Marketing: STAR Bank Scores with March Madness Debit Card Promo

star bank home

I’m not sure whether I like current-events-themed promotions because they are effective or because they make for timely blog posts (probably the latter, but I’ll continue to believe in the former).

While it seems that banks have been dropping the ball on the year-end holidays, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bank doing a full-court press around March Madness. It’s an annual tradition of binge sports watching as the top 68 U.S. colleges play a single elimination tournament during the last 3 weeks of March.

STAR Bank ($1.6 billion in deposits) has a homepage-dominating ad for Game Time, a debit-card sweeps during march (see above). Cardholders that conduct at least 17 transactions are automatically entered to win one of five $100 statement credits. Customers can also enter the contest online, a user-friendly way to comply with U.S. sweepstakes rules (see bottom of landing page below).

Bottom line: The graphics are eye catching, the timing is perfect, and it’s easy for customers to participate. My only concern would be the size of the prize pool, which is only $500. For a month-long sweeps, there should be a bigger grand prize. How about this? A sweet sixteen earning $100 each, a final four winning $500 each and a champion taking home $1,500.


Promotion landing page (link, 16 March 2007)

star bank march madness landing

 

Author: Jim Bruene is Founder & Senior Advisor to Finovate as well as
Principal of BUX Advisors, a financial services UX consultancy. 

It’s Holiday Loan Time

MembersPlus Credit Union Holiday Loan Promotion (#2 of 3 in rotation)
MembersPlus Credit Union Holiday Loan Promotion (#2 of 3 in rotation)

 

I’ve been slightly obsessed with holiday-themed marketing, actually the lack of it, over the years. It’s not that I think putting a bow on your website will magically improve your return on equity (ROE). It’s that by not doing anything, it seems like you are just not trying. You put holiday decorations up in branches, why wouldn’t you extend that same thinking to your digital look and feel?

And it doesn’t have to be an extra cost (like those in-branch decorations). You can push holiday-themed promotions to cover the costs of the website changes and then some. One example, primarily offered by U.S. credit unions, is the so-called Holiday Loan (see other examples in our past coverage). These are small (usually under $5,000, sometimes just $1,000) unsecured installment loans to help families with surging holiday expenses. These loans typically must be repaid within 12 months so they are not outstanding next Christmas.

In poking around the web this afternoon, we saw a number of examples at credit unions (and the lone bank). My favorite was this promotion from MembersPlus Credit Union, a 10,000-member CU in the Boston area. Its Holiday Loan is currently featured on the homepage with a good supporting holiday graphic. The 7.99% APR is fair and undercuts most bank revolving credit and the 1-year payback schedule is good for helping members repay the debt before it becomes a burden a year from now. The maximum loan amount is $5,000.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget the hot chocolate!

The MemberPlus homepage currently display an eye-catching promo for its upcoming Member Appreciation Days (promo #1 of 3 in rotation).
The MembersPlus homepage currently displays an eye-catching promo for its upcoming Member Appreciation Days (promo #1 of 3 in rotation).

Friday Favorites: Financial Institutions Honor Veterans

If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s honoring and celebrating the service of our veterans both past and present. Given the contentious election week in the United States, you’d think U.S. financial institutions would be rolling out the red, white and blue on their websites on Veterans Day today. But there was surprisingly little activity at the major banks. Most had the same old-same old on their homepages. Even Navy Federal Credit Union passed on adding anything extra for the day.

The only top-50 banks with Veterans Day graphics were Bank of America, Zions and of course USAA, all displaying page-dominating graphics on their homepages (see below). We also looked at a few credit unions (at random) and found BMI Federal Credit Union and PenFed honoring vets (see below).

Zions bank homepage featuring Veterans Day homage
Zions bank homepage featuring Veterans Day homage (11 Nov 2016)

 

USAA homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)
USAA homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)

 

Bank of America Veterans Day image on homepage (11 Nov 2016)
Bank of America Veterans Day image on homepage (11 Nov 2016)

 

penfed-veterans-day-homepage
PenFed Credit Union homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)

 

bmi-fcu-vets-day
BMI Federal Credit Union leads with a Veterans Day announcement (11 Nov 2016)

Happy New Year! Webster Bank Jumpstarts Financial Resolutions

newyearbanner_SFFCUWhile I have taken banks and credit unions to task for basically ignoring the December holiday period, the real missed opportunity is not Christmas, but New Years. The annual calendar reboot is the time when people are most likely to be thinking about their long-term finances.

Three years ago, I found only one example of a new year’s message among the largest 80 banks and credit unions. This year I looked at a few dozen websites more or less at random and again found just a single “look at your finances” message. Webster Bank not only showcased a page-dominating “financial checkup” spot, but also incorporated the message into their main pull-down (mouseover) “Bank” navigation (see first screenshot below).

The promotion is designed to get Webster customers into the branch, or on the phone, for a financial checkup. The service appears to be free of charge, although the bank doesn’t reveal specifics. Customers are asked to complete a contact-me form (see second screenshot below) with just a single qualifying question, whether the appointment is to discuss business or personal finances.

While Webster was the only FI playing the “new year resolution” card, South Florida Federal Credit Union gets an honorable mention for its timely Happy New Year graphic, one of four rotating promotions running at year-end (see last screenshot below and inset above).

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Webster Bank homepage (31 Dec 2015)
Note: The pull-down menus shown here also carries a similar message

websterbank_newyear_2016

 

Webster “Fresh Look” landing page (link)

webster_newyear_2


South Florida FCU homepage
(31 Dec 2015)

southfloridaCU_newyears

2015 Holiday Marketing Efforts from the Top-20 U.S. Banks

The end of the year provides a unique challenge to banks. Customers are busy buying gifts, finishing year-end projects at work, and preparing for holiday travel, meal prep and/or extended family time. There isn’t an abundance of deep thought about long-term financial plans, other than how to pay down inflated December credit card bills.

For banks, it’s a good time to run a few simple messages:

  1. Thank customers for a great year
  2. Wish them happy holidays and/or a wonderful new year
  3. Help customers deal with holiday overspending and planning for the new year
  4. Provide last-minute gift assistance via prepaid MasterCard/Visa cards
  5. Detail holiday branch hours and service options (extra credit for an online/mobile banking plug)

This is not a tall order, yet only 9 of the 20 largest banks managed to do even 1 of the above 5 during the week leading up to Christmas. While that may not seem like a great performance, it was more than double the measly four last year. And it’s back in line with historical norms of 9 banks 2013; 8 in 2012; and 10 in 2011. It looks like 2014 was an anomaly.

Congrats to PNC Bank, which once again, proved it was the holiday champ thanks to its long-running 12 Days of Christmas Index, earning a full 5 bulbs on our 1-to-5 light bulb scale. Runner-up Key Bank moved up to an impressive 4-bulb performance with four holiday promos. And we had three 3-bulbers (Fifth Third, BMO Harris, Union Bank) who posted impressive holiday graphics.

The scrooge list: Top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 23 Dec 2015:
Bank of America; Bank of the West (BNP Paribas); BB&T; Capital One & Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct); Chase (note 2); Citizens (RBS); HSBC; SunTrust; US Bank; Wells Fargo; Zions Bank.

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011(CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004.

_____________________________________________________________________

Large U.S. banks show holiday spirit

PNC Bank

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

pnc_holiday2015
PNC Christmas Price Index page:

pnc_holiday_2015_2

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Key Bank

  • Checking account promo with holiday imagery (1 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Security tips related to holiday spending (2 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Rewards promo with holiday image (lower left on homepage)
  • Credit card promo with holiday copy (lower right on homepage)

Score: imageimageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):

key_holiday2015
Homepage promo #2:

key_holiday2015_2

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Fifth Third Bank

  • Page-dominating “wishes”

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

53_holiday2015

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BMO Harris

  • Community service announcing a Milwaukee holiday display (#2 of 3 rotating promos)
  • Security message related to holidays and its new chip card (#3 of 3 rotating promos)

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):

bmoharris_holiday2015

Homepage promo #2:

bmoharris_holdiday2015_2

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Union Bank

  • Rose Bowl parade float (#1 of 4 promos)
  • Billpay offer with charity tie-in (#2 of 4 promos)

Score: imageimageimage

Homepage promo #1 (23 Dec 2015):unionbank_holiday2015
Homepage promo #2:unionbank_holiday2015_2

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Comerica

  • Gift card promo integrated into main image (promo 2 of 3 rotating)

Score: imageimageimage (2.5)

Homepage (23 Dec 2015):

comerica_holiday2015

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Regions Bank

  • Loan discount with holiday copy (well below the fold)

Score: imageimage

Homepage with loan offer (23 Dec 2015):

regions_holiday_2015
Landing page for loan offer:

regions_holiday2015_2

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TD Bank

  • Checking account promo with holiday imagery and Samsung giveaway (main promo)

Score: imageimage

Homepage with checking promo (23 Dec 2015):

tdbank_holiday2015

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Citibank

  • Year-end home-equity promo with winter imagery

Score: image

citi_holiday_2015

 

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Notes:
1. Observations taken between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wed, 23 Dec 2015, from a Florida IP address, running Mac Chrome browser with cookies cleared.
2. Chase is running a series of newish articles/posts below the fold, one of which covered holiday budgeting. But it wasn’t prominent enough to move them off the scrooge list.
3. Animation from
http://www.millan.net/anims/christmas.html#

US Bank Adds “Thank a Banker” to Homepage

usbank_thankabanker_boxUS Bank has been on a roll lately, appearing in our blog more times this summer than in the previous three years. Its latest novelty? A unique “thank a banker” function, complete with smiley face emoji, prominently located at the bottom-middle of homepage (below the fold on my 13-inch laptop). It’s shown to both customers and non-customers.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I don’t see the harm, it would seem to be a fairly low-usage feature to warrant homepage real estate. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It’s great brand positioning, essentially saying, ‘Hey, look. we aren’t one of those impersonal banks. Our customers love us so much we have to put a box on our homepage to collect all the compliments.’

And then if anyone actually does use it, the bank gets a stream of attaboy/girls to send out to staff. Clever. Hopefully, the bank sends the customer a nice thank-you email (I hadn’t received one 30 minutes after submitting form).

The website function is outsourced to an employee-recognition specialist, OC Tanner. An ewardcenter.com URL is displayed to US Bank customers as they fill out the 13-field form, a hefty 9 of which are required fields (see second screenshot below).

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More importantly, I like the Labor Day loan sale at the top of the US Bank homepage (see below). It’s traditionally a big car-buying weekend, so it’s a great time to promote vehicle lending, especially with the still ridiculously low APRs available here.

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US Bank homepage (3 Sep 2015, 10:00 a.m. Pacific):

usbank_home_0915

US Bank “thank-a-banker” form (link):

usbank_thankabanker

 

 

Holidays Promotions (or lack thereof) at Top-20 Banks

For the past 10 years, I’ve done a year-end post looking at holiday promotions at the largest U.S. banks. And surprisingly, fewer banks than anytime since 2004 were running holiday messages in the days before Christmas. This year, only four of the 20 largest banks referenced the holidays on their homepages. That compares to nine banks last year, eight in 2012, and 10 in 2011.

I’m at a loss to explain the retreat. My guess is that holiday promotions simply don’t drive measurable sales lift. But these are massive retail banks and I’d think that virtual holiday decorations would be in the branding budget. Perhaps that, too, was tapped out by year end.

Here are the holiday participants this year:

As usual, PNC Bank led the pack with its three-decade-long holiday CPI (Christmas Present Index). Fifth Third and Comerica were reasonably decked out for the holidays. Finally, Citizens (RBS) had a small holiday message in the lower right (see screenshots below).

While we catalogued only the top 20, many other banks and credit unions displayed creative holiday promotions and/or messaging. For example, Navy Federal Credit Union featured several holiday messages on its homepage the day before Christmas Eve (see screenshot) and Huntington Bank used an eye-catching graphic to pitch its rewards card (screenshot below).

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 24 Dec 2014:
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), BB&T, BBVA Compass, Capital One & Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Chase, Citibank, Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, Key Bank, SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), US Bank, Wells Fargo, Zions Bank.

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2013, 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004

_____________________________________________________________________

Top-20 banks in the holiday spirit
(rated from 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Tuesday morning, 24 Dec 2014)

PNC Bank

  • Animated Great Carol Comeback tied to its annual 12 Days of Christmas CPI price index (which it has published for the past 30 years)
  • Visa tie-in for holiday spending (lower left)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its “12 days of Christmas” price index

image

Landing page: Each of the 12 items from the famous song have humorous animations (link)

image

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Fifth Third Bank

  • MasterCard Gift Card promo (#3 in 3-promo rotation)
  • Happy holiday greeting (#2 in 3-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimageimage

Homepage promo #3

image

Homepage promo #2

image

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Comerica

  • Gift card promo in lower-left of main homepage
  • Large gift card in main promo area on main personal page (#1 in 3-promo rotation) with engaging holiday graphics (same promo ran the last 2 years)

Score: imageimageimage

 

image

 

image

————————–

Citizens Bank (RBS)

  • Holiday tie-in for credit card cashback

Score: image

image

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Bonus standout: Navy Federal Credit Union

  • Happy holiday message with snowman at top of page
  • Cash rewards credit card offer displayed mid-page with bright holiday colors
  • Holiday rewards reminder in lower right

Score: imageimageimageimage

image

—————————-

Bonus #2: Huntington Bank

  • Triple rewards credit card offer in mid-page with bright holiday colors

Score: imageimageimage

image

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Notes:
1. Observations taken between 6:30 AM and 8 AM, Eastern Time, on Wed, 24 Dec 2014, from a Florida IP address, running Mac Chrome browser with cookies cleared.
2. Animation from
http://www.millan.net/anims/christmas.html#

Holiday Website Promotions at the Top 20 Banks

Banks have ratcheted up the design aspects of their websites substantially during the past 18 months. But in my annual look at holiday website designs, I found little change over past years. Only nine of the 20 largest U.S. banks displayed any holiday graphics or promos this year. That’s one more than last year, but still one less than 2010.

Here’s a rundown of the 2013 holiday UIs:

Once again PNC Bank led the pack with its three-decades-long holiday CPI (Christmas present index). Zions Bank and Comerica (with the same promo as last year) were decked out in full-screen holiday graphics. Union Bank, BB&T, US Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo also displayed notable holiday imagery. Chase just hinted at the holidays, earning a single bulb.

Many smaller banks and credit unions post creative holiday imagery. For example, Austin, TX-based Amplify Credit Union ran four holiday elements on its hompage on Christmas Eve (see last screenshot).

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on 24 Dec 2013: 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Capital One, Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct), Citizens (RBS), Fifth Third, Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, Key Bank, SunTrust, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ)

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1- to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2012, 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004

_____________________________________________________________________

Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated from 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Tuesday morning, 24 Dec 2013)

PNC Bank

  • Animated Gift Maker tied to its annual 12 Days of Christmas CPI price index (which it’s published for 30 years)
  • Visa Gift Card promo (lower left)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its Gift Maker and 12 days of Christmas price index

image

—————————-

Comerica

  • Large gift card in main promo area (#3 in 4-promo rotation) with engaging holiday graphics
  • Gift card promo in bottom center position with green background

Score: imageimageimageimage

image

————————–

Zions Bank

  • Default “Merry Christmas” message with holiday graphics across the page (#1 of 4-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimageimage

image

———————————

Union Bank

  • Rewards credit card (#2 in 3-promo rotation)

Score: imageimageimage

image 

——————————

BB&T

  • Checking account promo with holiday graphics
  • Small Visa gift card promo near the bottom of the page

Score: imageimageimage

image

———————————

TD Bank

  • Holiday budgeting tips

Score: imageimage

Homepage

image

Landing page

image

—————————–

US Bank

  • Customers (1st screenshot) saw some PFM messaging, the “Holiday money manager,” which was touting the bank’s online banking and alert functions (U.S. Bank does not offer advanced PFM functions)
  • Non-customers (2nd screenshot) saw a “Tis the season” checking-account promo

Score: imageimage

Hompage displayed to visitors known to be customers (via cookies)

image

Homepage displayed to non-customers

image

—————————————

Wells Fargo

  • Holiday message in lower left (below the fold)
  • Plush pony for opening new account

Score: imageimage

image

—————————————

Chase Bank

  • Credit card offer: “Save on holiday balances and new purchases”

Score: image

image

——————————–

Bonus standout: Amplify Credit Union

  • Holiday bells integrated with logo
  • Skip-a-payment promo to free up holiday cash, with humorous holiday graphic
  • Holiday closures schedule
  • No payments until 2014 on auto loans

Score: imageimageimageimage

image

————————-

Notes:
1. Observations taken between 9 AM and Noon, Pacific Time, on Tue, 24 Dec 2013, from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with cookies cleared
2. Animation from http://www.millan.net/anims/christmas.html#

Tuition.IO Offers the Gift of Student Loan Repayment

image This time of year I’m always on the lookout for financial companies doing something interesting for the holidays. Gift cards are the obvious opportunity, but there are other financial products that make good holiday gifts as well (stocks, mutual funds, savings bonds, and so on).

But it took a startup, Finovate alum Tuition.io (see FinovateFall 12 demo), to come up with one of the most valuable gifts yet: student loan repayment.

It’s not as exciting as $100 to blow at Nordstrom (note 1), but the long-term value is pretty enticing, especially if the former student gets a number of them over the years. And it’s the perfect gift from grandparents or aunt/uncle who probably don’t have a clue what gift card to choose anyway.

_____________________________________________

How it works
______________________________________________

It’s as easy as sending an electronic Applebee’s gift card.

1. The giver completes a simple form naming the recipient, amount (from $5 to $500), date of delivery (email) and custom message (see screenshot #3).

2. Payment is made via credit card (screenshot #4).

3. Recipient redeems by providing student loan info to Tuition.io.

Fine print:

A. Neither the giver nor recipient need have a previous relationship with Tuition.io.

B. The gift can be used only for principal reduction, not monthly payments.

C. There is a 6.5% transaction fee (3% for the card processer and 3.5% for Tuition.io). Like those pesky shipping charges on ecommerce sites, the amount is not revealed until the final confirmation screen (screenshot #5)

D. If the recipient does not redeem before the expiration date, the money goes back to the giver, less the transaction fee.

____________________________________________

Bottom line
_______________________________________

This has great potential for banks. A simple form to deposit cash or pay down bank loans/cards is a welcome service for holiday, birthday and graduations. The Tuition.io is nearly a perfect example of how to build one. The only serious weakness is lack of disclosure of the 6.5% transaction fee until the last screen. While $19.50 to send a $300 repayment is not outlandish, it leaves a slightly bad taste when disclosed so late in the process. Why not be upfront with it? It would just add to the credibility of what the startup is doing.

—————————–

1. Tuition.io homepage (18 Dec 2013)
Note: “Give a gift” promo in upper right corner

image

2. Tuition.io gifts landing page (link)
It’s pretty clear what the startup is pushing this holiday season

 image

3. Dynamic gift certificate form
Note: The virtual “card” is updated as the form is completed

image

4. Payment via credit card

image

5. Final confirmation screen shows service fee

image 

——————————————

1. We usually package a small retail gift card with the student loan payment, so it’s not completely boring.

Zions Bank Supports its Brand with Holiday Graphics

image Before we move on to more weighty matters, here’s one last example from Holiday 2012.  Zions Bank had the most decked out website we’ve observed in the past two weeks. Because it ranks just outside the 20 largest U.S. banks, it didn’t make last week’s holiday roundup. But since it was so decked out, I thought it was worth a followup.

On New Years Day, Zions had holiday-related messages playing on three of its six rotating homepage themes.

  • EZ Budget, its budgeting tool that helps track and manage spending for an event (previous coverage of the tool)
  • General mobile banking pitch with a “tracking holiday spending” use case
  • Happy New Year greeting

Bottom line: Without breaking the bank, Zions projects a timely, modern look that supports its brand.

——————————–

Zions Bank hompage featuring EZ Budget spending tracker (1 Jan 2012)

image 

Zions Bank homepage featuring mobile banking wrapped in holiday theme

image

Zions Bank homepage with “Happy New Year” greeting

image