You Complete Me: How Marketing Can Boost Change Management Outcomes

In previous blogs, we highlighted six questions common to successful marketing and change management initiatives and common communication requirements across the five stages of audience journeys in adopting change. Now we want to go into the tactical implications of those communication requirements for change management.

There is a trope in love stories and RomComs of one character professing love for another through the words “you complete me.” Like many clichés, it has currency because it’s grounded in an experienced truth: In successful relationships, each partner possesses attributes that shore up weaknesses in the other so that together they are both stronger. That’s how it is with marketing and change management.

As we discussed previously, the similarity of the audience journey in the ADKAR framework to the customer decision-making journey is in the key communication considerations within each framework. Based on this foundation, marketing can help “complete” change management by offering communication best practices and ideas for each stage.

AWARENESS. Communications must highlight the need, bringing to light the pain that needs to be addressed. To be compelling, communication of that pain must be both credible and empathetic.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Emails and presentations that explain the change in terms of its impact on all team members, coming from executive leaders
  • FAQs that capture and provide honest answers to real questions likely on the minds of team members

DESIRE. Communications must define the proposed change as the solution to the need, i.e., the best way to relieve the pain. To be successful, these communications must reach the “heart” and the “mind” of the audience by appealing to emotions and logic.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Case studies of early, quick “wins” that highlight the benefits realized through the change
  • Infographics presenting the need for change and its potential benefits in simple, visual terms

KNOWLEDGE. Communications must create a solid understanding of the world after the change, in contrast with the current state. To be effective, these communications must make the case that the future state is close at hand and that the path to get there is very simple.

Example of marketing communications at this stage:

  • How-to videos and one-page quick-reference guides that make the path to implementation seem easy; brevity and visuals take priority over words and detailed use cases

ABILITY. Communications must minimize the perceived effort involved in change and reduce friction to take the first step. Successful communications at this stage offer a helping hand—not condescending but by providing clear, simple guidelines that encourage the audience to move down the path.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Training materials and tools that provide comprehensive information about how to accomplish current tasks in the new state and instill confidence that change can be achieved
  • Gamification that turns mundane change into activities that confer status or create excitement for team members

REINFORCEMENT. Last, but definitely not least, communications must continue to celebrate the benefits delivered. Many change initiatives fail because they are thought of as a “one and done” proposition in which a single, intense effort suffices. Instead, the initiatives need to be promoted over an extended time period to bring along laggards and solidify the changes already made by early adopters.

Examples of marketing communications at this stage:

  • Success stories/testimonials highlighting the benefits achieved and improvements gained, not only in quantitative terms but in human, emotional terms
  • Awards to bring attention to change-driven achievements and, in the process, elicit feelings of aspiration and potentially competitiveness

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re not thinking about change management like a marketer and marketing like a change management leader, you probably missing something that could elevate the impact of your efforts.

It’s Like You’re My Mirror: Marketing and Change Management

In a previous blog, we highlighted similarities between marketing and change management and suggested six questions that can serve as a foundation for successful change management initiatives. Taking one step further, here we look at the similarities in the communication requirements of these two disciplines that will be increasingly critical in both the pandemic response and next phase of economic recovery.

In his hit song, Mirrors, Justin Timberlake sings of the way his love is  the other half of him, completes him, and supports him. The song is great, but its relevance here is in the way his words perfectly capture both the similarities between marketing and change management and the way that understanding those similarities can make each discipline better.

In change management, ADKAR is a widely known and respected methodology. The letters represent the journey through which change managers must guide their audiences in order to achieve the desired new state.

The value of a framework like this is that it identifies all of the moments in the journey that need to be accounted for and addressed through communications and training. It also enables a leader to think strategically about where the biggest risks and opportunities for influence lie. For example, if a company is introducing a new software application to replace a much despised legacy system, the opportunity to drive change may be greatest in the Knowledge and Ability stages: nobody needs convincing that the new system is better than the old but they may need extensive guidance on how to do their jobs under the new system. Conversely, the introduction of a new process for customer onboarding that is projected to save money and increase retention may require more emphasis on building Awareness and Desire if the current process, to those using it every day, doesn’t seem “broken.”

In marketing, the customer decision-making journey is often defined through the following stages: Problem Recognition, Information Gathering, Alternative Evaluation, Purchase Decision, and Post-Purchase Assessment. As with the ADKAR framework, this model enables leaders both to think carefully about each stage of the process and to identify the stages in which the flow is most at risk. For example, a new entrant to the CRM software market may need to invest heavily in the Information Gathering and Alternative Evaluation stage in order to gain consideration by prospective customers. On the other hand, a company selling a new kind of service connecting corporate art buyers and artists may need to focus on Problem Recognition to drive prospects to consider their solution.

Interestingly, when we line these two models up next to each other, it is, in the words of Justin Timberlake, like each is “lookin’ at the other half of” the other. More importantly, the alignment brings to light the key objective in each of the five stages.

A subsequent blog post will provide more guidance on how these objectives can provide a powerful foundation for devising more effective change management communications, but to illustrate the potential:

  • The objective to “highlight the need” drives home that the efforts to build awareness of the need for change must be from a credible source and be seen as empathetic.
  • The objective to “Envision a better world in which the need is resolved” makes it clear that any attempt to build knowledge of how to change requires that the “how” be seen as irresistibly simple and clearly puts the better, future state close at hand.
  • Focusing on the objective to “Make it happen” will ensure that assertions of the audience’s ability to implement will minimize friction and build confidence.

Steady Growth in Marketing Spend and Marketing Ratios for Top U.S. Banks in 2019

EMI’s annual analysis of marketing expenditure for 25 leading U.S. banks reveals that they grew marketing spending by 7% in 2019 to $15.4 billion. This rate was down from the 13% growth between 2017 and 2018.

The banks’ marketing ratio (defined as advertising and marketing spend as a percentage of net revenue) has risen steadily in recent years, growing 18 basis points (bps) to 2.92% in 2018, and by an additional 21 bps to 3.13% in 2019.

The chart below summarizes marketing ratios, marketing budgets and y/y change in marketing spending for these 25 banks.

The following are some additional takeaways from our bank marketing spend analysis:

  • 16 of the 25 banks increased their marketing spending in 2019, with 5 increasing their budgets by more than 10%.
  • 6 banks invested more than $1 billion in advertising and marketing. Wells Fargo joined this group for the first time in 2019, with marketing spending rising by 26%, driven in large part by the launch of the ‘This is Wells Fargo’ integrated marketing campaign in January 2019 . It has invested strongly in advertising in recent years as it seeks to rebuild its reputation following the fallout from fake account and mortgage mishandling scandals.
  • 11 banks increased their marketing ratios in 2019, with 6 of these growing the ratios by more than 10 basis points. The largest rise was reported by Bank of America, whose 15% increase in its marketing spend led to a 38 bps rise in its marketing ratio (to 2.3%).
  • Banks that do not have branch networks and have national credit card franchises (American Express and Discover) had the highest marketing ratios. Capital One’s credit card bank charter – Capital One Bank (USA), National Association – had a marketing ratio of 10.3% in 2019, while its retail banking charter – Capital One, National Association – had a ratio (3.2%) more in line with peer regional banks.

It is almost impossible to project bank marketing spending for 2020, given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy in general, and the banking sector in particular. In the short term, marketing budgets will trend downwards as bank revenues are impacted by decreased economic activity. However, unlike the 2018-09 Financial Crisis, the country’s fundamentals were strong heading into this disruption, which increases optimism that the economy can recover quickly once the pandemic abates. This may lead to a robust bank marketing spending in the second half of 2020. What is more clear is banks will continue to shift their marketing budgets from traditional media (e.g., TV and print) to digital and other nontraditional media.