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.
Leading U.S. credit card issuers continued to roll out new credit cards, as they look to attract new clients, cross-sell and upsell existing clients, and win a greater share of clients’ spending.
The following are the common trends or standout elements that we identified among these new cards. (Note that the table at the end of this blog provides a comparison of features/benefits of 10 cards that were introduced over the past 12 months.)
Introductory offers are focused on generating balance transfer volume. 7 of the 10 cards have 0% introductory offers on either purchases and balance transfers or balance transfers only. 6 of these 7 introductory offers have a duration of at least 12 months.
Some cards offer a high earn rate on all purchases. One approach to using rewards to attract and retain cardholders as well as drive more spending is to have an earn rate of more than 1% on all purchases. The Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® stands out with an earn rate of 1.8% on all purchases with no limit and no annual fee. The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® offers 2 miles per dollar on all spending, but carries an $89 annual fee (waived first year).
Issuers continue to offer tiered earning structures. To drive card preference and grow spending in categories where cards have traditionally had a low share, many new cards continue to use tiered rewards structures, with higher earning on categories like travel, gas, dining and groceries. It is worth noting that these bonus earn rates do not come with monthly or annual spending caps.
Acquisition-and-activation bonus offers persist. Issuers continue to promote bonus points/miles/cash back for activating the card and meeting a minimum spend requirement within an initial period (typically three months). Higher-end cards that carry an annual fee also tend to have higher bonus levels. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is looking to differentiate itself from competitors with a dual bonus structure: acquisition-and-activation bonus of 30,000 points and an additional 20,000 points for reaching a spending threshold in the first 12 months.
Cards are offering redemption bonuses. Some issuers are looking at rewards redemption as an opportunity to engender loyalty and preference. Cards are offering bonuses:
Most cards apply a fee on balance transfers, usually a rate of 3% with a minimum of $5 or $10. Navy FCU’s Visa Signature Flagship Rewards has no BT fees. For its SavorOne℠ Rewards Card, Capital One imposes a fee of 3% during the card’s 15 month introductory period. After this introductory period, there is no fee on balance transfers.
Like BTs, most cash advances come with a fee (of 3% or 5%, with minimums of $5 or $10). Again, Navy FCU stands out with no fee on cash advances.
No foreign transactions fees are quickly becoming the norm, even on non-travel-based cards.
As financial institutions seek to position themselves as trusted providers of financial advice and solutions, one of their key areas of focus is financial education. Many of these firms have focused attention on establishing comprehensive financial education programs. However, equal attention should be given to how these programs are communicated. If you want to maximize the impact of your financial education program, consider the following methods to build client awareness and engagement.
Partner with national and local organizations seeking to grow financial literacy. Partnering with these organizations can take many forms, including publishing surveys or providing funding. In June 2017, Wells Fargo announced a $100,000 donation to Junior Achievement of Chicago. Operation Hope has partnerships with a number of leading banks (including SunTrust, Regions Bank and First Tennessee Bank), who all offer the Operation Hope Inside financial well-being program in several of their branches.
Host or sponsor events. Events constitute one of the key ways for firms to build direct engagement with their financial education programs. Firms have many options on how they wish to scale and direct their investment. MassMutual hosts FutureSmart Challenge events to provide financial education to middle school students, reaching 40,000 students in 17 cities to date. In June 2017, SunTrust launched the “onUp on Tour” to promote its onUp movement in 45 cities. And In October 2017, American Century Investments partnered with Investopedia to launch a Financial Fitness Tour, featuring a 45-foot bus, called “The Financial Coach.” These firms have extended the impact of these live events with tweets and postings on online portals, and also host virtual events, including podcasts and webinars.
Generate engagement through games and contests. In our highly interactive world, online games and contests can be very effective in enabling people, especially the younger demographic, to gain important financial knowledge in entertaining ways. For the past four years, H&R Block has been running the H&R Block Budget Challenge, an online game that teachers can use to teach financial concepts to high school students. In December 2017, The Hartford partnered with Junior Achievement USA to launch JA MyBiz Builder, an online experience that teaches entrepreneurial concepts to teens. And GOBankingRates recently launched a competition (with a top prize of $1,000) to identify the best tips, tricks and tactics for navigating one’s personal finances.
Reinforce the financial education message via social media. A number of financial firms are using Twitter hashtags to generate interaction around their financial education programs. Examples include Ally Financial’s #WalletWiseWednesday twitter series and Regions Bank’s @FinancialFitness hashtag (part of its Financial Fitness Fridays program). Other ways of using social media to promote financial education include events (Jump$tart Coalition’s Facebook Live event to discuss deposit insurance) and social communities (Canvas Designed by Citi, a beta-testing community that enables Citi customers to co-create products and digital capabilities promoting financial wellness).
Leverage online and mobile banking platforms. As consumers become comfortable with using online and mobile banking to perform a wide range of financial activities, some providers are starting to incorporate financial education tools into these platforms. Bank of America recently added a money management and financial education tool into its mobile banking platform. And Wells Fargo is planning to launch Greenhouse by Wells Fargo, a mobile banking experience that includes financial management tools.