Using celebrities to market a bank isn't new. What is new, however, is turning to social media influencers to help grow a financial brand.
Influencer marketing is a core marketing program for challenger bank Current. Current banks people living paycheck to paycheck and works with influencers like Kyle and Jade, Kelz Washington, and David Dobrik, who has over 26 million followers on TikTok and has received over 1 billion likes on the social media video platform.
Current recently hit 2 million users.
Spearheading the influencer strategy is Adam Hadi, vice president of marketing. Before he joined Current two years ago, Hadi worked in influencer marketing, consulting with firms like Quidd, Seatgeek, Firework, Joyride, N3twork, Epic Games, and FreshPlanet.
For Current's Gen Z target audience, social media is the go to channel to market to new users.
"In 2021, when we talk about Gen Z, social media is the only place they've ever known to spend their time," he said at last week's Acquire Conference hosted by Tearsheet.
Hadi, who also won Tearsheet's Marketer of the Year award, says that marketing to Gen Z is different than the usual marketing techniques used to target older people. "It's more about the messaging and the creative that you're putting out there," he said.
Current works with influencers like Dobrik to help spread its message of inclusivity -- about a financial institution that cares about its customers.
Current's Hadi draws from five years of experiences he had using influencers to market casual games. But finance requires a different level of messaging -- one that builds trust between the product and the customer, using influencers to connect the loop.
"You don't need to trust Candy Crush, right? But with something like banking, something like money, especially when you're talking about the demographic that we're banking, the trust component can't be understated," he said.
Done right and a brand can build a steady funnel of new users who believe in its messaging. Influencer marketing gone wrong can feel just like an advertisement. That can be damaging to the value of a brand.
For Gen Z, advertising can be seen as a negative signal. This demographic understands that anyone can run an ad on a TV network or Facebook or Twitter, but getting an endorsement of someone they look up to seems much more legitimate.
"Gen Z -- more than anyone -- has come to mistrust ad placements," he said.
Current targets Americans overlooked by traditional banks. It uses its influencers to explain that a bank can help to fix systemic problems.
"We're for the other half of the country. These are our service industry workers, hourly workers, gig economy workers, primarily young people. We're very much focused in on Gen Z -- fixing, fixing, fixing and solving their problems," he said.
When determining which influencers to work with, Hadi recommends working backwards, beginning with the audience: where they're located and where they spend their time. A boomer audience should be reached on TV. Likewise, if you have a younger audience, you should be reaching them via social media.
Once you've determined where your targets are, Hadi recommends asking what and who the audience cares about.
"Current has such a broad audience -- it's across all of Gen Z. That allows us to go very mainstream. It's not like we need to stick to a finance influencer, or some special niche category, or anything like that. We go basically as broad as you can," he said.
Few older people have heard of influencer Dobrik, but if you talk to any 20 year old, they would. He's just ahead of LeBron James and number one in terms of influence among Gen Z.
And like banks with their customers, influencer relationships are built upon trust. Structuring successful programs can't be reduced to simple algorithms, according to Hadi. "The truth of the matter is that it's all built on relationships. It's built on history," he said. "It's not transactional. We're well beyond that actually. The trust is about giving content creators the freedom to create great content and trusting them to do it."
Hadi feels some influencer brands have become rigid -- they learn bad habits like reading promotions directly from a script. That doesn't cut it. Trust has to push up the content to new levels.
In addition to hiring influential content creators to create content, Current creates its own material for influencers to us. "We're going to be shooting on site where we're doing all types of pretty cool stuff to be able to give value back to both influencesr and the fans. It's a little bit of a win-win-win situation," he said.
Hadi feels that there's a lot of scale to influencer marketing. Dobrik, for example, has 50 million to 70 million subscribers across platforms.
"We're not talking small numbers here."