With the blink of an eye we are in a new year, which is as good a time as any to look back at some of the key holiday marketing highlights from 2017. Given the timeliness of communicating to customers during the holidays, it should come as no surprise that email continued to be the preferred channel for holiday-themed deals, announcements, and of course, cheerful greetings.

After reviewing Mintel Comperemedia’s robust database of email marketing collateral through December 2017, here, Lily Harder, VP of Research, discusses five key themes identified in holiday-themed marketing observed from some of the top banks in the marketplace.

shopathon1. Giving back

The holidays are a time for giving, and consumers expect most established brands to demonstrate how they are giving back to their communities and beyond. Allowing consumers to participate in the giving process can add an extra layer of appreciation. Bank of America, (RED) and Amazon partnered together on November 21, World AIDS Day, to create SHOPATHON, an annual holiday shopping event geared toward raising funds for “programs that provide testing, treatment, prevention, counselling and care services, with a focus on ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV and achieving an AIDS-free generation.” Bank of America promoted this partnership throughout the rest of the calendar year, including emails to customers highlighting that the bank will donate up to $1.5 million toward lifesaving ARV medication if customers shopped at Amazon.com/RED between November 20 and December 31, 2017. Emails had the subject line, “Shop (RED) save lives this holiday.”

2. Savings

The holidays always have a way of pushing consumer budgets to their breaking points, so it’s understandable that banks focused on promoting opportunities to save money, or encourage consumers to open new savings accounts. SunTrust emailed customers promoting low mortgage rates and asked, “Want to save some real money this holiday?” USAA sent credit card customers special holiday shopping offers through the bank’s retail partners such as up to 40% off FedEx services. While November and December were filled with shopping and savings opportunities from banks, we are likely to see more financial wellness- and budgeting-focused savings offers beginning in January.

3. Advice

Compared to a decade ago, banks today are viewed more as advice centers than merely deposit holders. This is especially noticeable this time of year, when there are many opportunities for banks to give their customers advice and guidance that could help them make smarter, safer spending decisions. In November, Chase Slate customers received an email with articles that provided tips to “make the most of your money with these holiday shopping tips.” The email contained links to multiple articles on topics such as shopping with confidence and staying on a budget. Experian also had some advice for customers with emails on “5 ways to avoid debt this holiday season,” and BB&T took a more security-focused route by sending an email with tips on how to avoid holiday scams.

4. Security

Concerns about the security of our personal information are at an all-time high, and marketers are making this a core focus of their marketing efforts year-round. The extra shopping everyone is doing around the holidays, especially online, provides a strategic opportunity for banks to highlight security as a noteworthy value proposition. Navy Federal Credit Union for example emailed customers with a reminder about its “enhanced security with chip technology” and “Zero liability policy,” freeing customers of any responsibility from unauthorized charges. Ally Bank also emailed customers in December with the subject line, “Shop secure this holiday season with your Ally Debit Mastercard.”

one main financial5. Holiday greetings

A simple holiday greeting goes a long way, and it can be even more special when there are no subtle promotions or sales messages hiding between the lines. Discover made a splash earlier this year when it partnered with Hallmark to send greeting cards to prospects promoting the Discover it card. What was so unique about this approach was the use of a physical channel to drive awareness, but also foster a sense of value in a brand. According to Mintel’s US report on consumers and the economic outlook, three in five consumers are satisfied with their current financial institution; however, only a third feel valued as a customer. Most of the general holiday greetings observed from banks this year were sent via email, but there is an opportunity for banks to consider utilizing a more impactful channel like direct mail for these purely sentimental campaigns next year.

Final thoughts

The holidays are a time of giving, but also a time to reflect back on the year behind us. As consumers are pressured with one sale after another, this time of year provides banks an opportunity to add value to their customers’ lives, show appreciation and make a good impression as we head into another year.

Lily Harder is the Vice President of Research for Mintel Comperemedia. Lily specializes in the financial services industry, researching and presenting on the latest industry trends, competitive intelligence insights and newsworthy developments.

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