Marketing on the Move: Hunter Young

By Carol Gilhawley

Take a talented bank marketer—one who’s been around, working for organizations large and small, researching, publishing, and presenting at conferences. Someone who’s earned attention for knowing how to bridge the gap between data and creativity. Now give him the freedom to extend that influence across the greater industry. What do you think he’ll do?

We’re about to find out.

Hunter Young, co-chair of the ABA Bank Marketing Conference Advisory Board, has left his post as senior vice president of Marketing and Analytics at First Bank in North Carolina, to join the Mabus Agency. As president of Financial Services Marketing, he’s launched a new Mabus office in Raleigh and is poised to change the way community banks market themselves.

This move came as a result of a meeting with Josh Mabus, who founded the Mabus Agency in Mississippi in 2008. They agreed that community banks need to revamp their branding, go more digital, and improve their customers’ mobile banking experience. “At Mabus, I am going to build a modern marketing team around those ideas,” Young explained.

“Community banks have been doing the same type of marketing for 100 years—print ads and barbecues,” he said. “Now, in the past five years they’ve woken up and are shaking things up.”

Branding is still key.

Young believes the activity of branding is important—but how banks have gone about it is terrible. “I’ll talk to banks about their name, visuals, messaging, and technology choices. We can make a dramatic difference in the way banks think about branding and the way they describe their activities to their customers,” he said. He’ll be doing this from an agency perspective.

Young’s concepts for modern marketing are:

  • Better branding
  • Content marketing
  • Using data to make informed decisions

Aged 35, Young studied communications and marketing at the University of North Carolina before beginning his career at an advertising agency. He then moved to product development at BB&T bank, followed by four and a half years at First Bank.

When he arrived at the marketing department of First Bank, it was very like any other community bank with a traditional approach to marketing. “A bunch of people would have a barbecue and the bankers would invite their local customers,” he said.

But he started to transition their print collateral to a digital format, and he implemented a data-driven marketing program. Now with his move to a creative agency, he has an opportunity to do marketing on a large scale for banks across the country. “Community banks still have a traditional mindset,” Young explained. “Creativity is low and there is very little database marketing going on. My focus is to serve community banks and other financial organizations that need help.”

Using data to make decisions.

Data can help banks understand how someone behaves financially—so Young believes banks need to start crunching their numbers to determine how to build a better portfolio of products and provide better rewards. Community banks, he said, are not there yet. “Instead of sending out fliers, they need to add personalization to their emails and websites. They should blend their activities so customers feel connected. Older customers may still like to receive a handshake and talk to the CEO, but younger customers may appreciate video and live streaming of local events.”

Mabus already has some banking clients, such as Renasant Bank, based in Tupelo, Mississippi. Young’s job is to help these clients improve on what has already been done. He will also develop a database marketing program that community banks can come into Mabus to use for their own branding and customer acquisition. This would mean banks no longer need to rely on a fragmented marketing approach using multiple vendors.

“This agency is dedicated to the idea of modern marketing by using data to make informed decisions,” Young said. While other companies may offer some of these services—and you can buy software to do others, “no other company encompasses all these things and focuses on this niche of financial marketing,” he added.

Winners versus losers.

Young heads the Financial Services Marketing division, which is a focused, expertise-based division within the agency. He will hire additional talent as needed. Mabus already has a team of 30 serving clients in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Young’s goal is to help financial clients in all 50 states by emphasizing three areas:

  • Technology as a major player
  • Automation of finance
  • Personalization for greater impact

He maintains the winners will be those banks that simplify. They will keep pace with smart technology and understand what their customers are using. They will make data-driven decisions to improve and elevate experiences for the younger generation of their current customers. “The key to success in banking is to get the parent to get the kid involved,” Young said. He added, “A lot of banks forget that parents are sometimes as technology-driven as their kids. As we change from physical to digital banking, are banks making good decisions to personalize the experience for their customers?” A winning bank will effectively blend their activities and use data to make strong decisions.

In the future, Young predicts, there will be more communication—texts and alerts—from banks about specific aspects of their customers’ lives, based on data. Banks will proactively send customers information to improve their financial well-being, for example, by notifying them that they may be eligible for a tax deduction.

A losing bank will stay the same and see their aging customers age out.

Carol Gilhawley is a business and financial industry journalist based in the Greater New York City area.