Emotional Insights Connect Banks with Customers

By Art Hall

Some customers are inclined to avoid bank tellers, while others demand time and attention as if they were the bank’s only customer. Both may want to do business with your bank—but for different reasons. As a marketer, how do you know which service benefits to emphasize—and how to communicate those benefits to the right audience?

The goal of persona marketing is to ensure a connection with the target consumer.

Every bank has a story to tell. And every financial services consumer has a story he or she wants to hear. The message they’re looking for could relate to goals as different as saving for college or preparing for retirement. Personas represent different customer types, and are traditionally based on standard demographics and behavior-based information. For banking, marketers often attempt to group customers who might use banking services, products, website or brand in a similar way.

This traditional approach to using personas, however, is not good enough anymore. Now there is a better more informative way.

Consumer research reveals that using emotional and cultural characteristics creates a more valuable set of personas, ones that can help financial marketers drill down to what individual consumers will respond to. For example, a certain set of personas may include influencers, loyalists and trailblazers—each with a distinct set of characteristics. These provide insights on how to communicate with each segment in a way that shows authenticity and relevance for the values each group finds important. This approach can help financial marketers understand why some customers may be resistant to or acceptant of change, as well as their priorities and motivators. This type of persona segmentation is based on an individual’s needs and expectations. It considers the underlying reasons for their behavior rather than simply focusing on what they buy or what they do.

Knowing the difference.

How would you determine which of these two financial offer statements appeals to a customer?

  • An offer focused on financial stability
  • An offer giving growth opportunities for a family’s future

Both statements have strong appeal, but how do you know which lever to pull when marketing to your customers? You need a roadmap. Below is a sample of how two specific personas can help.


Knowing how to match a statement to a persona, and then developing an offer, message, format and imagery for direct marketing communication is both an art and science. For example, consider the influencer customer who is inclined to interact with a teller. She will also want to participate with your brand. She will want to hear the story of how your company supports local causes and will want to see plenty of product information to help her make an informed decision about your services. The loyalist, on the other hand, will want to know that steady and controlled growth is the bedrock of your corporate strategy. This will appeal to her need for stability. How can financial marketers use personas to leverage these insights?

Getting the most out of personas.

“Sociodynamic research” connects demographic, social, psychological and cultural characteristics to find consumers’ motivational triggers. As such, it’s more informative than traditional psychographic and demographic segmentation. It reveals why an influencer will want to know that her purchase is aligned with the values and attitudes that uphold her worldview.

Financial marketers can incorporate this information into personal models by first considering the research they have in-house and then working with someone skilled at blending research to personas.

Once the persona segments are built, they can be mapped to a national file of every mailable address in the U.S. This makes it possible to apply custom communication to discrete groups with messaging designed to tell the right story to the right consumer.

After that, financial marketers should connect their product story to the high-value customers and prospects they want to target. This is done by applying predictive analytics to customer data. Predictive analytics use data algorithms to assign scores to a database to determine the consumer’s persona segment. A qualified predictive analytics vendor will work with marketers to assess and enrich their customer data and identify the best personas to target.

From there, the bank can customize a message designed to reach the emotional triggers for the consumer segment that will increase product enrollment, reduce churn or inspire the desired behavior.

Finally, moving beyond traditional A/B testing will allow bank marketers to craft the right messaging cost-effectively. Using some of the platforms and approaches developed recently, marketers can create a virtual test lab to run multiple variables at the same time.

The right ingredients.

Many companies have stumbled into their consumer insights through years of rigorous testing, which is both time consuming and costly. But when these marketers are pressed to explain why certain themes resonate with their target audience, most can’t identify what specifically is driving response. It’s like your grandmother’s secret sauce—she cannot give you the recipe because it is a process of trial and error. Keep adding ingredients until it strikes the right balance. The good news is that there is a better and more cost-effective way to get to these powerful insights besides trial and error. Taking a new approach to define targets and identify their triggers will help banks succeed in today’s evolving marketplace.

Art Hall is a direct marketing veteran with expertise in marketing, technology and finance. He educates and encourages Quad/Graphic’s direct marketing clients to leverage the power of their customer data into highly personalized life-stage and personal marketing solutions. For more information about leveraging powerful emotional insights, visit www.accelerated-insights.com.