Financial institution financials reveal differences in marketing spend intensity

A review of reported marketing/advertising expenditure by leading financial institutions revealed the following trends:

  • 2011 spend levels: Five FIs (JPMorgan Chase, American Express, Citigroup, Bank of America and Capital One) each spent more than $1 billion on marketing in 2011.
  • 2010-2011 trend: Of the 12 FIs included in the review, six increased marketing spend by double-digit percentages in 2011, led by Citigroup (+43%) and Capital One(+40%). Four FIs reduced marketing spend in 2011.
  • 2007-2011 trend: Taking a longer-term view, we see that although Citigroup and Capital One had very strong growth in 2011, spending was actually down relative to 2011, indicating that these banks’ recent strong growth is more of a return to historic norms. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and PNC all had strong growth between 2007 and 2011, but each of these FIs had made a big bank acquisition during this period.
  • Marketing as a percentage of revenues: To eliminate the effect of merger and acquisition activity, and get a gauge on marketing investment intensity, we also looked at marketing as a percentage of net revenuefor 2007 and 2011.
    • American Express has the highest level of marketing spend intensity, with its 2011 marketing expenditure representing 10% of net revenues in 2011, up 70 basis points from 2007
    • Other leading FIs for marketing investment intensity are Discover (no branch network, national credit card operation) and Capital One (regional branch network, national credit card operation)
    • Among the regional national banks, JPMorgan Chase has the highest level of marketing intensity (3.2%), ahead of Citigroup (3.0%). Chase, which has both an extensive branch network and a national credit card operation, actually increased marketing intensity by 33 bps from 2007 to 2011. Citigroup has a limited U.S. branch presence, but again has a national credit card franchise.
    • Bank of America’s market spend intensity fell from 3.5% in 2007 to 2.4% in 2011
    • Wells Fargo maintains significantly lower marketing spend levels than its national bank competitors, with a marketing spend intensity of 0.7% in 2011.  However, it was recent named as the leading U.S. bank in The Brand Finance Branding 500 rankings, indicating that topline marketing spend does not necessarily correlate to brand strength.  However, it should also be recognized that, unlike some of the other leading banks, Wells Fargo’s operations are mainly concentrated within its retail banking footprint.


In terms of setting optimal levels of marketing investment in 2012, financial institutions face competing forces. On the one hand, many FIs have established cost containment programs with defined targets, and this will put downward pressure on marketing spend. On the other hand, the above table shows that many FIs have reduced their marketing intensity levels in recent years. With signs of economic recovery now emerging, these FIs may need to increase their marketing investment to compete effectively in a growing market.