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‘Our strategy is educating customers’: Goldman Sachs’ Marcus is now marketing savings accounts

  • Goldman Sachs' Marcus is making its first advertising push now that it's officially brought the savings products of GS Bank into the personal loan startup
  • The consumer banking startup, which sits under one of the biggest names in banking, seeks to grow its business by selling customers financial health, a growing theme among financial brands
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‘Our strategy is educating customers’: Goldman Sachs’ Marcus is now marketing savings accounts

Marcus, Goldman Sachs’ consumer banking offshoot, began advertising its savings accounts this week with two new television ads that digs at other banks’ rather passive savings offerings.

The 30-second ads don’t explicitly say that Marcus savings accounts carry a 1.6 percent annual percentage yield but they do highlight that its APY is four times the national average offered by the top 50 U.S. banks and push the idea that other banks “just store your money,” whereas Marcus puts that money to work.

“Our strategy is to educate consumers so they know what their options are… to get people to actually look at their rates,” said Dustin Cohn, Marcus’ head of brand and marketing communications. “Our higher order mission is not just to educate but to improve their financial health.”

Recent proprietary research by Goldman found 60 percent of Americans with savings accounts don’t know the APY on their savings account and 56 percent opened theirs without exploring other savings account options.

marcus apy

This week’s new ads are the first advertising push of its savings accounts and CDs. Goldman Sachs has long acknowledged it would bring the savings products of GS Bank under Marcus, though it didn’t formally announce when it finally did about four months ago.

The ads will run on national television, according to Cohn. The bank also plans to run radio commercials on national broadcast radio, as well as digital radio channels like Pandora, and is exploring an outdoor campaign.

Marcus also does a lot of paid advertising on Facebook and is dedicated to creating good home-grown content — something Goldman Sachs itself excels at compared to its legacy banking peers, with its “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs” podcast and #TalksAtGS video series. According to L2, Goldman receives 10 times more interactions per tweet than the average financial brand.

Much of the content is “foundational” in that it serves to explain personal finance basics, Cohn explained.

“Customers hear about an ‘unsecured personal loan’ and don’t know what it means so we have a video explaining what that means; videos — there’s a constant pipeline of videos we can produce on all subjects — articles and infographics to help educate consumers about their options for managing debt and savings for free.”

Marcus also taps on influencers with strong audiences and followings to talk about everything from how to save more effectively during the holidays to how they manage their debt with Marcus. For example, one blog post by The Typical Mom discusses the reality of financial struggles and overcoming debt and how a Marcus personal loan helped her manage that. Another, by Money Crashers, pushes one of Marcus’ first narratives: “Debt happens, it’s how you get out that counts.”

Financial education and literacy is an increasingly hot topic in banking — and not just because it’s Financial Literacy Month. Nearly every financial company is investing in content, motivated by a “mission” to educate customers (and potential customers). Robinhood and Acorns are bringing content onto their main platforms in order to “educating people at the moment of decision making,” Acorns CEO Noah Kerner recently told Tearsheet. Startups like Greenlight and Current are already targeting the generation of customers, also by embedding the learning piece into actual financial experiences — and “traditional” banks are investing in those solutions. Earlier this year SunTrust Bank and Ally Financial invested in Greenlight and last month Fifth Third Bank invested in Current.

The challenge Marcus faces is anti-bank sentiment — many fintech startups were founded just after the crisis and rode a wave of consumer anti-bank sentiment, largely driven by companies like Goldman Sachs. But there is some change there.

“I don’t see the high level of anti-bank sentiment there used to be,” said Valarie Hamm Carlson, vp of brand for Simple, a neobank owned by BBVA Compass. “In a lot of ways the biggest marketing challenge is overcoming people’s individual apathy and generating momentum to move. Our goal is to create something compelling that’s useful and hopefully people come over.”

Marcus has been marketing itself aggressively as the cooler startup inside Goldman Sachs that’s more relatable to the masses. Its first campaign, launched last summer, focused on de-stigmatizing debt, one of the most personal and sensitive topics for people. In October, it’s rolled out an anti-fee campaign scripted to show how frequently people accept fees without fully understanding why.

“What will always be consistent is products that provide value, are transparent and benefit the financial health of our consumers,” Cohn said. “Those are things that remain constant regardless of how we evolve.”

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