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Marketing Briefing: Pride, sonic branding, and customer service

  • Banks are sprucing up their digital offerings. But they’re forgetting about call centers.
  • Meanwhile, a bit on Amex’s sonic branding strategy.

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Marketing Briefing: Pride, sonic branding, and customer service

Good customer service is becoming increasingly complex – and FIs know it

As it is now, users want more personalized, digital-first services. And for the garden of FIs still struggling to cut through outdated daisies and legacy lilies, that presents a challenge. 

But companies are putting their money where their shears are. And that’s being reflected in the investments they’re making. 82% of financial institutions say they’re doing some serious investing in online and mobile banking, for example – according to a recent report by TrendWatch. Other noticeably high investing categories include technology in general (76%) and contact center recruiting & hiring for banks with call center staffing issues (67%).

Still, other spaces remain surprisingly light in funding attention. Only 8% are investing in contact center outsourcing, while just 13% are investing in virtual banking assistance. And that’s despite the fact that over 70% of consumers said they’d leave a provider due to a poor contact center experience. Yikes.

In short, financial institutions may need to shift their priorities just a teeny-tiny bit. As more consumers open their bank accounts through digital channels, they’ll need more help with the navigating side of things. Inbound call volumes can go up by 300% during digital banking conversions, according to the report.

A bank and its take on Pride Month 

Webster Five, a Massachusetts-based community bank with $1 billion in assets, is showing its support for Pride Month through wearing custom-made Pride t-shirts, handing out Pride-themed swag in its branches and hosting Pride-themed Ted talks.

“It’s imperative for a bank, and any organization, to support their employees, customers, and community. Most importantly because it’s the right thing to do but it’s also sound business sense,” said Webster Five’s svp and chief diversity officer Terri Flynn. “By participating in and promoting Pride Month we are making an active statement that all are welcome to be their authentic selves at Webster Five.”

Putting things in context

It’s true that seeing the thread of companies suddenly donning Pride colors can feel a little insincere at times – sort of like people tweeting ‘thoughts and prayers’ and then constantly refreshing their feed to check for likes.

But of course this sudden change of color scheme is not for naught. It’s another way for companies to show off their people-centric, community-first vibes. 

As for banks, specifically – they need all the people-first, community-centric vibes they can get. They’re in the midst of unraveling centuries’ worth of negative connotations.

A group photo of the Webster Five team wearing their Pride t-shirts

Amex’s dive into sonic branding

Listen until the end of almost every American Express ad and you will hear that very distinct, very Amex-y sound that distinguishes the brand on a sonic level.

Amex’s signature sound has been around for a while. Now, though, the card company is taking its sonic identity to the next level by making it a signature part of the payment process.

As contactless payment becomes more people’s default way of buying stuff, Amex wants to make sure its brand remains in the forefront of people’s shopping experience. 

You won’t always see the American Express logo when you pay using your phone, but you will always hear it. At least – that’s the goal. 

The sonic branding and design agency behind Amex’s sonic brand is called Made Music Studio. For this week’s briefing, Danielle Venne, evp, executive music producer and director of innovation, answers some questions about building Amex’s sonic brand. (To get more insight, you can check out the company’s case study here)

What was the mood you were aiming for when creating Amex's sound?

We were aiming for a balance of trust and optimism. Trust is something you need from a financial services company. Optimism is about moving forward in a meaningful way to get what you need or go where you want.

What makes sonic identity so important? Would you argue it's more important than visual identity?

A sonic identity brings the brand identity to life in a way that no visual asset can do. While visual assets may change, a strong sonic logo has longevity.  Once it’s in consumers' ears, it could very well remain with them for their entire lives.

I always picture this sort of coin dropping sound when a transaction is made -- I notice the Amex payments sound steers away from that. How come?

Our aim is to create an emotional response. A customer’s experience with American Express represents much more than simply an exchange of money.

 What's the challenge in creating an iconic sound for an FI?

The challenge to creating an iconic sound for a financial institution is whether the brand truly understands their place in culture. Sound and music don’t exist in a vacuum, they exist in relation to the people around it.

As a brand, American Express deeply understands where and how they show up in culture – and are passionate about expressing themselves authentically wherever they show up.

What we’re reading

If you can’t beat ‘em…

In light of the downturn, some fintechs are looking for an M&A route to safety (Sifted)

Data all day, every day

Jim Wadsworth, senior VP of Open Banking at Mastercard, shared his data dense wisdom in this year’s Money 20/20 (Fintech Futures)

Don’t you…forget about me”

With its new earnings report, Marqeta wants to show its growth is back on track – don’t fret, investors! (Motley Fool)

If you don’t succeed at first…try a different method – this one’s clearly not working.

Locked away in siloed land, banks continue to bug consumers with the wrong offers (The Financial Brand)

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