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Marketing Briefing: The case of product-first and the SEO burst

  • In this week’s briefing, we cover what’s new in marketing for banks – big, small, and digital alike.
  • Plus, we’re digging into SEO in the fintech world through some interesting numbers.

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Marketing Briefing: The case of product-first and the SEO burst

Chief marketing officer of Kasasa on current financial marketing trends

Kasasa is a financial service provider that sells marketing products and technology to small banks and credit unions. For this week’s briefing, I sat down with Keith Brannan, CMO of the company, to talk about some of the biggest marketing trends and challenges he’s currently seeing in the industry among big incumbents, fintechs, community banks, and credit unions alike.

A product-first mentality is what’s becoming most productive

“I think one of the things that comes to mind is a product-first consumer shopping behavior mentality. 

If you think about how you shop today, you probably rarely go look for the brand of something or the company that's going to offer it. You probably would not go to Kroger's website, let’s say, unless you're actually doing the shopping there. 

And so people have become very product-first in their shopping behavior. And that's a very big shift for a lot of banks, credit unions, and financial services overall – even mutual funds and insurance. It’s very different from this big brand approach that most financial services firms have had in the past – and a very different approach for smaller institutions who relied on a local brand presence to maintain their market viability and really drive their growth.

And so, with consumers no longer shopping that way, and with very few people feeling like banks are a destination location anymore, how banks and credit unions go to market changes in a number of ways.”

Chase & Chime may be two sides of the same dime

“Starting on the very top end of the scale, you could probably look at Chase's mobile experience. Chase has a really, really compelling mobile experience, and most of its advertising today does not actually center around branch networks, or even just one product. Instead, most of it centers around experience and accessibility.

So instead of featuring a branch, the ad may show consumers interacting with an ATM, because ATM networks are important to consumers, or they may show them interacting with the app, because apps are 24/7, and it's easier to show that in a really sexy format, compared to, let’s say, a call center. 

So Chase has really shifted its positioning to do two things: The first is to highly leverage the fact that they have branches everywhere. And the second is to indicate to consumers that the product has accessibility that matches the way they want to engage with it. 

And so when I say that marketing and product are emerging very rapidly, what I mean is that it's about how you take that product and market it as an experience. 

And then once the consumer has the product, you get all kinds of marketing opportunities inside the product. So Chase – or any other bank or credit union – can market additional products and services within the experience that the consumer is already having. And that's one of the really big differences. 

Then, on the other far end of the spectrum, you could look at companies like SoFi and Chime. These are folks that are initially trying to disrupt the market. But at the end of the day, they're using a very similar tactic – it's an accessibility tactic.

SoFi, for instance, started its business very targeted on a specific consumer segment with a specific value proposition, which was, ‘Man, we're the place that you want to go to if you want student loans.’

Meanwhile, Chime started with a focus on the underbanked – and that's where they started growing their business. And they did this through the removal of certain features that are traditional in banking. And I think that disruption – targeting a consumer problem among a very micro sliver of the market – is what allowed them to then grow and expand into other areas.

So as you see, these are two very different approaches to taking products to market, but both target the same thing: solving a consumer problem, and using accessibility and very specific needs to do that.”

Community banks & credit unions’ response to ad-versary

“It’s taken community banks and credit unions a little bit longer, candidly, to catch up with the impact of the pandemic and the interest rate hit that everyone took.

When interest rates fall that rapidly, these institutions’ balance sheets change pretty fast. And those smaller institutions simply don't have the discretionary balance sheet capacity that the big ones have to catch up that fast. So they were a little bit delayed in making new investments. 

Now I see a ton of them heading down the same path of finding ways to turn investments into accessibility through digital or through mobile, by really focusing on the experiences and the products that it wraps around.

So we’re seeing community banks and credit unions partnering with technology firms and fintech firms more than we've ever seen. And the reason they're doing that is because it's a faster way for them to get very competitive, and service level accessibility technology in the hands of their consumers. 

And we’re seeing these partnerships reflected in the way they go to market today, as well. Their marketing is starting to shift a little bit more to channels we weren’t seeing even four years ago. Back then, we were seeing people store quite a lot of print ads, oddly enough, in local markets and weeklies, and that kind of thing. And there may still be some of that, but we don't get asked about it anymore. Our clients are focusing more heavily on the digital path now. So we are seeing a lot more digital marketing from those groups.”

In the numbers: Financial marketers are having SEO much fun with content

In 2021, 90% of marketers said they were using a content marketing plan and expected to continue carrying out this plan this year as well, according to research by Hubspot. Meanwhile, over 60% of marketers surveyed said they expected a higher content marketing budget this year, compared to last.

The same trend seems to be seeping into the financial industry. Here’s a little tidbit from Forefront’s most recent fintech CMO survey report:

Fintech CMOs, for the most part, seem to respect how search engines operate and what they look for. Over half of them say they keep SEO guidelines in mind when creating content. 

Still, there seems to be a disparity between acknowledgment and action: while only 4% claim SEO isn’t important in this industry, over 40% feel they aren’t using SEO as much as they’d like. On top of that, not even a fifth of those surveyed say they keep SEO in mind when building their thought leadership content.

The world of finance is becoming more about consumers seeking answers to financial questions they have or challenges they’re facing. That puts rising fintechs in a race to show they have the most authority on those topics and gain consumer trust.

Yeah, yeah, SEO is important, yada yada yada – but here’s why I think things could get interesting (I bolded this part because that’s, like, total SEO talk for, ‘This is an important point, please focus your eyes here, etc.' And once again, I digress)

Incumbent banks are often the winners when it comes to trust. They’ve got an established history, lots of nice, age-old branches reminding consumers of their existence, and, well, they can actually call themselves banks (recall California’s financial regulator demanding Chime drop ‘bank’ from its name last year).

If banks are dentists, then challenger banks have sort of gotten the reputation of being tooth fairies. No one will say no to the fun gifts a tooth fairy leaves, but when it comes to who you’ll turn to for a toothache, dentists will probably be your first choice. 

That leaves digital banks in a pickle. It’s not like they want to shed that tooth fairy image completely, but they do want to show that they are just as trustworthy as dentists. In short, they want the wings, but also the license.

Content marketing could be an inroad to gaining that trust, especially since incumbents’ CMOs are facing their own obstacles in building personalized content with inaccessible, siloed data.

What's new on the Acquire Podcast

From delivering mysterious donut boxes, to building a campaign around ‘Elements’ (with a capital ‘E’, mind you), the last two episodes of the Acquire Podcast contain both a dash of home ec and a splash of chemistry.

In episode 8 of the podcast, Rebecca sits down with Flexbase’s founder and CEO, Zaid Rahman, and its head of growth, Joey Randazzo.

Flexbase, a payments platform for construction companies, recently launched a new campaign to build brand awareness among its key users. The campaign is a pretty varied one, relying on the strength of donuts and QR codes.

The three also dive into the unique challenges that construction companies face, and how a company like Flexbase can solve them:

“We looked at the problem and asked, ‘What is it that these companies really need? Do they need more software? Do they need better banking?’ And what we landed on was that most construction companies are really desperate for liquidity. And so that’s what our first product solves.”

Meanwhile, episode 9 of the podcast is all about pitching a loyalty program to solopreneurs and creatives. Rebecca has a chat with challenger bank Oxygen’s SVP, head of business development and strategic partnerships, Ryan Conway, and creative director Sani Gad, to talk about its new campaign, Elements. 

There are a whole lot of fintechs targeting the gig economy as of late. But Oxygen has a very specific persona in mind in terms of the users it wants to appeal to. That’s where this campaign comes in:

“It wasn’t a full rebrand, as it was an elevation of the brand. We’ve always had a very similar type of look and feel, and this was a little bit of a natural extension of that. Any brand is going to grow, so this wasn’t a complete reset on the brand, rather a natural extension of how we’re looking at that, and it happened to fit in with what we were doing from a product perspective.”

What we're reading

Money, money, money

Marketers’ salaries are seeing some nice plus-signs this year (Marketing Week)

Less whisky, more brand-y

With little results, community banks remain frustrated and wary of ads. That may be problematic, though, considering the brand-centric approach could be what’s winning over consumers at the moment (The Financial Brand)

Aiming higher with new hires

JPMorgan’s new recruits may say something about its plans going forward (Business Insider)

Meanwhile, in New Zealand...

Kiwibank wants to show it’s anything but sheepish. The digital bank is loud and proud with its new rebrand – going all in on progressiveness and inclusivity (RNZ)

‘Fintech?’ Don’t you mean funtech?

With its new campaign, the Confederation of British Industry wants to show just how groovy fintech can be for businesses (LendItFintech News)

Google bids ad-ieu

In its annual ads safety report, Google said that in 2021 it suspended over 5.6 million advertiser accounts, restricted over 5.7 billion ads, and removed over 3.4 billion ads (The Economic Times)

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