When we adopt new technologies in our daily lives, they present us with changes to our behavior that slowly but steadily become almost irreversible. We now "live connected" and think of cellphones as a part of our bodies, but technology also changes us in subtle ways.
I'm old enough to remember when making an appointment with a friend was a real commitment. We used to organize our day to be there on time, and our word used to have value, and keeping promises was a sign of good manners.
If someone didn't show up, it was because something extraordinary happened. Today when we arrange to meet someone, there is always the implicit chance that it might not happen, just a message away.
Did our word lose value?
If we look at recent studies in marketing, it seems like people are demanding to bring value to words again, they are saying out loud with every purchase decision: keep your word.
A 2015 study commissioned by 4As and carried out by Ipsos OTX and titled "Sex, Lies, and News," found that only 4% of US citizens believe that the whole of the marketing industry acts with integrity. The respondents said that marketers have an agenda to sell their products and that they will use almost any means to do so. This survey established that consumers are becoming more informed and more critical about marketing ploys, which, in turn, have increased their level of distrust.
The respondents ranked "integrity" at the bottom of the list of qualities possessed by marketers. The respondents were then asked to define "integrity" and 69% replied that it means "always keeping promises". When asked to explain why marketers "lie," 69% of respondents supposed it was to sell their brand or a product. Only 27% thought the marketers believed what they were saying.
So how does a marketer cope when the very people they need to persuade don't trust them? A Nielsen report shows that people trust, first and foremost, friends and family and, secondly, consumer opinions posted online. In the case of banks and financial institutions, what are they going to do when they rely on their customers' recommendations of their brand or product as the most positive and effective form of promotion and extending the customer base when that trust in marketing is not there?
Marketers are continuously bombarding consumers to a point where they become almost immune to it. The internet allows them to express their lack of trust, frustration, and irritation with just a type. Consumers are no longer passive targets but active agents who are changing the landscape and dictating how marketing should be through their immediate reactions for or against the presentation of a product. This new paradigm is forcing marketers to make a 180-degree turn in how they approach the customer, to appeal to the customer's psyche, and, at the same time, his trust to trigger an emotional gut reaction to the product.Bottom line: customers will only positively comment or recommend a product or service if it truly benefited them, and they trust it.
So how can a financial institution make that immediate connection at an emotional level with potentially fickle customers who have a natural inclination to disbelieve traditional marketing?
The first step for banks promoting services and products may be to stop talking about themselves and instead get others to talk about them. It's CGC (Consumer Generated Content) and word-of-mouth marketing, which harks back to the results of the Nielsen study about who is trusted by consumers.
Customers want to know what they are going to get out of a product or service and, since they don't trust the bank's marketers, they refer to sources like online comments. To get positive comments, the bank must be 100% focused on developing the best possible services with no room for exaggeration or hyperbole. Having established that quality of service or product, the bank can encourage, collate, and disseminate online comments, which in turn allow consumers to feel part of a community.
While this new reality is forcing a new approach to marketing, new technologies—like AI, big data, etc.—all provide the additional assistance needed to develop better-personalized content. We're trying to move from digital banking to intelligent banking, aren't we?
Providing customers with exactly what they are seeking and what they want because they hear about it from their peers, will, in the long run, be more cost-effective for the banks. Customers will do the promotional work for the banks, but only if the banks give them what they want in the first place.
It's funny how we complicate things so much when they are so simple.
Are we, as marketers, surprised to have lost the trust of customers after years and years of fine print in our ads? Remember what your mama told you:"Don't promise what you can't give. Keep your word, and people will trust you."