Looking Ahead: Essential Themes for 2019

By Siya Vansia

If you’re a typical bank marketer, you’re probably pulled in a dozen different directions. Sessions at the 2018 ABA Bank Marketing Conference were filled with creatives, data experts, digital marketers—not to mention some the finest minds in banking. Yet across the board, one unified message came through loud and clear: The role of the marketer is changing—and companies need to keep up.

For a long time, marketing played a support role to banks. Whether it involved creating and launching retail campaigns, providing resources to sales staff or serving as a liaison to the local community, a marketer’s job was shaped by what the company needed. And that was typically determined by an executive or a business line.

This is no longer the case…

Today, a marketer’s role is evolving into one that touches every part of a bank and plays a key role in driving a bank’s strategy. From understanding  granular details like transaction data and preferences for each individual customer—as well as the nuances of every customer relationship—to zooming out to the 30,000-foot level to build a brand that resonates with consumers, marketing is taking on a much more dynamic role. And while it seems overwhelming, this allows us the opportunity to build the bridge that aligns the end product with the brand, making a direct connection with the consumers’ wants and needs.

In order to keep up with this evolution, we’re going to have to skill up. Daunting as that is, now is a good time to filter out the bells, whistles and shiny objects in our path and focus on what will really matter in the immediate future.

As we kick off 2019, here are three themes that stand out as essential.

  1. Data drives strategy.

Banks have always housed enormous amounts of data, and in recent years, that data stockpile has grown exponentially. What’s more, banks now have access to tools that can aggregate and manage that data. It’s now possible to track customers’ spending with their debit cards, their interactions in brick-and-mortar branches vs. digital channels, and even the behavior of prospective clients. For these reasons, data has become an increasingly critical part of marketing. If we don’t hone that data and translate it into strategic insights for our banks, we must understand that our competitors are doing so. And we must be prepared for the consequences.

  1. Building a brand is a bank-wide responsibility.

In this age of instant access and perpetual distraction, branding has become the final frontier for differentiation. And having an attractive, consistent brand is now just table stakes. The companies that win at branding are those that go beyond logos and Pantone colors. They are aligning their offerings and their messaging with their purpose. At every touchpoint they are demonstrating their culture, the reason why they started the business in the first place, the story that makes them unique. For that reason, as bank marketers, we have to take branding out of the marketing department and share it with every area of the bank. When the entire bank—from the frontline staff to the board of directors—understands and internalizes the brand, everyone will be able to represent it authentically to the public. And every interaction, every decision will be in line with this brand.

  1. You can’t just count on technical skills to succeed.

Yes, the rise of data requires a whole new skill set, including knowledge of new programs, compliance standards and practices. This is important and it’s real. Remember, though, these technical requirements will evolve as quickly as technology does. According to a World Economic Forum report on the future of jobs, the top 10 skills required for 2020 will all be soft skills like problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Marketers need to start investing for this shift now if we want to drive our companies forward.

One thing is clear: a bank marketer’s job looks nothing like it did 10, or even five years ago. As consumer demands change and technological tools and resources increase, we have a tremendous opportunity to impact our companies and create alignment. In order to do so, we’ll have to remain agile and continue to keep learning and adapting. Brand is beginning to play an integral role in every part of our companies and it’s up to us as marketers to protect our brand.

Siya Vansia is vice president of marketing at ConnectOne Bank. Email: svansia@cnob.com.

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