LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

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Mobile Can’t Stand Alone

Earlier this month I interviewed the team at Reliant Bank, for an article that will post Monday on The piece is a look inside the late summer release of the community bank’s mobile app, but something I couldn’t include in the story was the other efforts the bank is making to achieve growth in a tough economy. Is a mobile app increasingly becoming a consumer expectation? You betcha. But a mobile app alone won’t generate growth. What else is your bank offering its customers?

Do your customers feel rewarded?

If community banking is largely about relationships, do your customers feel the love? Reliant Bank, a newer community bank in an affluent community, offers rewards checking – not exactly novel, but something that Brian Shaw, chief retail and deposit officer, says has resulted in significant growth of the bank’s client base. Customers earn interest for doing things like using their debit card ten times a month, using online bill pay for transactions, and using online banking. Pretty basic stuff that also encourages their customer base to do more online (which probably saves Reliant money too).

Reliant also waves ATM fees – an important thing for a community bank that can’t be on every corner.

Are you reaching out to current – and future – customers?

If you’ve visited this blog before, you know I’m a big fan of financial literacy. As part of their financial literacy program, Reliant offers a popular, high-interest child’s savings account. Reliant has been able to talk to kids in the schools, and the kids are rewarded for saving with $25 from the bank (or a giftcard). Kids are taught to save – and rewarded for it – with the help of Reliant Bank.

Reliant Bank is also active on Facebook, using the channel to notify customers of new programs (like mobile banking) and for community outreach. If you take a look at their page, most of their posts over the past week are about community events, like a bake sale, customer appreciation days, and seminars available to the public.

What does your bank offer that stands out?

Reliant Bank offers a Groupon-like ‘Raving Fan’ program, connecting Reliant’s business clients to retail customers.

The ‘Raving Fan’ program features local businesses, like area restaurants. Reliant’s retail clients appreciate the discounts to local businesses, while their business clients appreciate the free advertising and connection to consumers.

I love hearing stories of banks that are doing something different. Do you know of a retail bank doing something a little different? Maybe a unique branch concept, or a branding standout? Comment below, or email me at emccormick[at]

Update: The article “Reliant on Mobile”, detailing Reliant Bank’s summer release of their mobile app, is now available.

Think “Brand” New

Who are the great brand builders in banking? Really, I want to know. I’ve been asking that question lately, to little response. Does this lack of response affirm that community banks have a branding problem? If community banks  plan to grow, brand-building is crucial to growing those deposits. For paper towels, sure, I’ll trust generic – but for my mortgage and checking account, I want to know the institution I’ve entrusted with my financial future.

When it comes to brand-building, I can’t help but wonder if, among community banks, so-called younger banks (say, 10 years or younger) have a slight leg up on their staid half-century-old-or-more brethren. Younger banks – perhaps because they’re scrappy, perhaps because they’re working a little harder against the established competition to gain that market position – always seem to have their marketing & branding ducks in a row. Brand builders know who they are, and know how they differ from the competition. Out of the gate the younger banks have to look at how to differentiate from the rest of the area, many times taking advantage of technology as an efficient and cheap way to expand their reach.

Of course, younger banks have their challenges, but established banks can learn from these scrappy branders. Take a hard look at your brand – are you ready for growth, or are you OK with stagnation?

What’s in a name?
Does your bank name reflect who you are? Is it unique? Would your bank benefit from a new name? While Ally Bank was forced to change their name (due to GM’s bankruptcy back in 2009), the bank has done a stellar job of marketing through that name as an “Ally” to their customers.

How are you expanding your reach?
What are you offering your customers (and how are you attracting new ones)? Online and mobile are great ways to expand your reach – you don’t need to need to have a branch on every corner.

Not ready to take that tech step yet? Paducah Bank of Paducah, Kentucky invites its customers to “Get Wowed!”.  Aside from the usual involvement in the community, Paducah Bank has an ice cream truck for use by businesses, churches, schools and other organizations that bank with Paducah Bank. They’ve also published Wow! magazine (originally Expressions) since 2003, highlighting not only staff but customers as well.

One other thing: ever notice that all the banks that are getting “brand buzz” are heavily engaged in social media?
Will mobile payments create the most significant revenue opportunities of the decade for financial institutions? Free video from PwC.

Speaking of rebranding: How Ally Bank gets social media right.

Half-Baked Marketing = Missed Opportunities

Late last week I came across a contest run by a (not local to me) community bank. “What a fantastic marketing idea!” I thought. “What a way to go beyond free gas!” I thought.

“What a way to take an idea only halfway!” was the reality.

The bank had a great idea – a local photo contest (think cute baby) gets the community involved. The bank even set up a dedicated website to allow online voting and entry. The website was attractive, cleanly designed and appeared to be simple to use.

Here’s where they dropped the ball.

Curious, as I am, regarding how far they took the campaign, I search on Facebook. The bank attempted a Facebook page two years ago, but appeared to abandon it soon after. Twitter? Not there either.

Facebook could have tied in wonderfully with this campaign, and helped this contest go viral. I haven’t named the bank, and don’t know how successful the campaign was, but still: what a missed opportunity.

Marketing isn’t limited now to “just direct mail” and “just email” these days, and just a website alone isn’t going to cut it. Look at where your customers are, and where they want to interact with you. Build social media into your marketing mix. As this contest proves, your online presence doesn’t have to be “all about banking” – and promotional tools like photo contests are tailor-made for Facebook.

In other news:

Is Banking’s Future in the Cloud? My debut piece for Great insights from Tom Garcia, CEO of InfoSight, Anil Cheriyan, CIO of SunTrust, and Michael Bryan, CIO of Bank of North Carolina.

The FDIC is encouraging banks to reach the unbanked.

Glad to see my colleague, Al Dominick, back to blogging. Will community banks be for sale when M&A picks up?

Oh No, Flo!

Anyone following the news lately can see that Flo’s in trouble.

Well, not Flo really. Love her or hate her, she has come to personify the Progressive brand. But Progressive hurt its own brand image through its response to claims that the insuror went against its own customer in court, backing the defendent to avoid paying the victim’s family.

In short, Progressive took a tough-to-defend position, and when it went viral they tried to robo-tweet their way out. Since then I’ve heard murmurings that maybe the financial industry needs to stay out of social media.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The complaint that first went viral came via Tumblr, and exploded from there. Even if Progressive wasn’t ‘social’, this would have been public already. Progressive’s misstep was to auto-tweet a response to each and every complaint. Misstep may be an understatement – by auto-tweeting a cold, legalese response, the company instead made a mountain out of a molehill.

Don’t look at Progressive’s debacle as a cautionary tale against social media – instead, look at it as a cautionary tale against social media’s misuse. Progressive’s auto-tweets were a serious error. Social media instead could have been used respectfully and responsibly to address the issue – perhaps directing those interested in a video by Progressive CEO Glenn Renwick (not Flo – save her for the ads) talking about the case at hand. A look at Progressive’s newsroom shows not one mention of the incident – this would have been a perfect spot to house a singular, definitive response.

Social media has changed the landscape of news, information, and interaction. It’s here to stay. So get on board – and look to cases like the Progressive Auto-Tweet Debacle of 2012 as a perfect study of how NOT to use the medium.

Of course, some in the financial space are already doing it right:
– A look at a credit union’s Facebook launch (via Financial Brand).
– SVP of Social Media at Citi, Frank Eliason, is #positivelysocial. You’ll find his blog here.

To Pin or Not To Pin?

I HEART Pinterest. In the few months since joining the site, I’ve amassed 753 pins on 22 boards – and still manage to somehow have a life around it.

The latest buzz amongst social media types involves how brands can take advantage of this new source. So should you hop on Pinterest? Before you come aboard, take a step back and make sure it works with your brand – and the audience you want to reach.

Are the ready to embrace the feminine?

I don’t like stereotypes, but I recently saw this quote: “Men are from Google+, Women are from Pinterest” – and that’s getting it pretty close. Econsultancy looked into the demographics of Pinterest to discover that Pinterest users are largely female and young (between 25-44). Would your brand benefit from reaching out to women?

Pinterest isn’t one for conversation.

If you’re expecting to make connections and engage in conversation – like on Twitter or LinkedIn – Pinterest is not going to meet expectations. Think of Pinterest as more of an ideas exchange – tutorials, recipes, etc…

It’s all about the visual.

Pinterest is a feast for the eyes. If you can’t find a way to make it visual, then it doesn’t make sense for your brand to be there.

So who can make it work on Pinterest?

Pinterest is better suited for consumer marketing than B2B, where relationships matter so much more. Martha Stewart has amassed almost 19,000 followers, with pins focusing on food, crafts and DIY projects. Boston jeweler Gemvara is a good fit for Pinterest – the company decided to join after noticing that their customers were already posting pictures of their products. Even the U.S. Army seems to have found a way to represent themselves on Pinterest, using both historical and current photos to show the Army “then and now” – with pins for patriotic recipes and crafts thrown in as well.

Is your company using Pinterest in an interesting way? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Are you a banker interested in social media? Read “Social Anxiety”  from last summer’s issue of  Bank Director.