Big Changes In Snarketingville

This week marks the 8th anniversary of the first blog post I ever wrote. It was titled CYA (Count Your Assets) and had something to do with the need for marketing departments to identify and quantify their assets–sales, information, and infrastructure assets–in order to demonstrate marketing’s contributions, analyze spending patterns, and evaluate marketing’s efficiency. The post has received about 40 hits in eight years–including one this year. Woot!

It’s likely that few of you know the history of Snarketing 2.0 (as the 2nd subscriber, @dmgerbino does). It’s also likely that even fewer of you care to know, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

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Back in December 2006, when I started blogging, the blog was called Marketing ROI, because I thought people would search on that term and find my blog. Yes, I was a clueless idiot.

After a couple of years, I renamed the blog the Marketing Tea Party, trying to evoke both the Boston tea party and the Alice in Wonderland tea party. My timing couldn’t have been worse, coming just months before “tea party” became a household once again in the US. Yes, this was a dumb ass move.

After a while, it dawned on me that I might be losing readers turned off by the political connotations (despite the lack of connection). “Screw them!” (the people who wouldn’t read my blog, not the tea partiers) was my prevailing thought, but not a good marketing decision. So, in December 2011, I renamed the site Snarketing 2.0. Not that there was ever a 1.0, but nobody wants to read anything with 1.0 in its title. Finally did something right with the blog.

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Blogging life has been good here at Snarketing 2.0. Named #1 blog for financial services marketers by The Financial Brand in 2013. Listed as one of the 25 best marketing blogs by Radius in 2014. Good stuff. Very proud of that.

Come the new year, however, there will be some big changes here in Snarketingville. Starting January 5, 2015, Snarketing 2.0 will become a column on The Financial Brand. Snarketing 2.0 will no longer be a standalone blog.

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At this point, you might have one or more questions like:

  • Who cares what you do with Snarketing 2.0?
  • Why would you fold your blog into The Financial Brand? and
  • What should I have for lunch?

I don’t know the answer to the last question. Or the 1st one for that matter. I’m not sure even my mother cares. Actually, I don’t think she knows that I have a blog.

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As for the 2nd question, I might have some answers. What Jeffry Pilcher has done with The Financial Brand in the past few years is nothing short of incredible. It isn’t just the premier publication for financial services marketers, it’s becoming the premier publication for financial services. Period.

Incorporating my blog into The Financial Brand is an attempt to get in front of a wider audience, especially at a time when I have a book coming out, and am looking to increase the number of speaking engagements that I do.

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I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some reservations. I get to do what I want with this blog–for better and worse. I’ve got complete control over how this blog looks. Which, of course, is why moving my blog into Financial Brand is a good move, because as you can clearly see, I am clueless when it comes to site design.

And I have to admit to fears of being lost in the sauce at The Financial Brand. On this blog, I’m the big fish in the pond. Actually, I’m the only fish. It’s my pond. At The Financial Brand, I’m just another fish in the pond. I’ll be a piranha, however, so those other fish better look out.

As for editorial control or influence, I’m giving up nothing. In the discussions about the move, I recall The Financial Brand asking me to not bad-mouth the advertisers. I said “OK, as long as they don’t do or say anything stupid.” I think the response was “That seems fair.”

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If you subscribe to this blog, thank you. I’m not sure yet how it will work, if you’ll still get notifications or the posts through email, if that’s how you get them today. I’m working with The Financial Brand to figure out how to make this as seamless as possible.

Thanks for reading. See you (soon) at The Financial Brand.

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Why Consumers Should Fear Mobile Banking

The Financial Brand recently reported on a study conducted by GOBankingRates which found that a little more than half of consumers–56%–indicated that they have a “main concern” about mobile banking.

My take: The survey really goes to show how clueless people really are.

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Let’s take a deeper look into some of peoples’ “concerns” with mobile banking.

Less than a handful (3%) of respondents cited “no paper documentation.” I’m sure these people don’t buy anything online, either, because there’s no paper documentation with those transactions. If there are 3% of people in the world who will only transact face-to-face so they can get a paper receipt, so be it. I think banks can live without having these folks as mobile banking customers.

Seven percent of respondents listed “misuse of personal info” as their main concern. Apparently, these people haven’t heard about any of the data breaches that have hit Target, Home Depot, and the gazillion other merchants who have been hit. Bet these 7% still have no problem using their debit and credit cards when they make those face-to-face purchases.

Nine percent said “technical errors” were their main concern with mobile banking. These people are actually on to something. Fear of technical errors is my biggest concern with banking–not “mobile” banking, but banking altogether. Of course, the last time I had a problem with my bank, it was a matter of “human” error–not technical error–and I was the human who made the error.

Far and away, the largest percentage of respondents with a main concern regarding mobile banking was the 37% who cited identify theft as their concern.  Identity theft? How’s that going to happen? These people clearly don’t have a clue what the most common causes of ID theft are. And I can’t help but wonder how many of these 37% are banking online. Checking your account balance and moving funds between accounts is OK to do on a PC, but not a smartphone or tablet? 

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The reasons people are giving for “fearing” mobile banking are baseless. If you need a reason to fear mobile banking, I’ll give you some good reasons:

3) Snakes will come squirming out of your smartphone when you use a mobile banking app. I’m not saying this has ever happened before, but it could. And that would be a helluva lot scarier than not having paper documentation of the transaction.

2) Your mobile banking app will access the naked pictures of yourself you keep on your phone, and post them on Facebook. And I’m sorry to tell you this, but that’s scarier for the rest of us than it is for you.

And the #1 best reason for fearing mobile banking….

1) You will give your ID and password to a phisher and try to use a mobile banking app to change that password before the hacker gets into your account–but the mobile banking app won’t let you do it. Sadly, this is true, and I learned it the hard way.

Of course, it hasn’t stopped me from continuing to use my bank’s mobile banking app. But at least my fears of mobile banking are grounded in reality.

 

Can We Trust The Trust Numbers?

Each year, there seems to be no shortage of well-publicized surveys showing how much trust consumers have in banks, and how that trust has changed since the previous survey. What is it about the banking industry that makes bankers obsess over whether or not their customers trust them? You’d think that brain surgeons would be as concerned with their patients’ level of trust in them, but noooo.

A recent Harris poll (as reported in The Financial Brand) found that:

“Local credit unions and local/community banks are the most trusted institutions, with over three-quarters of Americans having some or a great deal of trust in them. Big national banks rank second to last, having the trust of only 50% of Americans….while 42% state they have no trust at all or very little trust in these institutions. Online-only banks are seen as the least trustworthy, with only 39% of Americans having at least some trust and 47% having no or very little trust in them.”

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With these data points in hand, credit unions go into full-on Sally Field mode: “They like us! They really like us!”

A lot of good it does, though. According the BusinessWeek’s estimates, the top 3 banks in the country have 33% market share, with the top 10 banks holding nearly 50%. And those market shares appear to have grown over the past few years. Despite low levels of consumer trust.

One community bank CMO used the trust data to support his contention, in an editorial in American Banker, that community banks and credit unions should go “negative” against big banks in marketing campaigns. Like community banks and credit unions haven’t already been doing that for the past five years, and to practically no avail.

Here’s what I have trouble reconciling: On one hand (as reported by Harris), credit unions are the most trusted financial institutions. On the other hand, it would be appear to be common knowledge that credit unions are the industry’s “best kept secret” (you can peruse the 16.2 million results to a Google search for “credit unions best kept secret”).

How can credit unions be the most trusted if nobody knows about them?

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Harris also found that online-only banks are the least trustworthy. REALLY? How would consumers know that? What percentage of the population has actually done business with an online-only bank? (I don’t know. It’s a serious question).

I can’t imagine that it’s a particular large percentage. Yet some researcher thinks it’s OK to ask consumers about their trust in something those consumers have no experience with, and to publish the results as if it were gospel.

Interestingly, a day or so after publishing the results of the Harris trust survey, Jim Marous published a piece in The Financial Brand titled Is It Time For Digital-Only Banking? citing a Javelin Research study which found that “71% of those who use mobile banking say that online and mobile banking is sufficient for their needs.”

Marous is asking a great question, and I don’t dispute Javelin’s findings in any way. But how do you reconcile that with Harris’ findings that consumers have little (or no) trust in online-only banks?

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According to the Harris poll, half of US adults say their trust in banks has declined over the past few years.

Edelman would beg to differ. Or, at least, they could beg to differ.

According to Edelman’s trust survey, which they conduct annually, 38% of Americans trusted banks in 2009. In 2014, that percentage increased to 46%. By the way, as a point of comparison, 48% of Americans’ said they trusted “businesses in general,” so the level of trust in banks isn’t too far out of line.

So, is trust in banks increasing or declining? The answer is: Whatever you want it to be.

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I might not be comparing apples to apples with the Harris and Edelman studies.

Harris appears to capture the “change in a consumer’s level of trust” while Edelman is reporting the change in the “overall percentage of consumers” that trust banks. It’s conceivable that there are a lot of people who a few years ago said they had “very little” trust in banks, and today said they have “no” trust, which, of course, would be a declining level of trust.

This raises questions I don’t hear a lot of people asking: What does it really mean to have a “great deal,” “some,” “very little,” and “no” level of trust?  Is your definition of “great deal” of trust the same as mine? Is trust a “bucket” which we can accurately measure how filled it is?

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Bottom line: If the trust survey data tell a story that supports your financial institution, please don’t let my comments–or any modicum of common sense–get in your way of using the data to your advantage. That’s what quantipulation is all about!

But please don’t deceive yourself into thinking that the findings from these studies have any correlation to who consumers bank with, or how they make their decisions about who to do business with.

 

Consumers Don’t Really Want Portable Checking Account Numbers

Switching Banks

According to a study conducted by BT and YouGov, 61% of US banking customers want portable banking account numbers. As reported by The Financial Brand:

“The research, which surveyed more than 6,500 people across six countries, found most consumers agreeing that a portable account number — one allowing them to switch banks without changing account details and causing major disruptions — would be useful.”

My take: No way. US consumers don’t want a “portable” banking account number (can’t speak to consumers in other countries, though).

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There’s an old marketing parable (?) that “people don’t want a drill, they want a hole.” This talk of portable banking account numbers is the same thing. 

What people want is less hassle closing accounts. If you tell them a portable banking account number will accomplish that, then, sure, they’ll tell you that they want portable banking account numbers. 

We want portable phone numbers across carriers because we tell so many people our number that switching numbers is a pain. Plus, I have a really cool number (because I’m a Yankees fan in Boston — remind me to tell you that story one day), and there’s no way I’ll give it up. 

But you’ve got to be one really strange nerd to know your checking account number, and be adverse to giving it up. 

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This kind of research scares me. 

Why is BT and YouGov asking US consumers if they want portable bank account numbers?

BT stands for British Telecom, no? Go back to England, BT. We have enough crappy telcos in this country, already, thank you very much. 

YouGov, on the other hand, according to its website, “is a professional research and consulting organization, pioneering the use of technology to collect higher quality, in-depth data for companies, governments, and institutions so that they can better serve the people that sustain them.”

The people sustain the government? Huh?

If this research is aimed at influencing US policy on making it easier for consumers to switch banks by creating portable account numbers, they better be careful what they ask for. 

After all the Dodd-Frank disasters, I wouldn’t expect our government to have any foresight on unanticipated consequences, but government attempts to make it easier for consumers to switch banks by mandating portable account numbers will backfire.  

The cost of deploying this scheme is way beyond my ability. But I will bet that two things will happen:

1) FIs will pass the cost on the consumers, and

2) FIs will deploy other tactics to make it tough to switch — like 2-year contracts like the telcos use. 

In an interesting article on Financial Brand, Mike Branton of Strategy Corps reports on research that shows that consumers express a willingness to pay for what Mike calls “lifestyle financial services” like identity theft alerts and credit score reporting.

Want those services for free? No problem. Just renew your checking account contract for another 2 years, and we’ll throw in ID theft alerts for free. 

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Each year (at least for the past couple of years that I’ve seen research for), no more than 10% of US consumers switch banks. And it’s not for certain that it’s a different 10% each year. 

Why do we need a government policy that adversely impacts the other 90% to serve the 10%? Is that “fair” (which seems to be the mantra of the current administration)? 

It’s not like a policy mandating portable bank account numbers will help the unbanked. They don’t have account numbers. 

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Making it difficult to switch bank accounts is a fundamental element of Porterian (you know, Michael Porter of Harvard) strategy: Create barriers to exit.

Does this it make it inconvenient for the minority of consumers who want to switch? Yes.

But, boo hoo. We have bigger issues in the financial services industry to fix than this.  

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There’s another disconnect in this situation, as well. 

While there’s no doubt that (many) banks make it difficult to switch — out of them, that is — there seems to be no shortage of banks (and credit unions) touting how easy it is to switch to them. Here’s one example from one large regional bank:

This is just one example. There are plenty of other examples I could have included, especially from credit unions.

So, is it easy or not? 

If it is, then we certainly don’t need portable account numbers. And if it’s not, then there are a lot of FIs make false advertising claims.