The Value of Meeting Your Customers Where They Want to be Met

By John Oxford

If you’ve read these columns or listened to the Marketing Money Podcast during the past few months, we’ve continued on the theme that rapid shifts are taking place with everything from media consumption to consumer banking habits.

For a quick review: COVID-19 has accelerated the usage of digital banking due to, among other things, in-person banking safety challenges. Commercial banking has gone old school, with relationships taking the lead from rate hunters due to expertise and clarity needed during the PPP.

Cable shifting has also accelerated due to changing viewership habits, shifting to more targeted tastes versus 200 channels and the delay of major live sports on TV. And media buying seems to be following this trend as more companies see value on the digital media buys through streaming platforms, native placement and social media than traditional television.

Now that we’re caught up, we ran into another interesting situation this week. My employer, Renasant Bank, sponsors Major League Soccer’s Nashville Soccer Club. Obviously as a premier sponsor with our brand on their jersey, it’s a major investment we see as a national branding opportunity in a growing sport.

This week the NSC played an away game in Dallas and, to nearly everyone’s surprise, it was blacked-out over all streaming entities such as YouTubeTV and ESPN+ (you could only stream it OUT of market with ESPN). If you lived in the Music City, the only way to watch the game was to have a traditional cable connection or, and I’m not kidding here, you were advised to go buy an antenna and set it up like the old 1960’s rabbit ears to pull down the local broadcast.

Before I get into how this relates to marketing, there are a few obvious questions that need to be answered: Why is an away game being blacked out? Why would you not offer a local streaming viewing option, at a minimum, for away games and/or during limited fan attendance during COVID? With nearly 32 percent of TV media content now being consumed over streaming devices, according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers study, you’ve removed a third of your audience with a higher percentage of the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic from seeing your product. Not to mention how clumsy it looks to ask your fans to go buy antennas to watch your games.

I’ll add that if you don’t trust my opinion on this, go here, here and here. Also, in case you were wondering, YouTube (and YouTubeTV) is the most popular TV network with 18-to-34-year-olds. How do you just miss that demographic and channel option? It’s like a missed penalty kick without the goalie from the goal line.

So now that we’ve ranted on what seems like a complete whiff when trying to drive brand in a challenger sport (at least in the US) by missing out on realizing that streaming media is vital to connecting to any modern audience, how does this impact our marketing? Here are the hot takes:

Meet your customers where they want to be met.—Not where you force them to go. Like the example above, no one wants to shop around during a pandemic for an antenna when most media content can or should be easily viewed on a phone or streaming device. And with so much competition for our attention, most will not make the effort to conform to your ask. Banking is the same way. Some clients want a branch, some want to do everything online or on their phone–we must be able to serve them as they want to be served and then market those services.

Don’t limit your marketing. I still cannot fathom who would want to purposely limit their marketing channels, but it happens more than you think, especially with the MLS, Major League Baseball and other sports and events that sell broadcasting rights to old-style media companies. If more viewers draw more ad revenue, you better hope that whomever is paying you to blackout games and limit the broadcast is worth the brand, product and fan frustration as well as the lost revenue from others. In banking, are we still missing social media as a strong channel? Are you still doing print? Lots of relatable questions need to be answered if you have yet to modernize your marketing plan to meet today’s consumers where they want to be met.

In branding, the name of the game is eyeballs. It’s why Super Bowl ads are so expensive and why big media outlets can charge so much for showing your ads at 30 second clips. But before you do major branding, you need a brand name.

Given budgets are tight, now is a great time to look at a re-name (if not necessarily a full re-brand) of your bank. Before we return to more normalized media, challenge your bank to change your name if you’re one of the 65 percent of banks that share a common word with another bank. If your marketing initiatives have been limited due to pandemic budget cuts, why not spend your time researching a new unique brand name so when you get your budget back, you can rejoin the fray as a real brand and not just one of the 1,900+ “First” something banks out there? Then analyze the shifts in media that best fit your strategy and go to the eyeballs.

To hear more about the challenges and shifts in modern media, check out this week’s episode of the Marketing Money Podcast with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency and me.

John Oxford, director of marketing at Renasant Bank, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, are co-hosts of the Marketing Money Podcast.