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Citi CMO Jennifer Breithaupt: Marketing is joining the front lines of banking

  • As the act of banking moves from physical to digital, marketers are moving right up to the front lines of the business along with tellers
  • Citi is testing customer reaction and engagement to virtual reality schemes, preparing for the market to reach the trillions of dollars by 2035
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Citi CMO Jennifer Breithaupt: Marketing is joining the front lines of banking

When it comes to legacy banks, Citi has been one of the front-runners in tackling new technologies.

It was one of the first to transform its branches to “smart branches,” offer a mobile-first banking experience for high net worth clients, and has been a mobile banking innovator, introducing functions like charge disputes, and card replacement tracking in the app. It now claims to have online users that exceed the population of Mexico City and more mobile users than the population of Hong Kong. (It declined to give specifics, but the population of Mexico City exceeds 8 million, while  upwards of 7 million people live in Hong Kong.)

As technology has changed consumer expectations, and perhaps lowered their attention spans, banks are having to meet their customers in different channels. That means the onus isn’t just on bank tellers anymore to create deep personal connections with customers, marketing is working hard to do that in the branch, on the website, in the mobile app, on social media and everywhere else the customer spends time.

Tearsheet caught up with Jennifer Breithaupt, Citi’s recently appointed global consumer marketing chief. She joined the bank in 1999 and has held a number of key senior positions, driving engagement and long-term brand loyalty with its customers. She spoke to Tearsheet about creating customer connections, collaborating with other parts of the bank and her personal goals moving into a new role.

How do you measure a campaign’s success?
Awareness and preference are key indicators for us as it pertains to the more traditional marketing channels. Website traffic and natural search, people looking for and searching our products is important for us because it leads to card acquisition. All this work were doing above the line is leading folks to want our products and services. So we do track card applications and we’re also looking at if they’re increasing their engagement with us and, are our products “top of wallet.”

How has technology changed how you work, where you meet your customers?
It’s being on the front lines with consumers really. They expect to seamlessly interact and self serve — that means the ability to not visit a bank branch or store front, or not make a phone call. It’s important for us to think not just about “mobile and” but mobile in general because that’s where customers are.

What’s something you’re testing collaboratively that your team gets to lead?
Virtual reality. The rise of VR is really starting to take hold and how we test in VR is an important place for us to be. By 2025 the market could reach about $692 billion. It’s early days with VR. Down the road, could VR be part of what our consumers experience in a bank branch or other places? Certainly.

How do you test that for engagement?
We have a longstanding partnership with NBC and the Today Show where we present a concert series on Today. We did the first ever VR concert livestream on the Today Show with one of the bands. We took requests from consumers and had 30,000 requests for VR headsets. We gave those away and people were able to experience that show live from Rockefeller Plaza but also experience it from home as if they were there. That was one of our first forays into VR.

What’s a goal of yours as you assume this new role?
To create a shared voice for a consumer business globally. We do quite a few things at Citi to talk about our products and services individually, but haven’t had the time or ability to create this consumer brand platform that we have in the works right now. To create an overarching halo brand voice and positioning is really exciting.

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