This week consultants, bankers and industry leaders came together at The Financial Brand Forum 2016 to share their thoughts on the challenges facing the banking industry, as well as where the industry is headed next. During the event, four key themes emerged as a driving force in today’s bank marketing: Innovation is driving disruption in the banking industry If a brand hopes to survive, it must truly differentiate itself. And differentiating a brand goes beyond just a new name, logo or marketing campaign. Brand differentiation extends from the internal culture all the way out to the customer and beyond. Speakers at this year’s forum used their own brands as examples of innovation, including Simple Bank, BankMobile and Method cleaning products. The examples illustrated the need for brands to be vibrant within a culture in order to create a vibrant brand for the customer. Innovation doesn’t have to completely disrupt the industry, but it must challenge the current way of thinking and the way customers think about a brand. Digital is not replacing the human touch Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, discussed the topic of the role and relevance of bankers, loan officers and other human contributors to the financial landscape given our rapid entrance into digital-centric and digital-only product offerings. She made a great point that instead of separating digital and human interactions, banks needs to arm employees with the digital tools necessary to better assist their customers. This will help the customer experience and will turn employees into trusted advisers as well as build internal loyalty. Neff Hudson, VP of corporate development at USAA also spoke about the power of human interaction, emphasizing that although they could be referred to as a digital bank, people are still a very important part of what they do. Don’t Market to the Demographic Over and over industry marketing experts stated that they were tired of hearing about Millennials. Marketers often make sweeping generalizations about Millennials, when in reality older Millennials are in their mid-30s and engaging in activities such as purchasing homes and raising families, while younger Millennials are just completing their first year of college. The key takeaway here is that not only do marketers have to stop marketing to just one demographic, but they also have to stop treating entire demographics the same. For example, when marketers look at Millennials, they automatically think about digital channels. In reality, everyone is engaged in digital, although in different ways. With this, marketers need to move beyond emphasizing the features and benefits of products, and instead, focus on the needs of specific customers and appeal to their lifestyles. The power of now Consumers have been trained to expect everything – customer service, products, application approval, account openings – at breakneck speed, and when they decide they want something, regardless of how long it took them to reach the decision, they want it now. What was fast enough yesterday is not fast enough today. As a result, in the words of Google, “People are more loyal to their need in the moment than to any particular brand.” This means that if brands can’t respond to customer needs, those consumers will not hesitate to look elsewhere. In response, marketers have to know their customers well enough to provide the immediacy they demand, but also to deliver the products and services when they are in market. Mintel presented at the conference, “Email Marketing Trends and Best Practices in Banking.” For a copy of the presentation please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan Wolfe is the VP of Financial Services at Mintel Comperemedia. She focuses on the banking and investment industries, bringing over 20 years of experience in marketing and research to her role. You might also be interested in: Five revelations from Card Forum 2016 Is the financial services industry ignoring Gen X? Is your co-brand credit card value proposition strong enough?