Nationwide bank and financial companies

Nationwide bank and MarketingThe principal subsidiary of the $66.(Y-billion Shearson Lehman I Brothers Molding Inc. and a registered broker dealer, Shearson Lehman Mutton inc serves nearly three million households in the U.S. and throughout the world. The company has 680 branches and a sales force of 1 1.500 financial consultants.

With a total capital base of $4.2 billion, among the largest capital strength in the industry, the company offers an unsurpassed range and quality of investor and financial services to individuals, institutions, corporations and governments on a global basis.

New York-based Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc. found the need for advice to be closely aligned to a need for information. Not relying on in-house perceptions of their customers’ inclinations, Shearson’s management interviewed client:-, directly. Summing up this approach, the line’s executive vice president and director of Marketing, Calhlcen Stewart, says, ‘If you take the time to really listen to your customers, without getting defensive, they can tell you an awful lot.”

And through 1,000 personal interviews with Americans who are typical of the company’s target market, the upscale consumer (specifically, 35 plus age; $50,000 plus household income), Shearson did learn a lot. An important fact emerged- Money is secondary only lo health in terms of importance. The respondents in Shearson’s telephone interviews were also looking for financial information on which to base then own personal moneys decisions. Hence the concept, “The Serious Investor,” and Shearson’s advertising tag-line, “Minds Over Money.”

The five-year campaign was a series of .tail, print and television ads using black and white imagery, stressing the seriousness of the subject — money and the need for consumers to “invest their lime before they invest their money.” Post-campaign research on Shearson customers and prospects reconfirmed that affluent Americans rank a company’s ethics as their number one financial criteria, followed closely by the company’s seriousness about money.

The success of the Minds Over Money campaign spawned an equally productive secondary series, the “Where We Stand” column. Running weekly in lop U.S. newspapers (Wall Street Week for three years and more recently, (1. S. A. ‘today), this, ad column provides information on what the company believes to have occurred in the financial markets during the previous week and the investment implications of this information.

Stewart believes these campaigns have radically altered the way brokerage firms do business, accelerating a growing awareness of the need to find out what the consumer really wants from an investment firm. Obviously the Minds Over Money and Where We Stand campaigns did hit the heartstrings of many American consumers. Advertising tracking studies revealed a tripling in awareness levels. Plus company image attributes have continued to show significant increases year to year.

Financial companies are perceived by some consumers as intimidating, overbearing and insensitive. For these people, a little respect and courtesy is what they are looking for in their financial institution. San   Francisco-based First Nationwide capitalized on that need.

First Nationwide Bank executive vice president, Casey MacKenzie, summarizes how the firm discovered their customers’ needs. “Two years ago, we began using outside researchers regularly to do customer intercepts, and to ‘shop’ our branches, our customer service telephone numbers, and our competitors.” But customer focus groups have really been the research technique of choice for First Nationwide. Former CEO Anthony Frank2 explains this preference, “Focus studies just stimulate more brain cells with us.”

The $18-billion bank gained valuable insight into what makes its customers tick, and also what ticks them off about financial institutions. “They don’t like any of us because we always set up a confrontational situation between customers and employees,” explains MacKenzie. She continues with an example. “When someone comes in to get a loan, instead of treating them like a person who is going to make us money, we treat them like flakes; we make them leap over barriers.”

“And yet,” says MacKenzie, “Customers are so reasonable. They don’t want extraordinary rates, they don’t even expect to be treated exceptionally well. They just want a little concern, a little respect.” And that is what First Nationwide’s new advertising campaign promises — “We treat you with respect, concern and understanding. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!” MacKenzie stresses this is something the firm can truly deliver.

“It doesn’t say we are perfect or the best, it just says that when you come into our bank, we are going to treat you the way we’d like to be treated.”

The “Respect, Concern and Understanding” consumer campaign was launched in October 1987 in First Nationwide’s markets across the United States. Supported by in-branch marketing materials, the 1987 campaign consisted of various television and newspaper ads. In January 1988, a combination of television and national magazine advertising launched the campaign throughout the First Nationwide Network, a franchising venture by the bank of independent savings institutions throughout the United States. Subsequent tracking studies revealed an increase in national awareness levels of the Respect, Concern and Understanding slogan, and both First Nationwide Bank and the First Nationwide Network.

First Nationwide’s experience provides a good example of how to ensure that your products and promotional messages are consistent with the strengths of your company. When prompted to envision their dream financial institution, customers are want to ask for the moon. However, offering such a heavenly orb may be a bit beyond your firm’s resources. A fine balance needs to be maintained, just as First Nationwide achieved, between what is wanted (by customers) and what is possible (through your resources).

Financial companies have always delighted in adding endless bells and whistles to their products, to the increasing exasperation of their customers. The following example chronicles the success of one financial firm that broke through ‘the dazzle them with everything but the kitchen sink’ barrier.

In the early eighties, Great-West Life Assurance Company, a full-line life insurance company operating in both Canada and the United States, began developing a product in response to consumers’ demands for value and simplicity. The following story centers on the Canadian part of the firm.

In reaction to claims by consumer advocate groups that Canadian insurance companies confounded the issue of insurance value (specifically inflation protection and flexibility) through so-called innovations, Great-West began its odyessy to find a better and simpler product. After two years of grappling with the problem, including research by several committees who interviewed the firm’s field personnel, Great-West introduced a revolutionary insurance product, “Living Life,” with one key feature — simplicity.

Living Life was simple to understand. It was an inflation-proof life insurance account for a customer’s entire family, one that grew and changed with the family’s needs. This flexibility also made it simple to hold. An entirely new administration system was built with simplicity in mind; hence, reporting to the customer was easy and complete; Living Life policyholders knew just what value they had in their policies.

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