a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
“marketers are excited for the future, but fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of failing, and fear of losing their jobs cripple the very people charged with driving innovation in media and marketing from doing so.”
When I work with brands on transforming their marketing organization to think consumer first, to act like a publisher, and to create content marketing that transforms marketing from a cost center to a revenue center — fear is the biggest roadblock — and it’s most commonly found in legacy brands and industries like banking.
The most frustrating part is that is usually comes from the leadership who is charging — not leading – their teams to create what’s next. If you’re going ask for change, you need to give your teams the runway, budget, and support to get off the ground.
Fear will be one of the things I talk about in my keynote presentation at the American Bankers Association in New Orleans on Sept. 24-26. In addition to talking about fear — and how to tackle it — here are three themes that I’ll talk about at the conference that certainly apply to banks, but really any brand, and for that matter, individuals.
1. Understand how to evoke emotion through story-driven content
Consumers have an emotional connection to money and bank products, services, and fees are inherently difficult to understand. Most of marketing in banks is built around pitching features and benefits, which are important, but story-lead creative and content is more relatable. Show, not tell, how other customers benefited from the products. Look inside your own customer base for stories about life transformation and let your customers speak for you through real-life stories. It’s relatable, evokes an emotion that correlates to their existing emotional connection, and they remember stories that make them feel. That’s what a great story does — it makes you feel. Life is told in stories, not numbers. Those who engage consumers with story-driven creative and content will ultimately win the most valuable prize there is — brand loyalty.
2. Go beyond transactions and create experiences that bring back the human touch
Technology is an amazing way to automate transactions, create efficiency, and cut costs — but don’t let it fool you. Consumers still want human interaction no matter what they say, so find new ways to create new experiences. When I led global creative and content marketing for Marriott International and it’s portfolio of 30 brands, customers wanted and now expect automated customer service like self-check in kiosks, digital room keys, and personalized loyalty experiences, but at the end of the day, they also wanted a human. A machine can’t understand human emotion, compassion, or opportunities to provide different experiences to engage consumers with the brand.
Picture your typical bank lobby. They are often sterile, dry, and designed to drive transactions. The good ones have friendly greeters to help you to the right person, but that’s about as far as it goes. Now think how you can transform the lobby beyond the expected experience and give your consumers and even non-customers a reason to connect with your brand beyond banking. In the hotel business, over 40% of revenue comes from food and beverage experiences, and we developed strategies beyond that to make the lobbies “town-centers” very much like Apple is trying to do. What if you had your own genius bar for financial products where speakers were entertaining, yet informative?
Imagine partnering with other brands, organizations, and thought leaders to create experiences that it gives people a reason to come in. One of the things we did at Marriott was partner with Universal Music Group to create live concerts for loyalty members and guest. I’m not suggesting you throw a major concert in your lobby, but think about coffee shops, juice bars, retail kiosks for products that solve everyday needs like cell phone chargers, cables, etc. Right now banks are like airport concourses used to be — just to get on and off planes. In almost every airport, especially major hubs, you can do almost anything at an airport. Open up the design of your lobby and create unique experiences that connect to your brand. Just today I was at a bank that was open to and part of a coffee and snack shop — the foot traffic was incredible for both customers and non-customers and it was all enabled by your bank. Give people a reason to come to branches that go beyond the transaction and connect emotionally.
3. Publish or Perish: Think and act like a media company.
Sure, your core business and revenue is banking, financial products and services — but what if you could create creative and content marketing that actually made money. Yes, you read that right — it’s possible to create content so relevant, valuable, and informative that other distributors and content platforms will license it from you.
Create your own digital magazine/hub for all things finance. American Express has done a great job with Open Forum, but did you know that CMO.com is a brand publishing unit of Adobe? Or Traveler is produced by Marriott? Or Furthermore from Equinox?
In a world where consumers now control when, where, and how they interact with brands, where traditional interruptive marketing is ignored, why not become the media hub yourself. Your financial brand can be the next FT, Money.com, Yahoo finance. Stop renting audiences from others and start owning them with your own media ecosystem. Build it big enough, and you can start to sell audiences to partner brands who aren’t as advanced as you. I’ve done it and it works. The beautiful thing about it is that because it’s digital, you can track and connect your efforts back to ROI very easily. If your brands wants to be relevant, stop interrupting what consumers are interested in find ways to become what they’re interested in.
In today’s connected world — we’re all media companies in one way — consuming, curating, and creating content. There’s absolutely no excuse for not using content to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of next gen consumers.
And lastly, always remember this:
Life isn’t like it used to be where you worked at one company for your entire career. You’re either going to get promoted for creating change, fired because you didn’t when new leaders come in, laid off, or work somewhere else. At least try, and if you fail, you learned, and if you get penalized for failure, then you aren’t working at the right company anyway. Remember what happened to Blockbuster when they refused to innovate? Like personal life goals, don’t be the person who watches other people do things they’ve always wanted because fear prevented you or retired and always wishing you would have tried something new and changed the industry.
And I don’t mean to end on a morbid note — but we’re all going to die one day. Our time to make an impact personally and professionally is very short. Don’t let fear be the reason you didn’t accomplish something. Stop talking, start doing. The clock is ticking.
Learn more about the American Bankers Association conference here and leave a comment if this article was helpful or if you’re going to be in New Orleans!
Content Decoded, founded by David Beebe, who AdWeek called “A Branded Content Master Who Makes it OK to Love Marketing,” and named by Ad Age as a “forward thinker, risk-taker, and rainmaker in marketing,” knows how to navigate the intersection of Hollywood Storytelling and Brand Marketing to create what’s next in media and marketing.
In multiple industry firsts, Beebe founded and led the Disney/ABC Digital Content Studio, producing derivative branded content for Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and Scrubs. Beebe was honored by the Emmy for outstanding creative achievement in interactive media for producing the 83rd Oscars Digital Experience and led the launch of the first ever full episode player on ABC.com, which was also recognized with an Emmy.
Crossing over the isle to the brand side, Beebe became the first ever VP, Global Creative + Content Marketing at Marriott International, where he founded and led the Marriott Content Studio, producing premium story-driven brand films, tv shows, documentaries, magazines, books, and other branded content for Marriott’s portfolio of 30 brands, including brand publishing platform Marriott Traveler and created M Live — Marriott’s groundbreaking first ever global social media brand command centers around the world, which were honored with a Cannes Lions Award for the use of data in storytelling. Beebe also produced programming for Yahoo Originals, DIRECTV, Showtime, and PBS.
Brands, media companies, and creatives who partner with Content Decoded get access to the same creative and strategic insights, real world industry experience, and market intelligence that Beebe uses to transform brands to think consumer first, think like a media company, and transform marketing from a cost-center to a revenue center.