Marketers Can Have a Big Influence on Bank Diversity

By Chukwukere Ekeh

As a dessert aficionado, last year I added a new ritual to my weekly grocery shopping trip. I now grab a new pint of a different ice cream flavor every single week. Some remarkable ones: bourbon brown sugar and truffles, cookie dough with fudge brownie core, and churro, just to name a few.

The same reason I enjoy trying those ice cream flavors is what led to my passion for marketing in the financial industry. There are so many diverse customers who are wandering the aisles looking for something in a brand or message that stands out and delights them, often in ways they didn’t even know or could expect.

Banking is the economic structure that can empower a person financially to fulfill their basic needs, as well as achieve their wildest dreams and desires. As a marketing professional, my aim is to help my institution find the story that works. To be able to reach as many people as possible with a message that expresses how we can add value to them in a tangible way.

However, as I step back and look at our industry, I sadly see we’re missing the mark. I’ve sat in bank boardrooms with executives who don’t look like me, don’t share a similar upbringing, nor have close confidants who share diverse experiences. I have watched countless agency pitches for campaigns aimed at metropolitan markets that were developed in a bland incubator of sameness crafted by individuals with certain opinions about “good marketing.” I’ve seen partnerships with vendors whose staff makeup does not equip them to survey the landscape and serve the whole market their products are designated to help.

If too few tastemakers in bank marketing offer variety, how could we possibly expect them to satisfy and fulfill hunger from a diverse audience?

In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin writes that marketing is about placing your story around the intended listener’s worldview. All the opportunity lies in finding the undiscovered and neglected worldviews. Believe me: This is no easy task to undertake, but it all starts with who’s in the room. We need different views, perspectives and levels of understanding coming together to reach every niche, until everyone has access to a message that resonates. As marketers, our ultimate goal is to tell a story that matters to people who need it, and to realize that sometimes for the message to truly resonate it needs to be coming authentically from the right people.

As I wander my frozen food aisle and peruse the ice cream section there’s something intentionally different for everybody. So my hope for the financial industry is that we all intentionally make space for everybody. Especially when they’re a little different.

Chukwukere Ekeh, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is VP and retail marketing manager at Renasant Bank and an ABA Bank Marketing editorial advisory board member. He discussed this column on the Marketing Money podcast, hosted by John Oxford, Renasant’s director of marketing, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency.