Brand Slam Awards: A new website aimed at a community in need – and cool technology upgrade, too

‘By reframing around a mission, we embraced the opportunity to not just provide a financial product but to actively participate in and contribute to our customers’ journeys toward financial stability and personal growth.’

By Craig Colgan

OpenSky, a division of Capital Bank, based in Rockville, Maryland, offers a secured credit card as part of its mission “to help everyone better their credit score and realize the value of improved credit,” notes the bank’s winning entry in the website redesign category of the 2023 Brand Slam Awards, announced at the ABA Bank Marketing Conference. “We truly believe that a secured card is a step in your credit building journey and not the end product for subprime consumers who may be too risky for other credit card institutions. OpenSky gives this population a second chance and, in many instances, changes their lives.”

The goal of the campaign was to create a new website that “would meet these customers where they were in their journey with compelling and relevant video content from both financial influencers and current OpenSky customers.” The team also worked on new branding and colors that modernized the OpenSky brand. JJ Kaye, Capital Bank’s EVP, check marketing officer, answered our questions about the project:

You describe OpenSky’s mission as one that changes lives. What is your history with OpenSky, and what inspired its creation?

OpenSky’s journey with Capital Bank began 11 years ago, following its acquisition in an FDIC transaction. Initially, as a monoline secured credit card company, OpenSky primarily catered to subprime consumers, offering them a solution when traditional credit options were limited. At that time, we filled an important need but lacked a broader purpose.

The pivot to a mission-centric approach was inspired by the success stories of our customers. Witnessing firsthand how the secured credit card served as a tool for individuals to build their credit and build new lives, catalyzed our shift in approach. This pivot was underpinned by a deeper realization that credit access goes beyond a mere financial service; it represents a significant step toward financial empowerment and security.

By reframing around a mission, we embraced the opportunity to not just provide a financial product but to actively participate in and contribute to our customers’ journeys toward financial stability and personal growth.

You noted that this project also includes an entire technology overhaul, beyond just what it all looks like for the user. How important was that? What impact has this overhaul had on your work?

The technology overhaul in the OpenSky project was not just significant. It was transformative, extending well beyond the superficial aspects of website design. This overhaul, a reflection of my extensive experience in merging technology with creativity, has had profound implications on our work and our ability to deliver a superior digital customer experience.

One of the most notable impacts of this transformation has been the acceleration of our speed-to-market, enabling us to make swift, accurate, data-driven decisions. We are in the process of migrating to Webflow, a self-serve no code platform, that will shift website management from the development realm directly into the heart of marketing. This not only enhanced our agility but also democratized technology within our organization, allowing us to respond more quickly and effectively to market demands and customer needs.

Furthermore, integrating tools like FullStory and Optimizely have revolutionized our approach to full-funnel optimization and our future A/B testing program. We can now see the entire customer journey, from initial contact to conversion, allowing us to target key areas for improvement with greater precision. This comprehensive view is invaluable in fine-tuning every interaction point to maximize conversion rates.

Additionally, we’re kicking off the rebuild of our Salesforce Marketing Cloud into a true Relational Data Model. This will be the first step to a true CRM with dynamic customer segmentation and personalized communication, further enhancing our customer engagement strategies. This, combined with our revamped digital marketing channels and DSP selection, has given us a more granular understanding of our spend and efficiency, ensuring that every marketing dollar is optimized for impact.

In essence, this technology overhaul has been a cornerstone in our strategy to provide a best-in-class customer experience. It has not only changed the way we interact with our customers but has also reshaped our internal processes, making them more efficient, responsive, and impactful.

What are some things you have learned, via this redesign?

One of the most impactful learnings from the OpenSky redesign was the realization that reframing the website as part of a mission-driven approach opened up numerous opportunities for improvement across our entire product set and customer engagement strategy. This shift in perspective allowed us to not only address existing needs but also to identify and explore areas where we could further enhance our service offerings and deepen our engagement with customers.

Engaging directly with customers, who had experienced varying levels of success in their credit-building journeys, was incredibly insightful. These interactions provided us with a comprehensive understanding of the diverse challenges and opportunities our customers are facing in the credit-building space. This rich insight was instrumental in developing a more empathetic and effective approach to both product design and customer engagement, ensuring that our solutions were closely aligned with the real needs and aspirations of our customers.

Additionally, the redesign process underscored the power of anticipatory design. This approach involves creating solutions that address not only current needs but also anticipate and pave the way for future possibilities. It’s an approach I’ve cultivated over years of working with diverse clients and projects, recognizing that true innovation lies in staying one step ahead of the curve. This forward-thinking mindset was crucial in ensuring that the OpenSky redesign was not just a response to present requirements but also a foundation for future growth and evolution.

What advice would you have for banks undertaking such a project?

For banks looking to embark on projects akin to OpenSky’s transformation, a holistic view of the customer experience is paramount. Start by mapping the customer journey end-to-end, understanding each touchpoint’s role and impact. This comprehensive approach to customer engagement is essential in fully grasping your customers’ experiences, aspirations, and challenges. It’s crucial to remember that a website is merely one element of a wider full-funnel digital customer experience, and should be considered as part of this larger context.

Adopting a phased approach when redesigning or developing digital platforms is critical. Address different sections of the funnel methodically, allowing for targeted improvements and iterative feedback at each stage. In addition, it’s vital to thoroughly map out the relationships and dependencies within your digital marketing infrastructure, to guide more effective, cohesive marketing strategies.

Equally important is having the right talent in place. The pace and quality of innovation are contingent on your team’s capabilities. Upgrading your approach necessitates an upgrade in talent. This means investing in staff who are not just technically proficient but also agile and aligned with your digital transformation goals.

Furthermore, it’s essential to distinguish clearly between technology and digital, and align closely with IT partners. Digital should be seen as supporting marketing and the customer experience, while technology underpins the bank’s infrastructure. Though there are overlaps, clear boundaries enable marketing to rapidly drive business growth within a governance framework.

Lastly, banks should reframe their perspective on technology. It should be viewed as a strategic enabler, not just a tool. This entails looking beyond traditional banking services and considering how technology, combined with a deep understanding of customer needs and market trends, can lead to groundbreaking innovations. By aligning technological advancements with customer insights, banks can create digital experiences that not only meet, but also exceed customer expectations, leading to profound and positive impacts on their customers’ lives.

Additional thoughts

The journey of reimagining OpenSky has been a profound one, intertwining with my personal beliefs in the power of innovation, customer empathy and forward thinking. This project, much like my entrepreneurial past, has been about creating something that not only meets a market need but also has a lasting, positive impact on people’s lives. The recognition for this effort is not merely an acknowledgment of a successful redesign but a testament to our commitment to being a transformative force in the financial lives of our customers. It’s a reminder of how businesses, especially in the financial sector, can play a pivotal role in empowering individuals and shaping a more inclusive economic future.


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