By Kerry O’Leary
As Eastern Pennsylvania’s largest mutual bank, Penn Community Bank holds $2.5 billion across 23 branches in Bucks and Montgomery counties. The greater Philadelphia region has the kind of vast and varied community attributes that can make brand authenticity a challenge, says SVP and director of marketing and data analytics Bernard Tynes.
“Pennsylvania is an interesting place,” says Tynes, who has lived within or adjacent to the bank’s footprint his whole life. “If you’re not Philly or Pittsburgh, you’re another entity. There are a lot of nuances and shades in between, so it is helpful to have a knowledge of the story we are trying to tell,” he says.
Tynes’ personal story starts with memories of going to the bank with his grandparents as a child, waiting his turn and leaving with a lollipop. “That’s very nostalgic for me, and that’s very positive,” he says. That optimistic spirit plays out in the marketing strategies he today leads. “Banking may look completely different, but in my role I am still driving this positive experience that stays with people through every single life stage.”
To tell Penn Community’s story—and make it meaningful—Tynes set out to uncover the bank’s multitude of data. “Next to physicians, banks have the most data about individuals. The difference is, all of our data is locked away, and it’s not centralized.” With the help of cloud-based customer relationship management technology, Tynes and his team led the bank’s first big data excavation.
People and purpose
Today, turning data into knowledge, and knowledge into tactics, is nearing ubiquity in marketing planning. But when Tynes joined Penn Community five years ago, data-driven marketing was far from mainstream in the financial services industry. That was also around the time when Tynes earned a certificate in executive business analytics from the Wharton School. “[Data] still wasn’t quite cool then,” he says. “I said to my colleagues, ‘We’re going to need this level of expertise to advance the business and keep growing.’”
Tynes likens the shift from “sleepy and traditional” to analytical and targeted marketing to a coming of age for the banking industry. “For a long time, banks were product-centric and profit-centric. Today they have to be totally human-centric.”
His discoveries have led to several new undertakings for Penn Community—all focused on building a human-centered brand with positive community outcomes. Early in his tenure, he developed the bank’s first formal “bank at work” program, a financial education initiative rooted in marketing principles. Pairing fundamental money management lessons and bank awareness campaigns with product discounts, the program used data to find its geographic and demographic target—and it worked. “We saw an incredible percentage of household acquisition,” says Tynes. This and other accomplishments earned him recognition as one of Philadelphia Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2018, and one of Philadelphia’s most influential African Americans—an honor given by the Philadelphia Tribune to just 10 professionals across several industries—in 2019.
His pre-banking passion—Tynes earned his undergraduate degree in psychology—plays a role, too. He explains his expertise as “braiding psychology together with banking and marketing to do what I feel like is really helping people. We are advancing stories and programs and messaging that really impact the daily lives of people. So, that’s how I landed.”
Tynes arrived at Penn Community during a pivotal time for the world of marketing—and also for society at large. With data now behind Penn Community’s long-held mission to help communities thrive, Tynes took on a brand refresh in 2019 with an eye to the future.
He explains the usual testing measures any brand work undergoes—focus groups, qualitative data, research—and the marketing assets the bank developed, including fresh brand positioning, strategies, color palettes and a new website—even a physical branch redesign. A new tagline (“Here We Grow”), a nod to mutuality, set the tone while educating would-be customers. “We tried to distill the essence of a mutual into one distinct tagline.”
Then COVID-19 hit. “I like to say my work went under a huge stress test,” says Tynes. With the refreshed brand launched just weeks before the world stopped turning, reputation, loyalty and safety were all at stake. Penn Community’s refreshed brand is not only weathering the storm but gaining traction in the wake of what Tynes describes as a reemergence of the meaning of community. “The core messaging had enough breadth and depth to really tell the story of who we are and our purpose in the local economy and community,” says Tynes.
At the same time, America was facing a wave of racial unrest that brought to light new, and difficult, conversations about banking. “At that point, we had never made a statement about race. I thought, ‘Okay, we are a small community bank and we have to say something—and I’m the guy that’s in charge of that.’ It was very much an emotional time.”
“I felt a great burden of responsibility to cultivate the conversation about race and how that reconciles with banking,” he adds. Today, Tynes sits on both Penn Community’s and Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s DEI committees to help steer inclusive practices in the workplace, and in the community. “The conversations are uncomfortable and that’s okay. It’s rewarding being on the ground floor to help them happen,” he says.
These efforts guide the bank’s marketing priorities. “Right now, my team is focused on underserved communities and people who don’t have access to a bank,” says Tynes. The bank is currently auditing, and potentially overhauling, its consumer products to reach more customers and advance financial inclusion. “I’m proud to be able to scale that philosophy and concept upwards and be able to build it into the structure and the real fabric of the bank,” he says. It’s an undertaking that can only be successful with data.
Mining a mantra
“I think with community banks there is a misconception that if you’re too data-driven people are going to be afraid of you, because you’re a ‘community’ bank. It’s not true,” says Tynes. “People expect businesses to know who they are. And data is a channel of knowing who our customers are. It increases the level of personalization,” says Tynes.
Personal touch comes to life in Penn Community’s latest advertising campaign a multichannel endeavor amplifying the bank’s middle name: community. Through photography and “meet your banker” messaging, employees of Penn Community are featured with captions such as “banker and dog dad” or “banker and cyclist.” Tynes says the concept was born from last year’s data.
“The whole essence and importance of ‘community’ was solidified by the pandemic,” says Tynes, describing a resurgence of the word. “People have needed a community to help with home school, or to get food to their elderly neighbor. It’s an important time to endear our audiences back to this idea of community.”
But Tynes is quick to give equal credit to the parts of the decision-making process that can’t be measured. “I’m a big champion for data, but I believe in gut feeling. A lot of people think that if you’re a data-driven marketer, you throw the idea of gut feeling out the door. I don’t.” he says. “It’s this hybrid thing; there has to be data in your gut.”
While data and instinct don’t always play out as an even 50/50, one fact is absolute: Tynes is 100 percent driven. And that’s a data point that resonates.