand essence.

This was overwhelmingly apparent when I was part of the acquisition team at 1st Nationwide Bank (FNB), back in the 1980’s. We purchased many failing thrifts and changed their names to FNB literally overnight.

At the time, I didn’t appreciate the stressfulness that action would have on its’ customers. Now that I’ve experienced the pain for myself, I’m hopeful it will make me a more sensitive marketer. Brands do build personas and customers feel a connection to them. Personally, I’m still pining for my old ShareBuilder and ING relationships, but it looks like that ship has long sailed.

6 Video Presentation Tips to Elevate Your Online Marketing

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video

Online Video Marketing Deep Dive co-author Perry Alexander takes over this week while Gary is away.

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video stands little chance to be viewed.

Think of the parallel: We know that without the intentional series of steps to get our direct mail package into readers’ hands, opened and scanned long enough for them to catch the lead, there’s slim chance it’ll make any impact.

Just as the direct mail letter headline and lead must drive the reader to stick with it, so must the first few seconds of your video. Your video must create and instantly set the visual and auditory tone that will draw the viewer through those precious first few seconds and into your story.

My co-author and business colleague, Gary Hennerberg, is the master copywriter of our team and, as he says, I “make stuff look good.” I make sure the story isn’t overshadowed by lousy presentation or distractions, which can repel, or at least divert the reader. Let’s go through some of the ways to make your video command attention—during the first few seconds and beyond.

  1. Bad audio will douse viewers’ interest long before bad video will. Don’t rely on your on-camera mike or, worse, your computer mike. You’ve heard these videos—they sound like they were recorded in a barrel or a cave. Viewer’s interpretation: Your presentation was slapped together, therefore your product or service is, too, so why should I bother listening?
    The Deep Dive:
    If your camera has a mike input, use a lav mike (Gary and I each use a $25 Audio-Technica). If there’s no external mike input on your camera, use a digital voice recorder to record quality sound, either through its built-in mikes or plug the lav mike into it (we both use the same $100 Sony recorder). Then, in editing, sync the audio from both the camera and voice recorder, then mute the camera audio. The mechanics of this are tricky at first, but once you’ve done it a couple of times it becomes routine and your sound is crisp and clear.
  2. Bad video won’t help matters. A webcam video looks like, well, you used a webcam—even an HD webcam. Not only is the image soft, but exposure is usually off, color isn’t great, and what about all that stuff in the background behind you? The message struggles to get out. Again, it screams that your story doesn’t deserve the viewer’s consideration. It’s just a throwaway webcam production about a throwaway idea. What does your viewer do? Click away to something else after just a few seconds.
    The Deep Dive:
    You wouldn’t dream of tossing a half-baked direct mail piece out into the market, expecting it to convince your audience of the value of whatever you’re offering them, would you? Anything that distracts from the message must be stripped away so only the message is noticed. Same with video. Get a $100 Flip or Sony camera and a tripod, or even the latest iPhone. Better: spend $400 for an HD video camera for long-form videos. If your shots are under 5-10 minutes each, use your DSLR. (We use a $100 flip-type camera on Gary’s videos.)
  3. On-camera jitters? Maybe the prospect of speaking into a camera lens is frightening, or at least off-putting. Really, though, after several miserable attempts, you will improve. Evenutally you get to where you imagine you’re just talking with another person in the room, and your fear melts away.
    The Deep Dive:
    Your job is to tell the story. How? Reveal your personality and mastery. Build trust. The call-to-action will produce nothing for you until after that’s all been established. Consider being in front of the camera just long enough to introduce your premise, then moving into slides, charts, photos, graphics or other images that tell your story. That way, you don’t have to memorize a long script. You can refer to notes as you narrate what’s on screen. On-camera script reading is usually deadly, anyway. If you’re on screen for a quick 20-30 seconds, know your stuff. Roll through several takes until you’ve looked that monster in the eye (lens), and said your piece naturally, completely, and with relaxed authority. Now you have their attention and trust!
  4. Stock photos, stock footage, stock music, stock sound effects? You’ve seen the websites with stiff and trite stock photos. Somebody, please explain what that might ever accomplish, because we’ve all seen that picture a thousand times. Filler doesn’t move the story along. But, relevant graphics that work can emphasize a point quickly and vividly. An occasional “foley” sound effect can emphasize a point, just don’t overuse transition swooshes, or they’ll become distracting gimmicks.
    The Deep Dive:
    Map out your storyline. What images will support or clarify what you’re saying? Use images that are specific to your product, service, technique, timeliness, etc. Short of that, invest time finding stock images, footage, music or sounds. It’s all online, and for not much money. YouTube and Vimeo even offer stock music beds you can use at no cost. But be careful in your choices. Be brutal in editing. Anything that distracts or detracts from your story and message, leading to your call-to-action, must be cut.
  5. Go short or go long? Conventional wisdom, born out by YouTube analytics, is that video viewer falloff is precipitous after the first 30 seconds or less. So, does that mean we must never consider creating a 3-minute or, horrors, a 15-minute video? Perhaps. Remember, everything must serve to support the story. Do that right, and they’ll stay with you.
    The Deep Dive:
    Conventional wisdom has always warned us not to use long-form copy in letters. However, seasoned, successful copywriters know that a well-told story will hold interest across 2, 4, even 16 pages. Same with video. Don’t rush to push features, advantages, benefits. Find the relevant hook, then reveal, build and educate about the issue. Lead them to want—then crave—the answer to the quandary or dilemma you’re setting up. Now, the sales copy tastes like good soup.
  6. Editing is half the storytelling. Putting up an unedited video is like mailing the first draft of your letter. It’s probably loose, meandering, dulling to the senses. Resist, revise and remove whatever doesn’t move your story along!
    The Deep Dive:
    Video editing brings clarity and precision to your story. The pace and direction are honed so the viewer is drawn in and held through the call-to-action. It’s an interwoven dance of timing, splicing, movement, color, design, sound, mood and the ruthless removal of what’s not contributing. But, you need two things: A) the knack to know when it’s right and when it’s not and, B) mastery of a video editing program, so you can accomplish your vision.

There’s so much more to cover, but perhaps you’re getting a sense of how online video marketing requires many skills and decisions so familiar to the direct mail pro. Different tools … different vehicles … similar foundational concepts. As always, we invite your comments, criticism or questions.

Drop me an email, and we’ll get you the list of resources, brand names, part numbers and such of what we’ve found works in our ever-evolving video marketing tool chest: perry@acm-initiatives.com