Leading U.S. Banks Boosted Marketing Spend in 2022
An EMI Strategic Marketing analysis of 30 leading U.S. banks found strong overall growth in marketing budgets for the second consecutive year. Following an 18% decline in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, these leading banks have grown their marketing budgets by 53% over the past two years.
These banks’ average marketing ratio (marketing spend as a percentage of net revenues) rose by 34 basis points (bps) to 3.65% in 2022.
There is significant variation in bank marketing ratios between – and within – different banking categories.
Card-centric banks like American Express and Discover tend to have high marketing ratios as they have national reach but no branch networks.
Direct banks also have relatively high marketing ratios as they lack branch networks. Newer challenger banks are also investing significantly in marketing to build customers, deposits and assets.
More ‘traditional’ bricks-and-mortar banks typically have marketing ratios in the 1-3% range, although even in these categories we see significant variation as individual banks pursued different marketing objectives. Regional banks like Cadence Bank (+285% to $42 million) and BMO (+23% to $128 million) ramped up budgets in 2022 to promote brand overhauls. Super regional banks like Citizens (+38% to $184 million) and M&T Bank (+41% to $91 million) significantly grew their marketing spend to support entry into new markets following recent acquisitions.
Going into 2023, the projected trajectory for bank marketing spend is less clear, with rising inflation and slowing economic growth forcing banks to look for ways to reduce expenses. In addition, because they have grown budgets in recent years, some leading banks may decide to pause or even scale back their marketing budgets in 2023. However, many have stated their commitment to maintaining or even growing their marketing investment to support specific business strategies.
Discover expects double-digit growth in marketing spend as it pursues growth opportunities in credit card and deposits. It also claims that it continues to see strong returns on its investments.
Fifth Third plans to increase marketing spend in the mid-single digits in 2023 as it targets customer acquisition in the Southeast.
Axos Bank is maintaining higher spend levels as it seeks to grow deposits in an increasing competitive market.
“Nice” Email Marketers Finish Last: The Arguments Against Limiting Your Email Volume
has a high-performing salesperson been criticized for making too many
prospecting calls? Most likely: almost never.
importantly, how often has that same high-performing salesperson criticized themselves for too much prospecting and vowed to change
their ways? That one is easy: NEVER.
And yet at
EMI, we constantly talk to marketers who insist that they must self-regulate
email deployment volume to avoid turning customers off, even if the emails are
performing well. The marketers usually make one of the following arguments to
justify this self-imposed limitation:
“I hate getting too many emails.” This is about marketers projecting their own sensitivity and distaste for receiving too many emails onto customers.
“We need to manage our long-term customer relationships.” This is about marketers wanting to be viewed as strategic players, not tactical executors.
neither of these arguments holds up to scrutiny, leaving marketers to impair the
role of emails – like the sales unicorn imagined at the beginning of this
article – by curtailing their activity despite strong results. So here are five
counter arguments against the case for establishing email volume limits:
It’s not based on data. It’s true that some email marketers make a volume limiting decision based on data analysis, though in our experience that is a rare breed – especially in B2B. The chart below shows a sample of the data we’ve collected in our work with clients. As you can see from the chart, it’s almost always the case that when you send more emails, you get more people to click. Setting aside the two arguments above, it should make intuitive sense that more emails delivered means more chances to see your emails and decide to click…and this chart supports that intuition.
Your customers don’t actually pay as much attention to your
emails as you do. You strategize, design, write, code and test every email
that you send and are therefore intimately acquainted with and invested in each
one. Your customers? Not so much. Most probably couldn’t accurately state how
many emails you send because they get so many emails from so many companies
that no one company stands out.
People are busy and your emails aren’t really that important
You need to believe that every email you send is fantastic – well-written,
solution-oriented, delivering valuable insights – and hopefully most are. But
just because an email is worthy of attention doesn’t mean it will always get
it, even from individuals who might have an interest. Your email is competing
with the 1,000 other emails in their inbox, some from managers or customers
about urgent business issues that will always take priority. In other words, an
Open Rate of less than 100% is not a condemnation of your email quality or your
Most of the time, it’s a question of quality, not quantity. Know when
it’s annoying to get a lot of emails? It’s when the emails are a waste of the
reader’s time: light on anything helpful or useful or interesting. If you’re sending
out good content in well-constructed emails, there’s not much for your audience
to complain about.
You don’t get rewarded for not sending emails. Just like
salespeople would never close a deal by NOT reaching out to a prospect,
marketers will never drive awareness, interest or decisions by NOT sending
emails. Nor will prospects remember that you haven’t sent them as many emails
(see points 2 and 3 above) as your competitors. Mostly what they’ll do is not
think about you or the solutions you offer.
arguments supporting a self-imposed volume limit are seductive and, at their
core, have good intentions – treat customers the way you’d want to be treated,
respect their time and attention, only communicate when you have something
important to say. What volume limits don’t recognize is that no company
communicates with customers in a vacuum: every minute of every day marketers
are competing for the attention of customers and prospects along with hundreds
or thousands of other companies and internal demands. While it may seem like
limiting email volume is a noble decision that reflects a customer-first
attitude, the harsh reality is that when it comes to email marketing, nice marketers
The Microdecision Mindset
When marketers consider how customers make buying decisions, their focus is usually on purchases, subscriptions or signed contracts. This makes perfect sense inasmuch as those are the decisions that generate revenue. But think for a minute about all the decisions that leads customers to their final decision, e.g., conducting a web search, visiting a web site, downloading – and reading – a case study, clicking a button to subscribe to emails. Without all of those the decisions, the customers’ final decisions may not have occurred.
So my point is: We can’t downgrade the significance of the final decision, but we should upgrade the significance of all the “microdecisions” that are made that came before that decision. By not giving eachdecision its due strategic weight, we risk missing key opportunities for optimizing conversions. Even referring to this string of decisions as a “customer journey” creates an impression of an adventurous Bilbo Baggins wondering off from the Shire, rather than appropriately understanding it to be more like the years-long endeavor of actor Martin Freeman and the meticulous planning of director Peter Jackson, each step is affected by what happened before.
According to a recent study by Noom (take this with a grain of salt), humans make 122 informed decisions every day. Focusing on only one seems like a lot of missed opportunities for marketers to influence prospective customer behavior.
marketers approach their work, then, they should be examining the situation and
driving for clarity about exactly what they want the audience to do in
response to the key stimulus. Is it: Read the email, click on the one CTA or
multiple CTAs?Watch at least part of the video in the social feed, the
whole video or click through from the social post to a website? Each of
these is a slightly different action that requires different thinking from the
marketer about how to compel the desired action. Without this clarity, it
becomes strikingly easy to lose sight of what’s most important and end up
falling victim to the “can’t we just add this too?” trap.
Having a microdecision mindset is not only a more effective way to produce the desired action, it’s also a boon to marketers who constantly have to fight back the tide of “just add this.” It becomes a powerful lens through which to evaluate tactical changes: Will the changes facilitate or undermine the ability of the audience to make the ONE decision you want them to make? For example:
If you want them to register for your webcast, don’t also try to get them to click to read your article.
On the other hand, if you want them to click on something in your email vs. nothing, then go ahead and add the article link.
If you want your audience to both engage with the post and then watch a video on a social platform, don’t feature a strong CTA to click on.
But if you care less about the decision to watch and engage with the video than about driving a click through to your website, make the post more of a teaser to what they get when they click to the video.
By using the
microdecision mindset to focus on users and your goals, marketers can achieve greater
efficiency in their marketing efforts. The framework helps to instill creative
decision-making discipline and offer better results.