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Case Study - Banner Bank

Case Study - Banner Bank

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Reinvigorating a Regional Bank Stuck in a Marketing Rut

The Challenge

Banner Bank was then a $4.7 billion bank holding company founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington State with roots serving the state’s agricultural base. Over the years through acquisitions and organic growth the bank has grown to 93 full-service offices in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. In late 2011 Banner Bank languished without a leader for the marketing department and had been virtually inactive in acquisition focused marketing. Our team was tasked with driving online customer acquisition initiatives and integrating digital messages with traditional media channels.

In the previous two plus years the extent of Banner Bank’s advertising had been a series of dated television ads and a variety of local sponsorships. A trial digital program was launched with the incumbent agency that failed to deliver results. Having relied on an inexperienced agency to develop a digital plan the bank was unprepared to understand the interrelated challenges posed by a well architected program. The vast majority of new customer acquisition oriented efforts were direct mail. In simplest terms, Banner Bank was unaware of how to effectively launch and integrate a digital marketing program. 

Our Solution

The first step was to educate the client leadership on the truths about digital marketing, the options and how to start slowly and scale. Much education was required to educate across internal departments of a siloed organization. Significant advising time was directed at supporting the marketing team to set up processes and procedures to align with the needs of corporate governance and compliance. The primary efforts included search engine optimization, paid search and display media. Additional help was applied to proper implementation of Google Analytics for tracking of online account applications. A geography-driven strategy was developed to aid key sub-markets first with their acquisition goals. This would stabilize weaker markets rather than continue to funnel resources into highly competitive sub-markets. The flexibility and targeting capabilities of digital were aligned with direct mail marketing efforts, new branch openings, life event targeting, competitive branch openings/acquisitions, and commercial banking initiatives.

In the wake of the Great Recession and financial crisis, consumers had great levels of doubt and mistrust of large national banks. Although Banner Bank had well over 100 years of history as a regional bank, the brand did not fully understand the needs of their best customers. And given the prevailing consumer sentiment at the time, banks were not trusted. Therefore we conducted consumer research and translated those research findings into a creative brief that focused on featuring products that proved Banner Bank was on the side of their customers: free ATM use, a nickel back every on debit purchase and community reinvestment.

Impact for Client

Our support of Banner Bank lasted just over 2 years before transferring to an internal team. By executing a consumer research study to understand the motivations of the Banner Bank customer, we gained insights that fed into strategy and tactical program development. We continued with successful programs and improved performance by refining the messaging based on the research. On the digital side we empowered the bank and launched their first ever data-driven digital customer acquisition programs. By integrating digital media (pay per click & display) with existing traditional efforts (e.g. direct mail, tv/radio, print and OOH) the bank realized significant gains in new consumer accounts, increased deposits, and small business loan activity. Further efforts in social media and video emphasized Banner Bank's long history of community involvement. 

The result of our customer acquisition strategies and tactics were that growth exceeded goals in every market. Additionally total assets of the bank grew to over $9.7 billion. The result on the Banner Bank stock price was a more than doubling ($18 to $41).

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