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Zelle’s Melissa Lowry: ‘Beyond awareness, we’re trying to show how we make everyday better’

  • Bank p2p payment app Zelle is trying to show people how it can be used more broadly.
  • VP of marketing and branding, Melissa Lowry shares what's behind the creative campaign.
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Zelle’s Melissa Lowry: ‘Beyond awareness, we’re trying to show how we make everyday better’

We’re experimenting with an interesting new series on the podcast called Marketing Talk. We’re talking to top finance and fintech marketers sitting on the front lines of their business, hustling to bring in the next cohort of customers. We want to hear from marketers — in their own words — what’s working for them, how they’re structuring their teams, and what channels are delivering.

Today in the hot seat is Melissa Lowry, vp of marketing and branding at Early Warning. You may not know the brand Early Warning, but it’s the company behind Zelle, the p2p payments app offered by many of the largest U.S. banks. Melissa was behind the creation of the new Zelle brand and orchestrated the launch campaign last year. This year, Melissa and her team have moved beyond just creating awareness — the banks using Zelle are helping with the heavy lifting there. Zelle’s new campaign, Everyday Better, helps capture just how Zelle can be used beyond splitting a bar tab.

Melissa and I discuss her marketing mandate and the challenges of creating a new B2B2C band from scratch and the role partner banks play in the firm’s marketing messaging. Lastly, we drill down into this new marketing campaign to see how it was conceived and executed.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Zelle’s early roots and the launch of the new brand

Early Warning may be a brand most folks haven’t heard of. That’s by design. We’ve been around for about 25 years working with banks and credit unions to provide fraud, risk, and authentication services. It was really a brand that lived behind the scenes. It was white-labeled and offered to organizations to help them improve their security across their products.

A few years ago, Early Warning acquired clearXchange, which is where I originally came from. clearXchange was focused on p2p payments, so people could send money from their bank accounts to another friend at another bank using just an email address or mobile number — all from their banking app.

Early Warning decided to combine the best of all their platforms and create a new solution with a new brand: Zelle. I helped roll out the new brand to the industry at large and drive consumer awareness.

Structuring the marketing team and leveraging partners

We have a pretty lean internal team dedicated to B2B. That’s lead by my colleague. I lead consumer. We have the advertising piece of it, putting out paid media to drive awareness to consumers about the Zelle brand.

We’re in an interesting position with our banks and credit unions that use Zelle. We don’t have to do it all. It’s beneficial to partner with our institutions to help get the name out. We do our own campaigns and we also work closely with banks and credit unions to give them  materials and messaging to reach their customers. People can hear about Zelle from their banks and credit unions that they already know and trust. That’s been huge for awareness.

We have 250 financial institutions signed up on Zelle but they’re not all live yet. We’ve got the large banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. But we also have smaller, community banks we work with, too.

I divide my team thinking through the overall strategy, high level messaging and working with my team to drive this through our own channels, our advertising, and working with our partners to do the same.

Measuring marketing’s success and channel mix

We’re focused most on aided awareness among our target audience. We were very focused on driving awareness when we started because we started at zero. We’re also regularly monitoring transactions and dollar-volume growth we see in the network. We also look at enrollments.

Our first large marketing campaign hit all the channels, including TV and print, because we were really focused on broad awareness. Now, with the campaign we just launched, we’re more narrowly focused on channels we can reach consumers in their daily lives.

We’re in out of home in a few key markets and will be on radio and cinema. We’ll also use digital and social media. One of the things we’ve found that’s been great for us is working with streaming publishers like Hulu. It’s been very effective.

The Everyday Better Campaign 

The Everyday Better campaign is really a continuation of the Zelle brand story. Last year, we were launching the brand, introducing everyone to what Zelle is and how you can use it. In that first campaign, we tried to show that Zelle is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what age or stage you’re in — you can use Zelle in your bank app.

Now, we’re still introducing the brand as people get more familiar with it. We want to drive deeper awareness now. You may not realize all the different ways you can use Zelle in your daily life. It’s not just for splitting the bar tab. It can be used for so much more.

We’re excited about this idea about how Zelle can make your everyday life a little bit better. That’s where the idea came from — finding ways to showcase different Zelle use cases in your everyday life to make it better. We love to look at the positive sides of thing — it’s educational and uplifting.

To highlight certain use cases, we started looking at the transaction data to find popular use cases. We looked at memo fields of all our transactions. Our top three use cases weren’t a surprise: paying rent, splitting bills, and gifting.

Gifting was really interesting to us because we thought there could be a real opportunity to help people feel more comfortable gifting money. Money can be a thoughtful and personal gift. You’ll see some fun highlights around the gifting use case during graduation season and Mothers and Fathers Day.

Zelle’s Everyday Better campaign kicked off on March 18 and will continue through the end of September.

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