Embracing the Art of Marketing

By John Oxford

Somewhere between the messaging magic with Mad Men in the 1960s, the rise of technology in the 1990s and the number crunching data quants of the 2000s, marketing moved from an art form to a sport of science. Numbers, data and tech connections to consumers put context, creativity and art on the bench in favor of more measurable ROI friendly tactics, especially in banking.

Tactics such as direct mail, calling lists and CD rate print ads became the dominant mediums banks chose to deliver their marketing. And who could blame us? Banking is a numbers-driven business and being able to calculate a return on any spending or dollar lent is the very nature of the industry’s existence.

The issue here is that marketing as a numbers game is cold. It’s also not memorable. Although we totally agree that quality lists and targeted messaging based on some analysis is important to any successful strategy, leaving art out of marketing may the biggest mistake of which bank marketers and banks in general are guilty. Extremely guilty.

You’ve heard these arguments before: 62 percent of banks share a common word in their name. We all have similar products and are under, depending on our asset size, similar regulatory structures. And like it or not, bankers are very often drawn into group think when it comes to marketing. This is why bank marketing is so underrated as a role in banking, and why creativity is so important when it comes to brand building.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who remembers a specific direct mail piece or a CD rate they saw in the newspaper. (Do those still exist–newspapers or CD rates?) But getting clients and potential clients to remember your brand name and an experience your brand elicits when thought of is where marketers can make a major difference.

This is where marketers, as hard as it is inside of bank culture, must embrace the art of marketing. Because if you do not, no one will. Otherwise it will become all numbers and measuring with no soul, art or creativity.

For example, with my employer, Renasant, being a southern-based bank, two years ago we decided to go all in with a web show called SEC Shorts. SEC Shorts is a Saturday Night Live style take on what happened over the weekend during college football season in the Southeastern Conference. (You know, the one with the best football.) Anyway, “on paper” backing a web show that doesn’t really show any services, products, bank locations, or bankers shaking hands sounds like a loser when presenting the idea up the chain. It’s an art and trust event for a marketer which can often be scary.

It flies in the face of just about every traditional bank marketing strategy and tactic. Heck, its major delivery channel is social media—not mind-blowing for most industries but for banking, sheesh, it’s groundbreaking just for the fact it’s something on social media.

To get to the point, the comedic short “takes” on football in the south have garnered more than 100 million brand views per year for our bank, and although a vanity metric, it’s hard to ask for better qualitative and quantitative branding results. The shows are also often picked up in some manner by ESPN, FOX Sports, Saturdays Down South, Outkick and other sports and southern culture media.

By choosing to go with a cultural take on where we are located—the South—and something that is relevant and interesting, we took a chance on art to create top-of-mind brand awareness and keep our unique name in front of our markets. And while it might be lightning in a bottle as a content piece, it was more than just luck as it takes effort to make it work.

As you are likely looking through the same tactics and cold “money ball” marketing avenues, make sure art and creativity are still part of your marketing process. We can all buy the same lists, adjusts rates, hire each other’s bankers and sell the same products under similar regulations. But a true brand and bank marketer will set themselves apart with creativity in the art of being different.

To hear more about putting the art back in bank marketing, join Josh Mabus and me for this week’s Marketing Money Podcast.

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