Market savings savvy

The New York Times notes that the average annual savings for Ameri­can households has been less than $500 for the past four years, while outstanding debt has grown. But, as the economy contin­ues to slow, it’s likely that savings opportunities will be more attractive to those who don’t want to see their capital vanish during economic ebbs and flows. For financial services companies that offer personal savings or investment services, this pool of savings-minded consumers is an attractive audience.

“A consumer can’t help but become aware of how things are going and how they’re managing their money,” says Tim Tarr, direct marketing lead at ING Direct. “We’ll provide a tool to help them save, long term.”

Of course, consumers face myriad options when looking to open a personal savings account, whether for retirement, a child’s college education or simply the proverbial “rainy day.” When the sheer number of options is coupled with disclosures required by law, the amount of information for a prospect to process can seem daunting. That’s why financial institutions look to bring people through their doors for a consultation with messaging that focuses on trust and building relationships.

“A firm’s goal is to have a one-on-one conversation,” says Mary Towne, director of client services at Bouchard Communications Group, a California-based agency with several financial services clients. “It’s a really complex business, so companies want to counsel their clients.”

It’s no accident that advertisements promoting savings accounts prom­inently feature percentages representing potential account yields. But there are other ways to stand out besides high rates, notes Ann Bouchard, president of Bouchard Communications Group.

“One thing all financial institu­tions do when they’re trying to drive deposit dollars is come up with a new, unique product,” she says. For example, if there are many six- or 12-month CDs (certificates of deposit) on the market, “someone will come out with a nine-month CD,” she adds.

But Tarr is careful to note that the key to a successful savings cam­paign is communicating the idea that savings is a behavior to embrace. “We don’t believe in running huge promotions, because that just sets in the consumer’s mind to wait for the next promotion,” he says. “We focus on the fact that this isn’t about putting $100 in and pulling it out the next week; it’s a long term behavior that you should have.”

Due to the many aspects of brand and product that financial services companies look to promote through their messaging, multichannel and mass media campaigns are the norm. TV and out-of-home messaging spread a brand message — revolving more around trustworthiness and safety in this environment — while direct mail and Internet marketing give customers additional information and bring them into local branches for a one-on-one conversation with a banking representative to complete the sale.

“We’re trying to create awareness, so you want customers to take action — to come online, come into the banking center or call us. It’s a multichannel approach,” says Lynn Kuttruff, SVP, consumer and small business deposits and growth markets marketing executive for Bank of America.

It’s understandable that financial matters are troubling to consumers right now, as the news focuses on economic gloom — including bank failures. However, Bouchard says that those financial institutions not strongly affected by the economic crisis can seize this opening to bring savings dollars in.

“There’s an opportunity for institu­tions to hop on the bandwagon and say, ‘look at us, we’ve been around for years, our reserves and our capital are strong, we’re giving strong interest rates’,” she says. “Even if an institution doesn’t have the best rate, people are concerned with whether their money is going to be there.”

HSBC Direct
Banner ads

HSBC Direct runs a high-rate savings campaign each year, targeted at people who are already prolific savers. “We’re not teaching people to save, savings is at the core of what these people do,” says Patty Sachs, partner, group account director at agency RMG Connect, which works with HSBC on its marketing. Banner ads appear on the HSBC Direct Web site; they also run on sites such as A market saturation campaign in Chicago, DRTV and search engine marketing were also part of the push.

Redwood Credit Union

Bouchard Communications Group works with a number of credit unions — who often need to educate the general public about what they do. “The general public [often] doesn’t even know what credit unions are, so there’s a little bit of an education [challenge] that they have,” says company president Ann Bouchard. The agency created this mailed brochure, which invites pros­pects to come in for a complimentary appoint­ment to discuss how the credit union can help them save for retirement or college, guard against inflation and reduce their tax burden.

ING Direct
Direct mail campaign

The direct mail “Savers” campaign, which began in January and was created with agency 23K Studios, looked to position saving as an everyday behavior. ING Direct’s mailers promote the idea that everybody can save money using the Orange Savings account. Three different treatments were used: a “Saver’s Quiz,” a “Savers Wanted Ad,” and an aspirational message, “The Wealthy Save.” Tim Tarr, ING Direct’s DM lead, said that the approach has generated consistently greater response from targeted groups than rate-driven messages.

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