June 03, 2014

Mobile Banking: Get the Message Right

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

We've all seen the ads. There's no shortage of creative commercials promoting mobile phones and carriers. But too many of these campaigns – particularly when it comes to services like mobile banking – portray these features as premium services for high-end users.

What the industry needs are ads that clearly demonstrate three things:
  • Mobile banking is useful and will make our lives easier
  • Mobile banking is for everyone
  • And here's how to do it
Banks and carriers also need to move beyond screens to engage consumers more directly with below-the-line marketing campaigns that have a personal touch.

Why should the messaging change? 

Three reasons.  BuzzCity research shows that 

1.  Most consumers don't know that their bank offers mobile banking.  (Almost every bank now does.)
2.  Most consumers think their phone is not capable of m-banking.  (Every phone is capable of text banking.)

3.  One in three mobile consumers don't see the need for m-banking.

Yet at the same time, we are seeing an abundance of new mobile financial services offered by companies that aren't banks.  If financial institutions are to keep pace, they need to change their approach.

Ads that are on Target

Some banks are ahead of the game.  I'd like to share two examples of TV commercials that we think are striking the right tone.

The first is from a recent NatWest campaign "My Mum's Magic".  Here, we see that mobile banking can even be used to buy ice cream!

What's so refreshing about this campaign is that it effectively communicates show how mobile mobile can be used for everyday purchases.

Another commercial that caught my eye is by American Savings Bank in Hawaii.  At first the 2001 Space Odyssey homage makes m-banking look futuristic . . . so I was sceptical.

But if you keep watching, the 30" spot shows that all you have to do to make a deposit is take a photo of a cheque with your phone (which is certainly easier than going to the bank).

Below The Line

While mass marketing is clearly important to get the word out and grow the market for mobile financial services, it's equally important to have trained and motivated staff who can explain the benefits and uses of applications and mobile sites.  

CGAP - a global partnership that advocates for financial inclusion and which is housed at the World Bank - notes that until customers can "start teaching one another, providers need to find a way to do education-based marketing".  Claudia McKay and Paul Breloff go on to explain that "some providers believe it takes 15 - 30 minutes of personal interaction before a customer understands a branchless banking or mobile money offering."

So consider setting up booths at public events, handing out pamphlets at train stations, engaging in straight-forward educational SMS campaigns and having staff who can answer questions over the phone.  Be sure to reinforce the message that every mobile phone - even old basic models - can be used for mobile finance.

How high can it go?

At the moment, about 1 in 3 consumers say that mobile banking is useful and easy.  We expect this ratio will eventually rise to nearly 3 in 3 as people get used to the idea that airtime is money, in the same way that a debit card is cash.

First though, banks and other providers need to 

(a) Define their products clearly
(b) Show that they're useful and
(c) Make sure customers know how to use them.

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