Driven to Differentiate

By Cook, Gretchen; Swann, Nicole | Independent Banker, January 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Driven to Differentiate


Cook, Gretchen, Swann, Nicole, Independent Banker


By developing marketing that taps into positive public awareness of community banks, ICBA members appeal to customers by setting themselves apart from the Wall Street crowd

The State Bank of Speer in Illinois developed advertisements promoting its financial strength and stability. Bank Independent in Alabama ran ads featuring the names and faces of its happy and loyal customers. In Massachusetts, Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank profiled its civically active staff members. To make its point, Bank of Ann Arbor in Michigan used playful ads featuring the unusual names of local businesses.

"It's a little hard for outsiders to get the humor of the things we make fun of, but we're not trying to exclude anybody," says marketing officer Rhonda Foxworth of Ann Arbor Bank's offbeat advertisements.

Beyond their humor and homegrown branding, these marketing campaigns promote the timeless truths and values our industry has upheld for decades-integrity, stability, good service and expertise, and long-term civic commitment. What stands out about these campaigns is their timing and context. Launched during the early days of the financial crisis or the subsequent recession, they also conveyed, sometimes directly and other times indirectly, that their Main Street institutions aren't anything like those towering along Wall Street.

"The light bulb went on," Greg Raymo says about the public reaction to a differentiating marketing campaign released last spring by First State Bank Southwest in Worthington, Minn., "and now they totally understand there are benefits to banking locally."

Recessions usually mean businesses considering cutting everything from paper clips to possibly even personnel, but marketing activities often become the first expense items to get squeezed. But some community banks have gone against that grain. Looking beyond the recession, they have made a priority of solidifying their positions as financial institutions that plan to remain independent and in business well into the future.

Operating six locations in mostly agricultural communities, First State Bank has benefited from bumper crops that have supported the local economy and allowed the bank to inject fresh funds into its marketing budget, says Raymo, the bank's executive vice president. "We added about 10 percent to our marketing budget simply to attack the public's perception that all of us banks are alike," he says.

The $182 million-asset community bank's extra marketing spending produced hard-hitting advertisements with the taglines "Local banking, local people, local decisions" and "We're an Oxford Street bank, not a Wall Street bank," referring to the main drag in Worthington, where First State opened in 1903. Those messages appeared in a series of coordinated radio, newspaper and billboard ads. The bank plans to continue its awareness campaign through this year.

The First State Bank campaign was followed by a 28 percent increase in new accounts, a record-breaker for the bank, Raymo says. The campaign also touts the bank's investment in the community in the form of support for nonprofits, partnerships with schools and leveraging of local deposits into loans for agriculture and other businesses. "That is the major difference," says Raymo. "The big bank profits go back to corporate headquarters." That message prompted the Minnesota West Community and Technical College to transfer $2.5 million in capital reserves to First State Bank from Minneapolis megabanks.

But successfully differentiating Main Street community banks from Wall Street financial institutions doesn't necessarily require piles of cash and slick messages, some marketing advisers say. To ride today's favorable currents of public awareness for community banks sparked by the financial crisis, some have temporarily redirected funds from other areas or simply retooled their existing marketing messages.

"You just have to have a solid strategy," says Jane Rea, director of marketing and communications for Bank Independent, which has 28 locations in northern Alabama and close to $1 billion in assets.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Driven to Differentiate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?