Bank Marketers Say I Do to Happy Couples

By Marilyn Kennedy Melia

Before they walk down the aisle, if they walk into your bank, it could be the start of another meaningful relationship.

Getting married is among the key life events—like buying a home, sending a child to college, or retiring—that prompt people to seek financial products and advice.

Skim the educational content on most bank websites, and you’ll see marketing officers are well aware of customers’ thirst for practical information on clearing the financial hurdles life changes pose.

“Stories related to life moments, like weddings and marriage, tend to be among the most popular kinds of stories with customers, and often directly drive account openings,” said a JPMorgan Chase spokesperson.

And long before “web content” became a buzzword, wedding-themed marketing has been a way for banks to connect on a personal level with consumers. Indeed, the iconic 1970’s wedding song, “We’ve Only Just Begun” was originally composed by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols as the theme for a Crocker National Bank ad before it was picked up and made a hit by the Carpenters.

Not only are weddings a happy event—providing an opportunity for banks to cement ties with marrying couples and/or their parents—they are occurring more frequently. A new survey from the American Institute of CPAs finds that only six percent of adults postponed marriage for financial reasons last year, compared to 12 percent in 2015.

Here, a look at ways banks are marrying weddings and marketing:

Ask us for help.

“Our client-facing teammates are educated and empowered to have conversations with people about steps they can take to be financially confident,” said Hugh Suhr, spokesperson for SunTrust Bank.

Often, staffers refer customers to content on the bank’s website, like Going to Weddings without Going Broke and Will Paying for Your Child’s Wedding Wreck Your Savings, he added.

Moreover, “Our wedding-focused content includes links to solutions such as credit cards, HELOCs, checking, savings, and mortgages so consumers can easily learn more.”

Two Rivers Bank and Trust in Burlington, Iowa made “milestones” a 2017 marketing theme. “We have trained staff to engage customers and to look for opportunities to meet their needs as they are going through milestones in their life,” said Joe Jolin, marketing and project facilitator at Two Rivers.

The Two Rivers blog page features a Milestones tab, and the bank currently offers Free Checking for All Milestones. Under the “Engagement/Milestone” it reads: “With a wedding in the coming months, you need an account that costs nothing to open or maintain, but also an account that keeps your money safe and gives you the ability to pay the photographer, caterer, and venue on the same day.”

Come and hear solutions.

This past May, Chelsea Groton Bank hosted a free seminar on wedding budgeting. “Understanding what items should be budgeted for and how much they generally cost is helpful when setting savings goals,” said Miria Toth, community education officer for the Connecticut-based bank.

Increasingly, it’s the young couples themselves who pay for their wedding, she noted. “Couples want to have memorable weddings, but maybe not spend what could be a down payment on a house to do so. Our main goal was not necessarily to market products, but to be a value-added service for our customers and soon-to-be customers. That being said, savings accounts, CDs and our financial services departments are all resources that we addressed.” The seminar stressed that “having a savings account specific to saving for a wedding is important so funds don’t get muddled.”

While Chelsea Groton can’t trace how many customers opened accounts as a result of the seminar, Toth said, “we currently have about a dozen individuals who have nicknamed their savings account ‘wedding.’”

Learn and laugh.

Commerce Bank, a subsidiary of Commerce Bancshares, ran a campaign featuring both print ads and commercials with the tag line, “The greatest moments in life come with the biggest financial challenges.” The message: that they can help customers overcome the money issues associated with life’s milestones.

While some ads focused on other pivotal events, like having a new baby, the wedding-themed spots were particularly light-hearted.

“We helped you plan for everything with the exception of Dad’s speech,” was the header under one print ad featuring the face of a very surprised-looking bride.

A commercial featuring happy and funny wedding scenes—groomsmen tossing the groom, a bride swatting a bug off her groom’s cheek, and a bride swinging a golf club—has all the compelling features all of us, getting married or not, like to watch.

It was a whimsical campaign, but one that was underpinned with serious research.

“Our research and analytics helped us understand that when people get married, have babies and move they are more likely to consider a new financial institution,” said Maura Ritter, public relations and content solutions manager for the Missouri-based bank.

“We were able to leverage the digital, print and social components of our plan to place contextually relevant messages to people that were in these critical stages of their lives.”

Propose with our help.

Probably the most dramatic wedding-themed marketing effort was created last year by Santander UK, the British arm of Santander, which originated in Spain and now also has offices in the Northeast U.S.

Last year, after searching among its customers for someone ready to pop the question and who also wanted their proposal to be part of the bank’s virtual reality event, the bank produced this video.

The customer selected, 37-year-old Robin King, told his girlfriend, Kate, that she was participating in a VR event staged by Santander, and being paid £250 to do so.

The unsuspecting Kate didn’t know that she was really going to stand under an arch of flowers, and be proposed to by her long-time partner, in an event that also included Olympic medal winner Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The “Santander Love Virtually” video, promoted on customer sites as well as Facebook and YouTube, explained Santander spokesperson Josephine Dencker, subtly touts “the benefits of our ‘1/2/3 Current Account’ and how the extra earnings from our cashback and interest on balances can be used to spend on the things you really want in life, such as a long overdue wedding.”

The video generated a huge number of stories in local news outlets—167 of them—showcasing the feel-good event whereby a Brighton couple became engaged, helped by Santander.

Marilyn Kennedy Melia is a banking and personal finance writer based in Chicago. Email: [email protected].